Pomona II: Thursday qualifying report

WORSHAM RACES TO FUNNY CAR QUALIFYING LEAD AT AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS Schumacher, Anderson and Hines also quick at Pomona POMONA, Calif. -- Funny Car racer Del Worsham is on pace to close a sub-par year with a big finish by racing to the...

WORSHAM RACES TO FUNNY CAR QUALIFYING LEAD AT AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS
Schumacher, Anderson and Hines also quick at Pomona

POMONA, Calif. -- Funny Car racer Del Worsham is on pace to close a sub-par year with a big finish by racing to the qualifying lead Thursday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals.

Currently in danger of finishing outside the top-10 for the first time in a decade, Worsham produced 4.712-second pass in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Monte Carlo, the quickest of his career, to take the early lead. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also are qualifying leaders at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The $1.8 million race is the final of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

As the top qualifier, Schumacher stands to gain a little ground on points leader Doug Kalitta, who qualified fifth overall with a 4.546. Funny Car hopefuls John Force and Ron Capps are just two positions and three-hundredths of a second apart after one qualifying session. Hines continues to do all he can to hold off Antron Brown and Angelle Sampey, who both qualified in the top half of the field.

Southern California native Worsham thrilled the locals with a spectacular 4.712 at 309.56 mph that ended with big explosion just as his machine went through the lights. The pass put Worsham on top of the field for the first time in two years.

"We're definitely racing on a record-setting track," Worsham said. "It will happen this weekend because all those guys are going for it. They have to. That was the quickest run I've ever made and we're excited. I didn't know what I'd run until the crew guys got down there and told me 4.71. Then I went from being upset about banging the blower to all of us high-fiving and hugging each other. It was like we'd won the race."

Schumacher's much-anticipated run at a national record will have to wait another day as his 4.490 at 328.54 mph in his U.S. Army dragster was well off the national mark of 4.437 he'll need to better to gain the valuable bonus points a record is worth. Nevertheless, he drives the only dragster in the 4.4-second range so far.

"Our goal was to do a back-up run (for the record)," Schumacher said. "We wanted a 4.46 or 4.45 but the car was extremely weak in the middle. Saturday night will be the session. We'll be running at night so it should be perfect. Alan [Johnson, crew chief] is the best there is at getting the most out of the track so I guess a 4.49 was the best we could have hoped for there."

Brandon Bernstein, who remains mathematically alive for the Top Fuel title, is second after clocking a 4.519 at 330.47 mph in his Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster. Kalitta is fifth with a very conservative 4.546 at 326.87 mph in his Mac Tools dragster.

Anderson ceded the Pro Stock title he held for three years to teammate Jason Line two weeks ago in Las Vegas but he let his protégé know he's already working on regaining the crown in '07 by equaling Line's track record elapsed time of 6.677 seconds in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO.

"We're not under any illusion that we were that much quicker than the rest of the field, we just did a better job that session and it's another feather in the cap for our two crew chiefs - Rob Downing and Jeff Perley, and the great team behind me," Anderson said. "That's why we're going to finish first and second in the championship this year."

Points leader Hines immediately showed he will be tough to catch this weekend when he started off qualifying with a stout 7.020 at 191.00 mph on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.

"We learned that the Vegas tune-up is too violent for this track," Hines said. "Dad [team co-owner Byron Hines] wanted to run a six. The good news is we know where to go from here and we should see some mid 6.90s this weekend. Our bike is in such a zone right now. It reacts so well to everything we're doing to it."

Fellow championship contenders and U.S. Army teammates Brown and Sampey both earned top-half positions. Sampey is third with a 7.066 on her Suzuki, while Brown is eighth with a 7.106.

Qualifying continues Friday at 1:30 p.m.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Brandon Bernstein , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Angelle Sampey