Phoenix Friday Recap

CHANDLER AZ - SUMMIT FastNews - The first day of qualifying for the 15th annual NHRA Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals presented by Pennzoil featured thrills, spills, records, and a few surprises. When the dust cleared, Tony Schumacher, John...

CHANDLER AZ - SUMMIT FastNews - The first day of qualifying for the 15th annual NHRA Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals presented by Pennzoil featured thrills, spills, records, and a few surprises. When the dust cleared, Tony Schumacher, John Force, and Warren Johnson headed their respective Professional fields. Schumacher's relatively new Exide Batteries Top Fuel team has shown solid performance to start the 1999 season, but everyone was surprised when he not only outran 1998 Winston champion Gary Scelzi in the second qualifying session, but shattered the Firebird Raceway track speed record in the process. Schumacher's 4.580-second, 323.74 mph run put him atop the ladder, ahead of Doug Kalitta's 4.581 at 313.00 and Scelzi's 4.589 at 309.70. Schumacher was delighted with his first-ever number-one qualifying result, "It's always good to be number one, you get the best draw on race day," he exclaimed. But he went on to caution, "On race day, it's a whole different deal."

In contrast to Schumacher's surprising showing, usually-strong contenders Cory McClenathan, Joe Amato, and Winston points leader Mike Dunn are not qualified in the sixteen-car field and Larry Dixon is precariously perched on the bubble, in sixteenth spot. Randy Parks was uninjured in a spectacular "blowover" during the second qualifying session," his Fluke Instruments dragster standing straight up in the air before falling back to the track at mid-track, tail-first. The car slid backward and sideways across the finish line before coming to a stop. Force's domination of Funny Car qualifying was no surprise, resetting the Firebird Raceway track ET record with a 4.853-second, 211.20 mph effort, a full tenth of a second quicker than second-place Dean Skuza and Force's arch-rival, Cruz Pedregon. Rookie Scotty Cannon was uninjured in a top-end engine explosion and fire during the second qualifying session, coming to a stop in the desert off the end of the track and exiting the car under his own power. Johnson once again heads up the Pro Stock field, his 6.935-second, 199.11 mph run during the first qualifying session resetting both ends of the track record. If Johnson can hold on through two more rounds of qualifying he will break a tie with Bob Glidden for the number of times he's qualified number one - both have done so 103 times before this weekend. Johnson can usually find something wrong with most runs, but conceded that his first here was close to perfect, "I don't think there was very much left, a hundredth at best. It corrects to a 6.806 at sea level, as fast as we've gone anywhere." When asked about the tire shake he encountered on his second qualifying attempt, he replied, "We were on the edge on the first run and just pushed it a little too far on the second - and we paid the price." In Sportsman action, John Weaver earned the perseverance award just for showing up for this event. Weaver was the number-one qualifier in Federal-Mogul Funny Car at the Winternationals, but he destroyed his car on that number-one qualifying run when the braking chutes failed and he went off the end of the track. Weaver and his crew put a replacement car together in less than three weeks and is currently qualified ninth in the field. Two more rounds of qualifying Saturday will set the fields for Sunday's final eliminations. Results provided by the FastNews Network, courtesy of Summit Racing Equipment ** http://www.summitracing.com/ **

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Warren Johnson , Dean Skuza , John Force , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Scotty Cannon , Bob Glidden , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan