Joliet: Saturday qualifying report

CONNOLLY RACES TO KING DEMON CROWN VICTORY AT ROUTE 66 RACEWAY Schumacher, Hight, Johnson and Hines claim No. 1 qualifying positions at CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals JOLIET, Ill. -- Dave Connolly raced to the $50,000 King Demon ...


Schumacher, Hight, Johnson and Hines claim No. 1 qualifying positions at CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals

JOLIET, Ill. -- Dave Connolly raced to the $50,000 King Demon Crown victory Saturday at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

In other racing Saturday, Tony Schumacher, Robert Hight, Warren Johnson and Andrew Hines earned No. 1 qualifying honors in their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the 10th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Connolly claimed his first victory in the special bonus event for the season's eight-quickest Pro Stock cars when final round opponent Jason Line fouled at the start.

Connolly, who qualified fifth for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations, drove his Torco Gear Chevy Cobalt to round wins over Mike Edwards and Kurt Johnson to make it to his second-straight Demon Crown final. The win avenged Connolly's runner-up effort in last year's King Demon Crown. He lost to Greg Anderson in that race by a very narrow margin.

"It's good to get a little revenge," said Connolly, who added the feat to his list of accomplishments at Route 66 Raceway. "There's definitely a horseshoe above our heads at this track. I love coming here."

In the final, Connolly had the slower car (6.823 to Line's 6.775), but Line left the starting line before the green light flashed, resulting in instant disqualification.

"I thought I was beat," Connolly said. "I thought I hit the tree good for once the whole day and then I hit fifth gear and I looked over and he was already around us by a lot. I looked up at the scoreboard and saw the win light and about shut it off and pulled the parachute and started celebrating."

With a victory tomorrow, Connolly can pocket a $25,000 'Double-Up' bonus from NHRA, bringing his total weekend earnings to more than $100,000.

"With what this team has been through in the last two weeks, to perform the way they did at Topeka and now win the King Demon Crown, what a great team," said Connolly, whose team faced an uncertain future before it was purchased by Evan Knoll prior to this event. "I can't ask for a better weekend, unless we win Sunday and take home the Double Up bonus from NHRA."

Schumacher raced to his fourth No. 1 position of the season and the 14th of his career in Top Fuel with a 4.508 second run at 329.58 mph in his U.S. Army dragster.

"It's nice to start number one, especially on the occasion of the U.S. Army's 230th birthday celebration," said local favorite Schumacher, from nearby Long Grove, Ill. "Now, we have to deliver the real present to our soldiers on race day - a win."

Rookie Hight claimed his fourth top qualifying effort in Funny Car by clocking a 4.726 at 328.86 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang.

"It's good for everybody's ego to be No. 1," Hight said. "But qualifying is over now and we have to work hard to win the race tomorrow. There's a lot of really good cars in the field and there are no easy rounds."

Hight teammates John Force (4.744, 326.24) and Eric Medlen (4.771, 324.51) were second and third respectively in their Castrol Mustangs. It is the fifth time Force Racing has claimed the top three spots in the qualifying order and the second time at this track.

"We've never won and capitalized on (being 1-2-3)," said Hight, who will face veteran driver Jim Head in the first round. "We've got to get this car into the winner's circle and the way it ran today I like our chances."

Johnson earned the 135th No. 1 qualifying effort of his career and his fifth of the season by posting a 6.762 at 204.08 in his GM Performance Parts Pontiac.

"We felt like we could run relatively close to what we ran this morning based on the fact that was a new engine," Johnson said. "We made some tune-up adjustments, but we didn't expect it to pick up that much. We're just trying as hard as we can."

Hines claimed his third top qualifying effort of the season and 11th of his career by riding his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with a performance of 7.123 at 183.10.

"We had a consistent bike all weekend and we're happy to get another No. 1 qualifying effort for this Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines team," Hines said. "We weren't the quickest today and a few teams threw out a few runs during that last session, but we were able to hold on to the top spot."


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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight , Dave Connolly , Mike Edwards