Phoenix: Saturday qualifying report

SCHUMACHER, PEDREGON AND STEVENS TAKE NO. 1 POSITIONS AT CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Defending NHRA POWERade world champion Tony Schumacher raced to his second consecutive No. 1 qualifying position of the season...

SCHUMACHER, PEDREGON AND STEVENS TAKE NO. 1 POSITIONS AT CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Defending NHRA POWERade world champion Tony Schumacher raced to his second consecutive No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals near Phoenix.

Tony Pedregon and Richie Stevens also will lead their categories into Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations at the $1.8 million race, the second of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Schumacher posted a track record time of 4.474 seconds at 326.24 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to earn his 13th career top qualifying award in Top Fuel.

"We ran two 4.4-second runs today in the heat, which no one else was able to do," said Schumacher, who posted a 4.486 on his other pass during the day. "That puts the U.S. Army team in a good position going into tomorrow because we know we can run well when the sun is out."

Doug Kalitta was second with a 4.490 at 327.19 in his Mac Tools dragster. Meanwhile, No. 5 qualifier Brandon Bernstein set a track record speed, clocking a 333.74 mph run in the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster, the fifth fastest speed in NHRA history.

Pedregon captured his 30th top qualifying position in Funny Car and second of the season, as his 4.703 at 325.06 performance from Friday night was not bettered.

"The goal today was to get down the track," said Pedregon, who shut his Q-Racing Monte Carlo off early and still posted a 4.83 on his best effort of the day. "The track was almost as good as it was last night only with a little more heat. We felt like our 4.70 time was safe so we were conservative. You really can't pull these (cars) back too much or you drop cylinders, but we wanted to see how to run without pushing it to the edge."

Rookie Robert Hight was second in his Auto Club Ford Mustang with a 4.723 at a track record speed of 329.99. Defending event winner Del Worsham was third with a 4.748 at 324.98 in the Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Monte Carlo.

In Pro Stock, Stevens drove his Team Mopar Hemi Dodge Stratus to a track record performance of 6.735 at 205.35 to earn his second career No. 1 qualifying position.

"To get the first No. 1 qualifier for Don Schumacher Racing's Pro Stock program is really special," Stevens said. "I knew we'd do well out here but I didn't expect it to happen this quickly. Bob (Glidden, crew chief) is really excited. He was happy last night but now that it's official he's all smiles. It's great to see."

In the first round Stevens will face fellow NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League alum Erica Enders, the fifth female to qualify for Pro Stock eliminations in NHRA history.

"I'm glad Erica got in. We're friends and it's cool to see her doing well," Stevens said. "She's getting the hang of it and she'll get better and better as time goes on. It'll be fun racing her tomorrow morning."

Enders, whose life as a Jr. Drag Racing League competitor was documented in the successful Disney Channel original movie "Right On Track", will try to become the first female in Pro Stock to advance past the second round. The only female Pro Stock competitor in NHRA history to win a round of eliminations in Pro Stock is Lucinda McFarlin, who defeated Don Beverley in the first round of eliminations at Memphis, Tenn. in 1992.

"We went to Pomona expecting to qualify and we were disappointed that we didn't get it done," Enders said. "But it's great that we are in the field in just our second attempt. I couldn't be happier about it, but now it's time to focus on racing in the elimination rounds."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Doug Kalitta , Brandon Bernstein , Don Schumacher , Robert Hight