Phoenix: Saturday qualifying report

SCHUMACHER, HIGHT AND LINE EARN NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITIONS AT CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Four-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher raced to his 37th career No. 1 qualifying position Saturday after...

SCHUMACHER, HIGHT AND LINE EARN NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITIONS AT CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Four-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher raced to his 37th career No. 1 qualifying position Saturday after covering Firebird International Raceway's quarter-mile dragstrip in a track record time of 4.430 seconds -- the fourth quickest run in NHRA history.

Robert Hight and Jason Line also earned No. 1 qualifying honors at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals presented by Castrol, the second of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship. Sunday's eliminations start at 11 a.m. (MT), with television coverage on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. (ET).

Saturday's drama came in the form of last-ditch qualifying efforts by John Force and Doug Kalitta. With their class-leading qualifying streaks hanging in the balance, both drivers managed to make the starting lineups in their respective categories during the final session. Force powered his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang to a 4.818 and Kalitta posted a 4.547 in his Mac Tools dragster. Force has now qualified for 394 consecutive events, while Kalitta has reached 162 straight race days.

Force's son-in-law Hight has yet to back up his 4.636 at 327.74 mph from Friday evening to make it an official NHRA national record for his Auto Club Ford Mustang, but it's still the quickest run ever recorded in the Funny Car class and earned him his 16th career top qualifier award. Force's daughter Ashley will start sixth after clocking a career-best 4.730-second run in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.

"John [Force] was really pumped up before that round," Hight said. "He needs to quit waiting until the final session to qualify. We're all running a new clutch combo that Jimmy (Prock, crew chief) and I tested extensively in the off-season. John just started using it this weekend and he was complaining it was hard to hold the clutch pedal in. I told him Ashley didn't have any trouble with it. He'll be fine. It just takes getting used to."

Tony Pedregon, who also has a shot at the national record if he can back up his 4.659-second run, is second overall in his Q Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

Schumacher didn't improve on his track-record 4.430 at 328.22 mph from Friday, but his 4.457 in Saturday's final session, the hottest round of the weekend, proved his U.S. Army dragster is ready for the anticipated race-day conditions.

"I like to say that you don't win championships in qualifying, you win them on race days," Schumacher said. "But last year I won the championship by 16 points so technically, we won the title with the extra points we earned in qualifying. That proves that qualifying well does pay off."

In Pro Stock, Line used the optimum conditions to post his best pass of the weekend, a track-record performance of 6.635 at 209.33 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO, to claim his 12th career No. 1 qualifying award.

"As racers, no matter how good your car is running, you always want more out of it," Line said. "That's what drives you and pushes you to be better. I guess it's the way we're wired. But I am happy with what we've done here so far, for sure."

-credit: nhra

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Jason Line , Robert Hight