Columbus: Sunday eliminations report

SCHUMACHER, FORCE, ANDERSON AND SCHNITZ EARN VICTORIES AT PONTIAC PERFORMANCE NHRA NATIONALS HEBRON, Ohio -- Tony Schumacher posted a national record speed on his way to the Top Fuel victory Sunday at the Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals at...

SCHUMACHER, FORCE, ANDERSON AND SCHNITZ EARN VICTORIES AT PONTIAC PERFORMANCE NHRA NATIONALS

HEBRON, Ohio -- Tony Schumacher posted a national record speed on his way to the Top Fuel victory Sunday at the Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals at National Trail Raceway.

John Force, Greg Anderson and Ryan Schnitz also were winners of the $2 million race, the eighth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Schumacher earned his third victory of the season and 24th of his career by posting a track record performance in the final round that included the fastest speed in NHRA history. Schumacher's U.S. Army dragster finished in 4.489 seconds at 336.15 mph to hold off Doug Kalitta's charging Mac Tools dragster, which finished just behind in 4.513 at 324.90.

"It took us a couple of races to get it back together but I think we're there," said Schumacher, who cut into Kalitta's series points lead with the win. "We had some intense rounds today with Doug and Brandon Bernstein and Alan (Johnson, crew chief) knew when to step it up and we were able to get the job done. It's nice to be able to give this track the title of world's fastest dragstrip."

Force used a quicker reaction time to claim his third Funny Car victory of the season (117th career) and increased his series points lead by edging rival Gary Scelzi in a photo finish. Force posted a 4.776 at 324.51 in his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang to hold off Scelzi's Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus, which clocked a quicker but losing 4.764 at 326.79.

"It was a great race," said Force, who defeated Tony Bartone, Dale Creasy and Ron Capps to advance to the final. "Scelzi always gets up for me and I always get up for him. I've said all along that he's the guy to watch. We'll see him a lot more down the road."

With the victory, Force increased his series lead to 80 over Scelzi.

"In the past I've said the racing was tough in Funny Car, but this is definitely the toughest season," Force said. "There are so many strong cars out there and there's a lot of close racing. It's great for the fans and it's fun for me because I am motivated by the competition."

Anderson won his second consecutive Pro Stock race of the season and the 33rd of his career by outrunning Kurt Johnson in a close final round. Anderson drove his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac to a performance of 6.737 at 204.35 to hold off Johnson's ACDelco Chevy Cobalt, which posted a 6.787 at 204.20.

"We got off to a little bit of a slow start this year, but I think we are finally getting it together," said two-time defending series champ Anderson, who enjoyed record-breaking seasons in 2003 and '04. "This is really the first race this season where I felt like we really had a handle on it. It was a good win."

It was Anderson's fourth consecutive victory at the Ohio quarter-mile track.

"I really love this place," Anderson said. "I don't know what it is but we've been able to enjoy a lot of success here. It must be because this is one of my sponsor's races. We always seem to do well at those races."

Anderson beat Jeg Coughlin, Warren Johnson and Mike Edwards in earlier rounds. In his second round match with former employer and current series leader Warren Johnson, Anderson said he was up for the challenge.

"That's all part of the game," said Anderson, who moves into second in the points order and now trails his mentor by 79. "(Warren) has been fantastic this season, and certainly has had our number, so it was good to gain some ground on him today. He still has the points lead, but he better look in his rearview mirror, because we're coming."

Schnitz claimed his first Pro Stock Motorcycle victory on his Muzzy Buell in his first career final round appearance when defending world champion and final round opponent Andrew Hines fouled at the start on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.

"What a day," said Schnitz, a three-time AMA champion, who defeated Joe DeSantis, Karen Stoffer and Chip Ellis in the first three rounds. "It's great to get our first win out here. I was a little nervous before the final, but I was confident because I have some experience in those situations in other series. When I saw the win light come on after he had the red light it was a great feeling."

Schnitz is the fourth different winner in as many races this season. Top qualifier GT Tonglet, who advanced to the semifinals, maintained the points lead on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.

The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series continues with the O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka (Kan.), May 26-29.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Bartone , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Karen Stoffer , Brandon Bernstein , Ryan Schnitz , Andrew Hines , GT Tonglet , Chip Ellis , Joe DeSantis , Mike Edwards