Reading: Saturday qualifying report

SCHUMACHER, JOHNSON, STANFIELD AND SAMPEY TOP QUALIFIERS IN READING READING, Pa. - Reigning Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher used a rocket-like 4.440-second pass down Maple Grove Raceway in Saturday's lone session to lead the $1.5 million Toyo...

SCHUMACHER, JOHNSON, STANFIELD AND SAMPEY TOP QUALIFIERS IN READING

READING, Pa. - Reigning Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher used a rocket-like 4.440-second pass down Maple Grove Raceway in Saturday's lone session to lead the $1.5 million Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals into Sunday's eliminations.

Schumacher's run, the fourth quickest in history, placed him on a record low qualifier podium next to Funny Car's Tommy Johnson Jr., Pro Stock's Greg Stanfield, and Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Angelle Sampey. The fourth round of professional qualifying was lost to rain.

There are three pending national records on the sheets. Stanfield stole away the elapsed time mark in Pro Stock from Greg Anderson with his 6.621 in the third round. Anderson still has designs on the national speed record after his 208.91 mph clocking. Sampey's 6.939 could be the national E.T. record in her class. Records aren't official until the end of the event.

Schumacher and points leader Doug Kalitta thrilled the fans with a side-by-side finish to qualifying that would ultimately award the quicker car a first-round bye. They both posted their best passes of the weekend with Schumacher's 4.440 at 327.27 mph in the U.S. Army dragster getting the job done against Kalitta's 4.488 at 321.88 mph in the Mac rail.

"It got a little outside the groove down there at the top end and spun the tires just enough to cost us the national record," Schumacher said, referring to the 4.437-second national mark. "Because we have that single in the first round tomorrow I'm guessing Alan [Johnson, crew chief] will take one more shot at it. To me it's 40 points on the line because it's 20 for the record and 20 less someone else could get."

Just as it was one week ago in Dallas, someone edged Friday leader Mike Ashley off the Funny Car pole. This time it was veteran Johnson, who zipped to a 4.693 at 327.27 mph in his Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Ashley had to settle for second place by just one thousandths of a second in his Dodge Charger.

"We're still fighting for positions," Johnson said. "Our goal now is to finish in the top five. We're just a few points behind fifth. The only disappointment is that the new points system isn't in effect right now. They way we're running lately we'd be in pretty good shape. I can't wait for next year."

Championship contenders Ron Capps and John Force finished fifth and ninth, respectively. Capps' Brut Revolution Dodge Charger R/T posted a 4.717, while Force's Ford went 4.761. They could meet in the semifinals.

Currently 10th in the points, Stanfield has already proclaimed that he'd rather win the race then set a record. Summit Racing pro Anderson, meanwhile, really needs the 20 bonus points that go with an E.T. record.

"He was pretty crushed down there at the end of the track," Stanfield said of Anderson. "We were just fortunate they didn't hit on it that session. The truth is there are four or five of us that could be standing here as the No. 1 qualifier. We're just the lucky ones."

Mike Edwards and the Young Life GTO crew are next with a 6.632, while points leader Jason Line is fourth with a 6.633.

Sampey is one day closer to the Pro Stock Motorcycle national elapsed time record and the 20 bonus points it awards. Her 6.939 at 191.10 mph on her Suzuki has already been backed up to make it official. Now it just needs to survive race day.

"I think [points leader] Andrew Hines and that team will be doing everything they can to get that record tomorrow," said Sampey, who is 97 points behind Hines in the standings. "They really need it more than anyone to get some breathing room and this is the best place to do it. I know they'll go for it."

Hines already has the back-up mark for a record with his 6.950 at 192.28 mph, which slotted his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod second on the grid.

-credit: nhra

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Greg Stanfield , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Angelle Sampey , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.