Las Vegas II: Saturday summary

Schumacher, Pedregon, Anderson and Treble qualify No. 1 at Las Vegas. LAS VEGAS - Tony Schumacher earned his third consecutive Top Fuel No. 1 qualifying position Saturday during the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas...

Schumacher, Pedregon, Anderson and Treble qualify No. 1 at Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS - Tony Schumacher earned his third consecutive Top Fuel No. 1 qualifying position Saturday during the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Tony Pedregon, Greg Anderson and Craig Treble also led their respective categories at the $1.6 million race, the 22nd of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Schumacher has eight career top qualifying honors, four this season. He drove his U.S. Army dragster to a 4.503-second run at 331.45 mph to lead the 16-car qualifying order.

"We have as many No. 1 qualifiers this year as we did in my entire career because we didn't have (crew chief) Alan Johnson before this season," Schumacher said. "This car is mean and it drives hard. Alan is just very aggressive and this is the first race that we have all the pieces that he wanted. We have a new chassis this weekend and we now have his car with his tuneup.

"To take a new car out there like that is just amazing. He is just a sharp guy, he can read the car."

Schumacher has plenty of reason to be anything but focused on racing. His wife, Cara, is expecting their second child. Still, he said he is always ready to drive the car once the engine starts.

"When you get in a monster like that, nothing can take away your focus," Schumacher said. "This car is mean and you better stay ahead of it. You have to always be aware of what is happening.

"Cara is doing well. She is at home, relaxing, watching Gone With the Wind over and over."

Pedregon earned his seventh No. 1 qualifying effort of the season, 24th of his career. He drove his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang to a 4.753 run at 322.88 to lead the Funny Car category.

Pedregon has the opportunity to clinch his first NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship. If he can stay ahead of Whit Bazemore's performance, Pedregon can take home his first title. His teammate and car owner, John Force, has captured 12 Funny Car titles, including the last 10 years.

"I am just going to be as mentally prepared as I can," Pedregon said. "I'm going to get some rest and do whatever I can to stay focused on every round."

His brother, Cruz Pedregon, has not made life easy for the Funny Car points leader. Cruz was transported to University Medical Center after his Advance Auto Parts Pontiac Firebird suffered an explosion during the third round of qualifying. The car hit the safety retaining wall and the body of the car was destroyed. He was released and returned to the track later in the afternoon.

"That was a concern for me because there is not one person that I am closer to than Cruz," Tony Pedregon said. "I was real glad when he came back to the track. That's when you have to stay in touch with reality. You can fix the car and fix the body, but it was more important that he was doing well."

Anderson, already the 2003 Pro Stock champion, held on to earn his 13th top qualifier of the season and 16th of his career. He drove his Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am to a track record run of 6.866 at 200.44.

His teammate, Jason Line, qualified in the No. 2 spot after going 6.882 at 200.41.

"With the kind of depth that we have it would be kind of disappointing if we didn't go out there and do well," Anderson said. "To do well in front of (team owner and Las Vegas businessman) Ken Black and his friends, family and business customers is extra special. There is nothing more that I want to do than make him happy. It has been an absolutely great year and Ken has been very supportive throughout the entire process."

Anderson said he is already planning to work overtime during the offseason.

"I think we are going to have to work very hard over the offseason to back this up," Anderson, winner of 10 races this season, said. "We could have been better this season. With the year we have had, I think we have angered some of the other competitors and I am sure they are going to be burning the midnight oil before the 2004 season starts. We're going to work more too."

Treble went to the top of the Pro Stock Bike ladder with a 7.246 at 186.61 on his Matco Tools Suzuki. This is the second No. 1 qualifier of the season and career.

This weekend Treble is riding a borrowed bike. He is using the bike of three-time champion Matt Hines for the final two events of the season. Hines is sitting out this season and has been a technical advisor for the two-bike Harley-Davidson team of Andrew Hines and GT Tonglet.

"We've been keeping it low key," Treble said of the borrowed bike. "But I guess when you end up No. 1, the cat is out of the bag. Matt graciously offered his bike for me to ride because it was just sitting there.

"We want to finish the year strong, so we'll run Matt's bike and try to win one of the last two races. It's obviously working well right now."

Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon , Craig Treble , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , GT Tonglet , Ken Black