Pomona II: Saturday summary, one more champion crowned

Scali clinches Championship; Kalitta takes Budweiser Shootout money; Schumacher, Pedregon, Anderson and Treble earn no. 1 qualifying spots at Auto Club finals. POMONA, Calif. - Doug Kalitta pocketed $100,000 for winning the Budweiser Shootout...

Scali clinches Championship; Kalitta takes Budweiser Shootout money; Schumacher, Pedregon, Anderson and Treble earn no. 1 qualifying spots at Auto Club finals.

POMONA, Calif. - Doug Kalitta pocketed $100,000 for winning the Budweiser Shootout for Top Fuel competitors Saturday at Pomona Raceway during the Auto Club NHRA Finals.

In other racing action, Geno Scali was crowned the Pro Stock Bike champion for the first time in his career while Tony Schumacher, Tony Pedregon, Greg Anderson and Craig Treble qualified in the No. 1 positions in their respective categories at the $1.7 million race. This is the final of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Kalitta, a two-time winner of the bonus event, beat Schumacher in one of the quickest side-by-side runs in NHRA history. Kalitta used a 4.479-second pass at 330.88 mph in the Mac Tools dragster to beat Schumacher's 4.471 at 329.58 in the U.S. Army dragster.

"We've been working so hard to win this race again since we won it the first time in 1998," Kalitta said. "There's some really tough competition out here. We are just fortunate to win that one. What a race. When I saw the win light come on in my lane, I couldn't believe that we pulled it off."

Schumacher may have been the runner-up in the Budweiser Shootout, but he did earn the No. 1 qualifying spot in Top Fuel with the 4.455 pass at 332.10 he recorded during the first round of qualifying on Saturday.

"Kalitta picked my pocket for $85,000," Schumacher said of Kalitta's top prize of $100,000 compared to his $15,000 for second place. "If you look at the numbers, we were ahead most of the way down. Something just happened at the top end. What a race. It's hard to complain he just beat me that time. My wife called and said she still loves me so everything is OK."

Schumacher has been in the top spot five times this season and eight times in his career. "I said at the start of the day I'd like to run 4.4s every round and we did that," Schumacher said. "Even in the final we gave it our best. I mean, that was the quickest race in NHRA history. I think this is exactly what fans can expect next year. Top Fuel is going to be so tough every round. There are so many good cars."

Pedregon, the recently crowned NHRA POWERade Funny Car champion, went 4.721 at 326.79 to earn his eighth top qualifier of the season and 25th of his career in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang.

"I don't usually get involved with what the crew chiefs do but I was impressed with that 4.721 they threw up there," Pedregon said. "The conditions were there and they went after it. We tried for the national record in the last session but ended up with 4.76. It's weird to say you're disappointed with a 4.76 but we kind of were after the run we had earlier.

"It'll be hard to top what we did in Vegas [winning the championship] but we'd like to go out with a win. We certainly have the car to do it. I know [Whit] Bazemore and others will want to get their last licks in before the off-season. I feel like we can just go race. The weight is already off our shoulders."

Pedregon has not made an announcement as to whether he will be back with John Force Racing in 2004 or if he is going to race with his brother Cruz. The two Pedregon brothers will first have to decide who gets to race in the second round on Sunday. Tony and Cruz Pedregon face each other in the first round of Funny Car eliminations.

"What I get up for is to race, to be competitive and to win," Tony Pedregon said. "Between Cruz and me, Cruz has to go down. That is the way it is supposed to be and Cruz wouldn't have it any other way. Forget about emotions. I'm pulling for me to win.

"I think it is so important that we finish the season in a big way and I will do that to the end, even at Cruz' expense."

Anderson continued his Pro Stock dominance, setting both ends of the track record with a 6.733 at 205.51 in his Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am. Anderson has been the No. 1 qualifier 14 times this season. Anderson earned the Pro Stock championship title at the October event in Dallas. If he can earn one more victory this season, he will break the current record (14), a tie between Anderson and Darrell Alderman (1991).

"We're still focused on setting a few more records," Anderson said. "If I can go three rounds tomorrow I'll pass John Force for most elimination round wins in a season. It's hard to imagine bettering one of his records. If we manage to do that I think that one might hold for a long time.

"Of course, the real goal tomorrow is to win the race and set the Pro Stock record for most wins in a single season. I know it's going to be tough because everyone will be taking shots at us. I'm sure every race will be door-handle-to-door-handle. It'll be a game of inches, I'm sure, I just hope we have one more inch than the other guy."

Scali clinched his first NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Bike championship and $50,000 when he earned qualifying points on Saturday. Scali has earned three wins in four final rounds and has five semifinal round appearances. He qualified in the No. 2 spot with a 7.097 at 191.24.

"You have a dream all your life and you give up being a part of your brother's wedding, you miss your mother's birthday party, you skip all the special events involving your family because you know it takes 100 percent dedication to make your dream come true," Scali said. "To finally realize it is beyond all description. It's like it's not even real.

"Success at this level has nothing to do with luck. It's all about hard work and believing in yourself enough to follow your dreams. We don't have the biggest budget out here but I know we work hard. To finally win the POWERade title makes all the sacrifice worthwhile."

Treble took the top spot in the two-wheel category with a track record time of 7.075 at 192.47 on a Suzuki.

"Matt Hines is the man," Treble said, referring to the three-time NHRA champ who loaned him his old Suzuki before the last race in Las Vegas. "I can't say enough. He has given me a rocket ship. Everyone kept saying [our performance] turnaround was Vance & Hines power, but on that last pass we used our motor, and I think we could improve on that 7.07 time."

Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon , Craig Treble , Geno Scali