Reading2: Saturday qualifying summary

Schumacher, Densham, Anderson and Collis earn no. 1's at Maple Grove MOHNTON, Pa. -- Tony Schumacher earned his sixth career No. 1 qualifying position Friday at the rain-delayed Lucas Oil Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. Gary Densham, Greg ...

Schumacher, Densham, Anderson and Collis earn no. 1's at Maple Grove

MOHNTON, Pa. -- Tony Schumacher earned his sixth career No. 1 qualifying position Friday at the rain-delayed Lucas Oil Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.

Gary Densham, Greg Anderson and Fred Collis also were the No. 1 qualifiers of their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the 19th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Schumacher sped down the quarter-mile in a track record time 4.465 seconds at 328.78 mph in the U.S. Army dragster to set the pace for the 16-car Top Fuel field. Schumacher needs to run 4.510 or better during eliminations and he will establish the national record for time and earn an additional 20 POWERade points. In the opening round of eliminations Schumacher will face Doug Kalitta.

"I have never gone into the first round of eliminations feeling more comfortable than I do now," said Schumacher, the 1999 Top Fuel champion. "I couldn't be happier that I am meeting Doug in the first round. Let's be honest, catching Doug in the standings is all that is really left this year. To catch him we would need a miracle, but we might as well try for it and make these last few races interesting. It's almost impossible for us to catch him but taking him out tomorrow, then winning the race, would be a start.

Densham blasted down the track in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang in 4.749 at 327.27 to earn his third Funny Car No. 1 qualifying position of the season.

"We would have liked to have had a second run tonight so we could have aimed for the national (elapsed time) record," said Densham. "(Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) looks at everything completely different than a lot of other people, but it really looks good."

Current points leader Tony Pedregon qualified in the No. 4 spot, while championship contender Whit Bazemore failed to qualify for the event, giving Pedregon an opportunity to close in on his first NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship.

"It's not over yet," said Pedregon. "(Whit Bazemore and Schumacher Racing) certainly aren't conceding anything. They'll be back. We have to guard against getting complacent. We still have work to do. We have to go out and do our job on Sunday and maximize the opportunity we have."

After moving atop the Funny Car standings for the first time in his career following his victory at Memphis, Tenn., Bazemore lost in the first round last week at Chicago (an event Pedregon won) and then failed to qualify for this event.

"We've made it harder for ourselves, but we are still certainly capable of winning the championship. We're very, very motivated and we're going to do what we can to make it happen. (My team) is going out there with nothing else on our mind but to (win the title). It's up to us to make it happen."

Current Pro Stock points leader Anderson used a track record performance of 6.743 at 204.39 for his category-leading 11th No. 1 spot this year in his Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am. Anderson has nine victories on the season, two shy of the all-time Pro stock single season win mark. Anderson moved closer to his first NHRA POWERade Pro Stock championship when his closest competitor in the standings, Kurt Johnson, failed to qualify.

"It's been a fantastic year," said Anderson. "It seems that I really haven't had a bad event all year. There is no way anyone could predict the season I have been having. I wish the battle for the championship came down to the final round of the last event of the year between Kurt and I, but it doesn't look like that is going to happen and I don't know if my heart could take it. It seems I can go to the next couple of races and loosen up a little bit."

Collis rode his Area 51 Motorsports Suzuki to the top of the Pro Stock Bike order for the second time of his career when he shut the clocks off at 7.117 at 186.79.

"Being No. 1 is always good," said Collis. "We have to make it all count tomorrow. The rain we saw today, and the fact that we only were able to get in one run, didn't change our strategy at all. We act like every run we make is a final round. We were planning on improving on that run, regardless of the weather."

Professional eliminations begin Sunday at 11 a.m.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Gary Densham , Fred Collis