SCHUMACHER, HIGHT, ANDERSON AND SMITH EARN VICTORIES AT MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS INDIANAPOLIS -- Three-time POWERade Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher drew within 54 points of the championship lead by earning his fifth Mac Tools U.S. Nationals...
SCHUMACHER, HIGHT, ANDERSON AND SMITH EARN VICTORIES AT MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS
INDIANAPOLIS -- Three-time POWERade Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher drew within 54 points of the championship lead by earning his fifth Mac Tools U.S. Nationals victory Monday at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.
Schumacher's final round win over Brandon Bernstein at the $2.6 million NHRA POWERade Series race put him alongside fellow Indy champs Robert Hight (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle.) Like Schumacher, Anderson's win was his fifth at the world's most prestigious drag race, including the last four in a row.
Schumacher immediately dedicated his win to crew chief Alan Johnson's brother Blaine, who lost his life in a crash 10 years ago at this event. Schumacher's U.S. Army dragster was the quickest of every round as he raced past J.R. Todd, Dave Grubnic, Rod Fuller, and Bernstein's Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster for his third win of the year and 33rd of his career.
"There are a lot of reasons to win races -- the fans, your sponsors, the championship chase, whatever -- but today we raced for Blaine," said Schumacher, the first nitro category driver this season to win from the No. 1 qualifying position. "My first Indy race was 10 years ago and I would've raced him in the first round if he hadn't died. To come back now and win with Alan as my crew chief, it was meant to be. This trophy is going on the Johnson family mantle. That's where it belongs."
With the victory, Schumacher cut Doug Kalitta's points lead to 54 with five races remaining. Kalitta was upset in the first round by David Baca.
Hight was a picture of relief and bewilderment after winning the sport's biggest race in just his second appearance here as a driver. He had to work for this one, getting chased by Whit Bazemore all the way down the race track, but he reached the stripe first with a 4.737 at 328.38 mph in his Auto Club Ford Mustang to Bazemore's 4.756 at 327.82 mph in his Matco Tools Dodge Charger.
"This is unbelievable," Hight said. "I didn't think I'd ever get to drive one of these cars, let alone drive for John Force. To come here, to a race I watched so many times as a fan and as a crew guy for John, and to find a way to win is beyond anything you can dream of. I always wondered what I'd do if I was here in this spot and now I don't know what to do."
John Force gave the Funny Car points lead back to Ron Capps after just one race on top by red-lighting against first-round foe Jim Head. Capps, who went to the semifinals, now leads by 19 points.
Skoal Showdown winner Force, a winner of 13 world championships, 121 events and four U.S. Nationals titles, was disappointed with his early round miscue.
"I have the best car here and I failed," Force said. "This is Indy. It's not where you make mistakes. I'm the best there is and I forgot how to race. If you lose like this at Indy you deserve to have your (butt) kicked."
Anderson broke his longest winless streak since his first career victory by taking out starting line specialist Dave Connolly, who fouled at the start in his Skull Gear Chevy Cobalt. Like Schumacher in Top Fuel, Anderson entered race day as the No. 1 qualifier and posted the quickest pass of every round in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to win his second race of the season and 41st of his career.
"Man I needed a win so badly, and what better place to get it than Indy," said Anderson, who joined Bob Glidden and Warren Johnson as the only Pro Stock racers to win four consecutive Indy races. "It's incredible in this day and age to win four in a row at the race where everybody goes all out to win. I know the competition was awesome when those guys did it, but it's even more brutal now. I feel very humbled and privileged."
Anderson's victory cut teammate Jason Line's series lead to 59 points.
One year ago, Smith felt the elation of an Indy Pro Stock Motorcycle win for about a day, only to have it stripped away when ESPN2 replays proved that a timing malfunction had occurred and opponent Steve Johnson had actually won the final. Although Smith agreed with the decision and was gracious in the turn of events, the incident has stayed with him.
On this day, any chance of a repeat performance was extinguished at the starting line when Sampey left the tree too early, thereby handing the win to Smith at the starting line. He went on to post a 7.222 on his Torco Buell to Sampey's 7.147 on her U.S. Army Suzuki.
"No one's taking this one away," Smith said as he clutched the trophy at the top end. "I saw her red-light come on and I was like, 'Thank you, thank you.' I doubt very seriously I made a very good run because I was screaming my head off in my helmet. I don't even remember going through the gears."
Andrew Hines and Antron Brown remain 1-2 in the point standings after a pair of semifinal finishes with Hines ahead by eight points.
The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series continues with the 22nd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals, Sept. 14-17 at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.