SCHUMACHER COMPLETES GREATEST NHRA POWERADE SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP COMEBACK Force and Hines also claim titles, while Anderson and Treble take victories at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona POMONA, Calif. -- Tony Schumacher completed the biggest...
SCHUMACHER COMPLETES GREATEST NHRA POWERADE SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP COMEBACK
Force and Hines also claim titles, while Anderson and Treble take victories at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona
POMONA, Calif. -- Tony Schumacher completed the biggest comeback in NHRA drag racing history Sunday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona and clinched the 2006 POWERade Series world championship with a national record final-round run that has to be considered the greatest quarter-mile pass of all time.
In Funny Car, John Force used a holeshot start to win his 122nd race just two rounds after clinching his 14th title. Greg Anderson bettered new champ and teammate Jason Line by three hundredths of a second in Pro Stock, while Craig Treble got his first Pro Stock Motorcycle win in more than two years on a day that featured Andrew Hines winning his third straight motorcycle championship.
Entering the final round at the Auto Club NHRA Finals needing to win the race with a performance quicker than 4.437 seconds, Schumacher and crew chief Alan Johnson delivered with a stunning 4.428 at 327.98 mph in the U.S. Army dragster that earned him the championship by 14 points over a devastated Doug Kalitta.
It seems fitting that Schumacher's 35th career win tied him for third with drag racing icon "Big Daddy" Don Garlits on the all-time wins list because his march to his fourth series title was nothing short of legendary.
There was only one way for Schumacher to win this championship -- win two more rounds than Kalitta on the day and set a national elapsed time record, which is worth 20 bonus points. He pulled it off by beating teammate Melanie Troxel in the final to completely erase a deficit that was 336 points at the season's mid-point.
"I probably felt better today than I ever had in my life because the pressure was so high that it was too much to even comprehend," said Schumacher, who joined Joe Amato as the only NHRA Top Fuel drivers to earn three consecutive titles. "I don't know that there's ever been a single pass in drag racing where so much was on the line in one round. To win it like this is unreal. It's beyond anything that you can ever dream up."
Kalitta had a chance to clinch the title in the semis when he ran against Troxel. Despite running a quicker time -- 4.500 to 4.502 -- Kalitta lost on a holeshot in his Mac Tools dragster. In the final, Troxel left on Schumacher but his U.S. Army dragster quickly made up the difference and took the win, the record, and the championship.
"What can you say about Alan Johnson," Schumacher asked. "He's simply the best crew chief and tuning mind ever, period. No one comes close. To pull off what he just did should end all discussion on the subject. He's the best."
Force capped his championship day with his 122nd career victory, taking out upstart Beckman in the closest side-by-side race of the day. Beckman's 4.662 performance in his Matco Tools Dodge Charger set a national elapsed time record but wasn't enough to beat the quicker-reacting Force's 4.697 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
"It was really cool to race like that and I see that Beckman set a record," Force said. "That's great for that kid. He's worked very hard to get up to this level and I'm happy for him. I hope that team comes at us next year. We'll be ready for them."
Force, who earned his world championship title by defeating Ron Capps in the second round, seemed relieved to secure his 14th crown.
"I've been so up and down emotionally all weekend but this is a great way to end the year," Force said. "Our three Fords finished one, two, and four in the points and that's flat-out awesome. For Castrol, Ford, and the Auto Club, and all the others, this is for you. The old man isn't done yet."
Anderson and Line had nearly identical reaction times in their Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GTOs in the Pro Stock final round, but Anderson worked the gears a little bit better and pulled away to claim his 43rd career victory and fourth of the season with a 6.652 at 208.14 mph to Line's 6.691 at 208.46 mph.
"This has been a blast," Anderson said. "Jason won the championship (two weeks ago) in Vegas so we were able to come in here and have fun and just race like weekend warriors with nothing to lose. It's cool that it came down to us in the final and I'm glad the champ let me beat him. You don't get many chances to race like this at this level."
Treble broke a two year winless drought when he ran away from challenger Tom Bradford in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final. Treble finished with a 7.072 at 190.81 mph on his Team Tigue Suzuki against Bradford's Hal's Speed Shop Buell, which ran 7.301 at 182.06 mph.
"This is way overdue," said Treble of his ninth career victory. "What an unbelievable day and a great win. They just told me we're in the top 10 now. I didn't even know we had a chance to get there. I was planning on going home. I guess we're going to the banquet party now. I need a tuxedo and my wife gets to go shopping."
Hines secured his third straight Pro Stock Motorcycle championship when his final challenger, Antron Brown, lost in the quarterfinals to Treble. Hines joins brother Matt and Angelle Sampey as the only riders to win three consecutive crowns. The younger Hines says this title is the most satisfying.
"The first one was hard because we started real strong and won three of the first six races," Hines said. "Last year we ran strong and consistent all year. I knew I had a bike that could make up for some of the mistakes I might make during the run. It was like a safety net. That was totally gone this year. This one I really feel like I had to earn it from start to finish."
The 2007 NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship begins Feb. 8-11, 2007 with the CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.