SCHUMACHER, FORCE AND JOHNSON WIN AT CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher raced to victory Sunday at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals at Firebird International ...
SCHUMACHER, FORCE AND JOHNSON WIN AT CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS
CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher raced to victory Sunday at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix.
John Force and Allen Johnson also were winners at the $1.8 million race, the second of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Schumacher earned his 22nd career Top Fuel victory and third at FIR by posting a final round performance of 4.485 seconds at 329.50 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to defeat upstart Morgan Lucas, whose Lucas Oil dragster lost power past mid-track and recorded a 4.967 at 207.53.
Schumacher drove his consistently quick dragster to early round wins over Bruce Litton, Cory McClenathan and Brandon Bernstein before racing past Lucas in the final-round.
"It's so cool to drive a car for the best Top Fuel team I've ever seen, from either the inside or across the pit with someone else," said Schumacher, who regained the series points lead with the victory. "Alan (Johnson, crew chief) is at a level that's better than anything he's ever done before. The car is perfect."
It was the third runner-up finish for Lucas, who has been to three finals in 10 career Top Fuel starts.
"I feel a little sorry for Morgan," Schumacher said. "I know what that's like. I went to nine finals before I won so I know you start thinking things like, 'What do I need to do to win one of these things?' He'll get his. That's a great car and he's a good driver."
Defending series champ Force earned his 115th Funny Car victory by powering to a 4.802 second run at 344.12 mph in his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang to hold off Ron Capps, who drove his Brut Dodge Stratus to a 4.856 at 321.27 in his first final round appearance since 2003.
It was Force's eighth victory at FIR, the most by any NHRA driver.
"We love coming to Arizona," Force said. "This was a good win. We were running 4.60s last year like magic and went to Pomona two weeks ago and got overconfident and stopped reading the track and started running on ego. (Austin) Coil (crew chief) told me we were going to fix it this weekend and we did."
Force, who increased his head-to-head record against Capps to 34-7 with the victory (7-2 in final round meetings), was happy to renew his rivalry with his old friend.
"I'm glad to see Capps back in the mix because he's been down for awhile," Force said. "I gave him a big ol' kiss down there because I was happy for him. He said, 'What's that?' and I told him it was that cologne he's wearing, I couldn't resist. He's running good now and that's another car to worry about."
Capps, whose last victory came at Phoenix in 2003, was pleased to be back in a final round after enduring his worst season ever in '04.
"We were close," Capps said. "It's disappointing because we wanted to get Brut and Dodge a win. To come out on the losing end hurts a little bit, but it's OK. We made huge, huge gains. I'm really excited about going to the next race in Gainesville (Fla.)."
Semifinalist Phil Burkart, who upset Cruz Pedregon in the first round and defeated Whit Bazemore in the second, claimed the series points lead in Funny Car for the first time in his career.
"It's not like we need any extra motivation, but it made a chill run down my back to hear that," said Burkart, who was runner-up at the season-opener in Pomona, Calif. "We know it's only the second race of a 23-race season, and we have the mindset that we'll probably have to win at Gainesville to keep the top spot, so we'll go down there and try to do that. For the next couple of weeks I'm going to be looking closely at the newspaper in the hope they run the standings. It's going to be an honor to see my name at the top."
Johnson scored his third career victory and first since 2002 by beating Ron Krisher in the final round. Johnson, who moved into the series points lead for the first time in his career with the win, covered the distance in 6.801 at 202.36 in his J&J Racing Team Mopar Dodge Stratus, while Krisher trailed in his Valvoline Chevy Cavalier, clocking a 6.887 at 190.65.
"I think the parity is back in Pro Stock," Johnson said. "We've been dominated by Greg (Anderson) for the last two years so the rest of us are pretty anxious to get some wins ourselves. He's been two or three hundredths ahead of everyone, but I don't think there were many races today decided by more than a thousandth of-a-second. We'll probably see 12 to 14 winners this year like we did in 2002."
Johnson defeated V. Gaines, Jason Line and Jeg Coughlin to advance to the final round. It was the first Pro Stock win for Dodge since 2002 (Larry Morgan, Sonoma, Calif.).
"This was a big win for our program and for Mopar," Johnson added. "It's been awhile since Mopar has won a race in Pro Stock so it's nice to put them back in the winner's circle."
The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series continues with the 36th annual Mac Tools NHRA Gatornationals, March 17-20 at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway.