Joliet, IL (June 2): Coming home to Chicago a week after losing the Winston points lead to Gary Scelzi, Tony Schumacher and the Exide team couldn't wait to get back on the track. They not only wanted to race in front of family and friends, but...
Joliet, IL (June 2): Coming home to Chicago a week after losing the Winston points lead to Gary Scelzi, Tony Schumacher and the Exide team couldn't wait to get back on the track. They not only wanted to race in front of family and friends, but they wanted to show fellow Top Fuel teams that they were still in fighting form.
The first day of qualifying for the Third Annual Prestone Nationals at Route 66 Raceway started under near perfect weather conditions. The reigning Top Fuel champion, Schumacher would pair up with current points leader, Scelzi. Both cars seemed to be on excellent runs but at the top end of the track Schumacher lost a blower belt and finished with a 4.668 e.t. at 286.07 mph. Scelzi captured the No.1 spot with a 4.60 e.t. and as his parachute came out his car suddenly went out of control and slid on its side into the shut down portion of the track.
"I knew I lost a belt because the car slowed in the lights and all of a sudden I saw the nose of Gary's car coming towards me," said Schumacher, "I steered the car to the left and got as low as I could in the seat."
Luckily for both drivers there was no collision. Scelzi's car had extensive damage and both drivers were uninjured in the incident.
"It shows you how fast things happen in these cars," added Schumacher, "Gary was finished with his run and that's about the time you can usually take a breath."
After several delays in both Funny Car and Top Fuel, Schumacher's second qualifying session take place after 10:30pm with very cool temperatures. Team Exide knew they needed to fire the first shot of the event and they did exactly that.
Schumacher's car ran an impressive 4.593 e.t. at track record speed of 322.58 mph to take the No. 1 spot going into the second day of qualifying. "That was a fantastic pass," said Schumacher, "we even left a little on the table to get through some tough spots on the track."
"There are a couple of bald spots just past 60 feet, so we softened the car up to get through those areas."
"It's great to be No. 1, but Scelzi would have ran a tough number if they had gotten their backup car together. Dan (Olson) and the guys have done a great job and they are the ones who deserve the praise."
"If the weather stays like this there may be several cars that run .50's," said Schumacher, "I hope we can hold onto No.1 for everyone in our pit this weekend. It would be fantastic to get our first No. 1 qualifier at our home track."
Teams will have two more qualifying attempts on Saturday before entering Final Eliminations on Sunday.