Chicago: John Force, Tony Schumacher Friday leaders

JOLIET, Ill. - John Force was quickest in opening Funny Car qualifying Friday at the third annual Prestone Route 66 Nationals at the state-of-the-art Route 66 Raceway. Force, who is seeking to become NHRA's all-time win leader with a ...

JOLIET, Ill. - John Force was quickest in opening Funny Car qualifying Friday at the third annual Prestone Route 66 Nationals at the state-of-the-art Route 66 Raceway. Force, who is seeking to become NHRA's all-time win leader with a victory at this event, drove his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to the front of the field with a track record run of 4.851 seconds at 312.78 mph. He and Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden are currently tied with 85 wins each. Force edged Jerry Toliver for the top spot. Toliver drove his WWF Racing Chevy Camaro to a 4.862 at 304.25 just moments before Force turned in the quicker result. "(Dale) Armstrong (Toliver crew chief) kinda led the way and showed us what was out there so we decided to get after it a little bit," Force said. "It pumped 'em a little bit and rattled me at the start, but it trucked on down there. There's some good racin' here at nighttime." Tony Schumacher, Troy Coughlin, Matt Hines and Randy Daniels also were qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the $2 million race, the 10th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Local favorite Schumacher recorded the quickest pass of the day in Top Fuel, clocking a 4.593 at a track record speed of 322.58 in his Exide Batteries dragster. "I want to stay No. 1 because it would be my very first," said Schumacher, from nearby Park Ridge, the defending Winston Top Fuel champion. "Even with my championship and victories, I've never been the top qualifier. The whole team deserves it. This would be the best place in the world to get my first No. 1, right here in my hometown." Schumacher edged Gary Scelzi for the top spot. Scelzi qualified second overall with a 4.602 at 316.67, a time and speed clocked just moments before his Team Winston dragster went out of control and crashed. Scelzi was uninjured in the spectacular crash, but his dragster received major damage and he didn't make the call for the second session. Scelzi's Team Winston crew planned to work throughout the evening to prepare the back-up car for both of Saturday's qualifying sessions (11 a.m. and 4 p.m.). "As soon as the chutes opened, it was like a tire came off," said Scelzi, who was quickest of the first session, and ironically, running alongside Schumacher at the time. "The car started vibrating violently and one second later I was upside down, sliding backward on fire. That was a good lap, regardless of the accident." Coughlin led the 16-car Pro Stock field, speeding down the quarter-mile to a 6.871 at 199.05 in his Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass. Coughlin is one of eight Pro Stock drivers set to compete in the special Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel, which will reward the winner with a $50,000 payday. Hines paced Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying, running 7.200 at 186.61 pass on his Eagle One Suzuki. Daniels topped the Pro Stock Truck order in his Chevy S-10, covering the distance with a track record run of 7.493 at 179.66. Daniels will be one of eight Pro Stock Truck competitors in a battle for the $20,000 winner's share of the Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel for Pro Stock Trucks, a special event also scheduled for tomorrow.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Troy Coughlin , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Randy Daniels , Bob Glidden , Jerry Toliver