Columbus: Friday qualifying report

SCHUMACHER TOPS AMONG RECORD-SETTING PROVISIONAL NO. 1 QUALIFIERS Hight in Funny Car, Connolly in Pro Stock and Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle also top respective qualifying fields HEBRON, Ohio (May 19) -- Back-to-back Top Fuel champion Tony...

SCHUMACHER TOPS AMONG RECORD-SETTING PROVISIONAL NO. 1 QUALIFIERS

Hight in Funny Car, Connolly in Pro Stock and Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle also top respective qualifying fields

HEBRON, Ohio (May 19) -- Back-to-back Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher posted a 4.476-second pass at 331.53 mph Friday night to highlight a record-setting opening day of Pro qualifying at the 42nd annual Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals presented by Summit Racing.

Seven of eight National Trail Raceway records fell by the wayside in the opening two sessions of the $1.5 million race, the eighth of 23 events on the NHRA POWERade Series circuit.

The track record elapsed times of Funny Car's Robert Hight (4.715), Pro Stock's Dave Connolly (6.693), and Pro Stock Motorcycle's Andrew Hines (7.038) placed them atop their respective fields, although they had to share the spotlight with Gary Scelzi (329.58 mph), Jason Line (206.16), and Chip Ellis (193.46), who all set NTR speed records under nearly ideal conditions.

Schumacher's run was a true crowd-pleaser as the U.S. Army rail lit up the night sky with a perfect header flame pattern all the way down the track. When his E.T. and speed hit the scoreboard, the capacity crowd erupted.

"I didn't think that run would be as good as it was but we'll certainly take it given how we've been struggling lately," Schumacher said. "The key will be to put together two runs tomorrow so we have a good feeling going into race day."

Hight went from zero to hero in 4.715 seconds Friday evening with a track-record pass that lifted him from last place on the qualifying sheet to the provisional No. 1 qualifier slot. The Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang driver has been the top qualifier once this year and seven times in his career.

"I didn't think that time would stand, especially since we were the first pair up there in that round," Hight said. "There were a lot of cars that had run quick in the first round and I figured they'd really be stepping on it tonight. I didn't even think we'd be top four, to be honest, but here we are."

Reigning POWERade Series champion Scelzi continues his resurgence with a fast 4.749 at 329.58 mph in his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger.

Connolly remains the man to beat in Pro Stock. Coming off his win in Atlanta, the pride of Elyria, Ohio, thrilled the locals by leading both Day 1 sessions. His second pass of 6.693 seconds at 205.94 mph in the Tommy Utt-tuned Skull Gear Chevy Cobalt set a track elapsed time record.

"He's like Superman right now," Connolly said of Utt. "Everything he's doing is working. We made an absolutely beautiful pass just now. We made the right run at the right time, and it's great to do it here with all our friends and family here cheering us on."

Top-10 runners Erica Enders and Kurt Johnson failed to make the field Friday. They'll pray for dry weather along with five others as they wait for Saturday's final two sessions.

Hines ran a track-record 7.038 at 189.07 mph on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod in Round 2 to easily pace the two-wheel set by more than three hundredths of a second.

"That's the best run a V-Rod has made in a long time," Hines said. "We're trying very hard to go out there and run with the top bikes. We've had to work on improving our 60-foot times. The competition has forced us to change what we were doing. I'm not ready to say we're where we need to be but it's getting better, that's for sure."

Ellis opened with a 7.069 at 193.46 mph, a National Trail speed mark, but couldn't improve in the cooler evening session, so his S&S Buell V-Twin dropped one spot from first to second.

Saturday's final two time trials are scheduled for 12 and 2:30 p.m.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Chip Ellis , Robert Hight , Dave Connolly