Schumacher, Medlen & Anderson lead first day of qualifying POMONA, Calif. - Tony Schumacher drove the U.S. Army dragster to the top of the qualifying order Thursday at the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway. Eric...
Schumacher, Medlen & Anderson lead first day of qualifying
POMONA, Calif. - Tony Schumacher drove the U.S. Army dragster to the top of the qualifying order Thursday at the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway.
Eric Medlen and Greg Anderson also were the leaders of their respective categories at the $2 million race, the first of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade NHRA Drag Racing Series.
Schumacher, the 1999 Top Fuel champion and a leading contender for the 2004 POWERade crown, covered the quarter-mile drag strip in 4.514 seconds at 326.32 mph to lead the Top Fuel category after the first day of qualifying.
"People keep telling me that we're the front-runners to win the title," Schumacher said. "I tell them, 'Yes, we're good, but so are the Kalittas (Doug and Scott). Darrell Russell is going to be excellent, (Brandon) Bernstein, (Larry) Dixon, he is the two-time champ, the list just goes on. We're in for a heck of a fight all year."
Rookie driver Medlen led the Funny Car order with a 4.840 at 319.07 in the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang, while his team owner John Force failed to make the starting line-up after the initial qualifying pass. Defending series champ Tony Pedregon qualified eighth behind the wheel of the Quaker State Chevy Camaro in his debut as a team owner, posting a 5.097 at 246.80.
"I don't know what to think," Medlen said. "Force took a chance on a young hick like me and I'm glad I was able to show him I could drive today. He told me, "Good job junior, you saved my life,' and I said, 'That's OK because you made mine.' It's the car, believe me. And the crew chief, my dad (John Medlen) and the guys. It takes all the pressure off me because I know I have a bad ride.
"I've got a lot of learning to do. I'll make plenty of mistakes. I might make one tomorrow. I hope not, but I might. It just helps so much to know I can screw up but still look good because of the team behind me."
Anderson, the defending NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion, continued his dominant performance of last season when he sped down the track in his Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am in 6.743 at 205.19 to pace the Pro Stock field.
"You never know where you stand until you actually get here to Pomona and run your car down the track. It was a longer offseason than we've had recently, which I was in favor of, so everyone had more time to work on stuff. You do think about the other teams and you wonder what they're up to. Now we all get to see."
Three qualifying sessions remain, including one Friday (2:30 p.m.) and two Saturday (11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and eliminations are set for Sunday at 11 a.m.