SCHUMACHER TIES GARLITS FOR MOST TOP FUEL WINS AT PRESTIGIOUS MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS Force Hood, Coughlin and Arana also race to victory at world's most prestigious drag race INDIANAPOLIS -- Tony Schumacher continued his domination of the ...
SCHUMACHER TIES GARLITS FOR MOST TOP FUEL WINS AT PRESTIGIOUS MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS
Force Hood, Coughlin and Arana also race to victory at world's most prestigious drag race
INDIANAPOLIS -- Tony Schumacher continued his domination of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil Monday, racing to his eighth victory at historic O'Reilly Raceway Park and tying legendary "Big Daddy" Don Garlits for the most Top Fuel wins at the world's most prestigious drag race.
Ashley Force Hood, Jeg Coughlin, and Hector Arana also were winners of the final regular season event in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. The Countdown to 1, NHRA's six-race championship playoffs, begins Sept. 18 with the NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, N.C.
Schumacher, who has been to the last eight final rounds at this event and 10 overall since he began his career at this race in 1996, powered to his fourth victory of the season and 60th of his career, with a performance of 3.861 seconds at 314.17 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to hold off rival Larry Dixon, who trailed with a 4.208 at 228.58 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster.
"This win is special not just because we tied Don Garlits, but because we won Indy again," said Schumacher, who pocketed $100,000 for the win. "To win this race for the eighth time and put the 60th trophy on my shelf is awesome. This is the U.S. Nationals. To have this much dominance at any track is incredible, but to be able to do it here at Indy is unbelievable. I don't know why this is my lucky track, but I'm sure glad it is."
Schumacher said to beat three-time Indy winner Dixon and his old teammates in the final was satisfying. Dixon drives for the new team created by Schumacher's former crew chief, Alan Johnson. Together Schumacher and Johnson were virtually unstoppable, winning consecutive championships during the last five seasons and rewriting most of the Top Fuel record book during a stellar 2008 campaign.
"To hold this trophy at the end of the day with all the pressure and circumstances and beat a great team like they have over there in the final round, I wouldn't want it any other way," Schumacher said. "The reason I race is for days like this."
Force Hood became the third female to win the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in a pro category and the first ever in Funny Car when she earned her second win of the season by outrunning teammate Robert Hight in the final round. Force Hood joined Shirley Muldowney, who won this race in Top Fuel in 1982 and two-time Indy Pro Stock Motorcycle winner Angelle Sampey in the record books when she crossed the finish line in 4.170 at 294.75 in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. She earned $100,000 for her third career victory.
It was actually the second time Force Hood has won this event. Back in her sportsman racing days, she made her maiden trip to the winner's circle here.
"When I won in '04, it was my first national event win, and I happened to win at the 50th annual U.S. Nationals, and you couldn't pick a better time to win your first event," said Force Hood of her Top Alcohol Dragster victory. "I don't think I really realized what was going on that day. Now, I can look back and appreciate it. It's funny because before that final round, I was thinking, 'OK, Robert seems to have magic here. When that team comes here, they do really well.' I've spent a lot of winner's circles here with his team, so I thought maybe this was going to be his day. Then Jerry Darien walked by, and I just had to laugh because I thought, 'Well, it's been our day here before, too, with Darien and Meadows -- we won here, too.' It kind of relaxed me a little. Either way, team Force was going to get in that winner's circle."
Hight, in his fourth consecutive Indy final round appearance, finished in 4.217 at 271.19 in his Auto Club Mustang and with his effort for the day locked in the 10th position in the point standings and secured a berth in the playoffs.
Defending world champ Coughlin finished the Pro Stock regular season in impressive fashion, winning his seventh race and claiming the No. 1 position for the playoffs. Coughlin earned his third U.S. Nationals win and 48th of his career with a run of 6.689 at 206.48 in his JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt to hold off final round opponent Greg Stanfield, who posted a 6.691 at 206.35 in his Attitude Apparel Pontiac GXP.
"We had a three-time world champion in the first round in Greg Anderson and it doesn't get any tougher than him," said Coughlin, who also beat Roger Brogdon and top qualifier Mike Edwards to advance to the final. "It was a huge win (against Anderson) for a number of reasons. He was trying to protect Jason Line's opportunity to unseed us for the No. 1 spot going into the Countdown to 1. The win over Greg all but sealed the No. 1 spot for us, which means a lot because you get an extra 20 points going into it. That's how we started the day, but then good old Lady Luck put us through the next three rounds, without question. Hopefully we haven't used up all that luck yet as we just got the Countdown started and it's a six-race dash for the Full Throttle championship. Let me tell you, it's going to be one interesting battle in Pro Stock."
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana earned his third victory of the season and first ever at Indy by powering his Lucas Oil Buell to a 7.026 at 189.10 to defeat Michael Phillips in the final, who posted a 7.086 at 185.84 on his Phillips Racing Suzuki. Karen Stoffer secured the final playoff position when she won her first round match and Steve Johnson lost.
"This is the sweetest moment for me," Arana said. "All the years I struggled people always told me, 'There is something better for you,' but I always wondered when my time was going to come. Now, I've won three races this year including the U.S. Nationals and I can't ask for anything more."
In addition to Coughlin, Tony Pedregon also secured the No. 1 playoff spot in Funny Car with his first round win over Del Worsham. Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) had already claimed the top playoff spots in their categories. Each of the regular season champions receive a 20-point bonus to start the playoffs.