FULLER WINS FIRST CAREER POWERADE SERIES RACE AT 18TH ANNUAL O'REILLY MID-SOUTH NATIONALS Medlen wins second straight in Funny Car, Anderson extends lead in Pro Stock and Hines regains lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Tony ...
FULLER WINS FIRST CAREER POWERADE SERIES RACE AT 18TH ANNUAL O'REILLY MID-SOUTH NATIONALS
Medlen wins second straight in Funny Car, Anderson extends lead in Pro Stock and Hines regains lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Tony Schumacher had the POWERade Series points lead within his reach, just needing one more win Sunday against part-time driver "Hot" Rod Fuller in the final round of the 18th annual O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals.
What looked like a mismatch turned instead into an upset as Fuller and his David Powers Motorsports dragster sped past Schumacher's U.S. Army dragster to earn him his first career POWERade Series win.
"I didn't see him or hear him so I knew it was going good," said Fuller, who's hardly a fluke having advanced now to three final rounds in the 10 events (out of 17) he's entered. "I think that was the first time I ever drove down the track with a smile on my face. I'm not a real excitable person but when the win light came on I started celebrating like crazy."
The other winners at the $1.6 million event, the 17th of 23 on the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, were Eric Medlen (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
An incredibly wild and competitive season across all four categories in the POWERade Series was center stage again Sunday as illustrated by the fact that there was another lead change, bringing the total for the season now to 24. There have also been a total of 15 different drivers who have at one point this season led their respective category.
And defending POWERade Series Top Fuel champ Schumacher fell four points short of passing Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools dragster and running the total of lead changes to 25.
Hines regained the Pro Stock Motorcycle lead by 15 points over GT Tonglet with his final-round win over his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammate; Anderson extended his lead in Pro Stock to 73 points over the man he defeated in the final round, Kurt Johnson; and Robert Hight, who lost to Medlen in the semifinals, maintained a slim 30-point lead in Funny Car over runner-up Ron Capps.
But the night belonged to Fuller, who has consistently had one of the better dragsters when he's entered races in the first season of competition for David Powers Motorsports. And he soaked in the victory, taking a lonely but meaningful stroll, with his Wally in tow, all the way down the quarter-mile at 10:15 p.m., a full two hours after his first victory was secured.
"To be the man you have to beat the man and today we were able to do that," said Fuller, who ran a 4.612-second final round against Schumacher's 5.747. "I'd been stuck on 13 (career) wins for awhile and I was starting to think it was a jinx so it was the perfect time to get my first Top Fuel win and push that number to 14. We almost did it earlier this year in Bristol but I lost on a holeshot. I caught a lot of ribbing for that so I wanted to make sure I wasn't late today."
The win-light in Funny Car went to the resurgent Eric Medlen, who won for the third time in the last four national events in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang, beating team owner John Force's Castrol Startup GTX Ford Mustang in the quarterfinals and teammate Robert Hight's AAA Ford Mustang in the semifinals before taking out Ron Capps's Brut Dodge Stratus with a 4.911-second run in the finals (against a 4.985).
"I don't know if there has ever been a team that has it totally together," said Medlen, who remained in fifth place but pulled to within 71 points of Hight for the POWERade Series lead. "You like to think you do but there's always something. But I bet these three teams work together as best as three teams can. When John [Force] went out half his guys went to help Robert [Hight] and half came to help us. Me and Robert ran each other hard because whoever won needed to have lane choice. We both staged real shallow and didn't worry about our lights. When I won that race all three crews worked on my car. That's how it goes."
"You always want to win a race for yourself but I really wanted to win this one for the entire team because we all share in the pain and we all share the wins," Medlen said.
In Pro Stock, the points race came into clear focus as Kurt Johnson, winner of three of the previous five events in his ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt, faced off against Greg Anderson and his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO in the final with a chance to get to within 33 points of Anderson with a win.Instead, after running a 6.834 to cross the line just behind Anderson's 6.801, he now finds himself 73 points back of Anderson.
"If the fans aren't enjoying this points race this year they're not paying attention," Anderson said. "This is like a toe-to-toe heavyweight fight. Kurt has the best car right now. I can't seem to put any space between us. He's been storming up behind us in the points. I had to win just to hold him off."
"We somehow seem to rise to the occasion when we need to," Anderson said. "We seem to do it just a little bit more than the others and that's been the difference. All the glory should go to the crew because they're the ones doing the work that makes me look good. The driver gets on TV but the crew should get all the accolades."
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the Harleys were once again the story as Hines and Tonglet faced off in the final round for the second consecutive week with Hines running a 7.161 (vs. a 7.239 for Tonglet) as they created some separation from the rest of the pack in the class.
"We came in on a high note with (GT Tonglet) winning Brainerd last weekend," Hines said. "They gave the Suzukis a 10-pound weight break and we didn't know how that would change things. Then we start qualifying and I blow up three motors in a row. I was at an all-time low for my career. But dad [Byron Hines] and Scott Sceurman rebuilt our best motor and fixed it and the crew gave me a perfect bike and I was able to go to the No. 1 spot by two-thousandths over GT.
The other story all weekend was the weather, which reached record highs in the Memphis area.
"I just tried to keep my head clear today. It was so hot and I tried to stay cool up in the lounge," Hines said. "I knew I had a great bike and I didn't want to give anything away. The race against Ryan Schnitz in the quarterfinals was the tightest of my career. I was real glad to see the win light and I started thinking I might get the breaks today."