Reading2: Sunday final summary

Schumacher sets national E.T. record en route to victory MOHNTON, Pa. - Tony Schumacher established a national elapsed time record en route to his fourth Top Fuel victory of the season Sunday at the rain-delayed Lucas Oil Nationals at Maple...

Schumacher sets national E.T. record en route to victory

MOHNTON, Pa. - Tony Schumacher established a national elapsed time record en route to his fourth Top Fuel victory of the season Sunday at the rain-delayed Lucas Oil Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.

Tim Wilkerson, Warren Johnson and Michael Phillips also won their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the 18th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Schumacher set the record in his U.S. Army dragster at 4.441 seconds during his second round victory over Doug Herbert. Schumacher had ran a 4.465-second lap at the originally scheduled event three weeks ago.

Schumacher then covered the quarter-mile at 4.584 at 315.56 mph in the final to outrun Jim Head, who fell short with his pass of 4.603 at 322.65. He earned the maximum POWERade points available at an NHRA event, 138, by being the No. 1 qualifier, setting the national record and winning the event. It was Schumacher's 11th career victory and Head's first final round appearance since his runner up finish at Memphis, Tenn., in 1999.

"I can't believe we won, especially the way the car was shaking in the final round," said Schumacher, the 1999 NHRA Top Fuel champion. "This was a crazy event, with the weather and a lot of the top guys going out in the early rounds, and everything else. But we have a team that I have faith in, and their skills are obvious with the victory and the national record. I knew we could set that record. That was a great final round though. To do what we did, having to run on different weekends, only getting one qualifying pass here this weekend and win the race. (Crew chief) Alan Johnson is a genius, but it takes a whole team and we have won three out of the last four, so I think we're on to something.

"We crashed the car we ran a 4.46 with here a few weeks ago. But to bring another car out that is different, then run even better, that's just awesome. That means we have a tune-up that is not just a great weather tune-up but we can run in the heat, the cool, and all kinds of variable conditions."

Schumacher drove past Doug Kalitta, Herbert, and Clay Millican to set up his final round match with Head.

Top Fuel points leader Larry Dixon moved closer to his second consecutive NHRA POWERade Top Fuel championship behind the wheel of the Miller Lite dragster, despite losing in the second round of eliminations. His closest competitor in the POWERade standings, Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools team, broke at the starting line in the opening round and did not make a run. Dixon extended his lead to 348 points. If Dixon finishes next week's event at Dallas with a 277-point lead or greater, he will have clinched the championship with two races remaining on the 2003 schedule.

Wilkerson blasted down the track in 4.869 at 317.94 in his Levi, Ray & Shoup Pontiac Firebird to earn his third career Funny Car victory and second of the season. Wilkerson easily defeated Cruz Pedregon who lost traction almost immediately in his Advance Auto Parts Pontiac Firebird and rolled through the lights in 11.909 at 81.05.

"I was hoping Cruz's luck would run out in the final because he had been lucky all day long," said Wilkerson, who also won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis over Labor Day weekend. "Cruz had a great first round run and that was impressive, but I knew we could go in there and do what we had to do. I always think I have a shot. People always ask me who I am running, and to be honest, I don't know and I don't care. Because all we're doing is running the race track."

Veteran Pro Stock racer Warren Johnson notched his 92nd career victory in his GM Performance Pontiac Grand Am when his final round opponent, Troy Coughlin, left the starting line early and fouled out in his Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier. Johnson, the winningest driver in NHRA Pro Stock history, had not been victorious at Maple Grove Raceway since 1995.

"That is a long dry spell," said Johnson. "I looked up from the track when I was about in third gear and I saw the win light and thought that looked pretty good. We both actually left the starting line early, but he just left first. You have to realize that both those Coughlin boys (Troy and Jeg) are awfully good on the starting line. You have to take your best shot and hope it comes out right."

"As far as the championship goes, I know I can't finish first or second in the standings," said Johnson. "But I knew if I beat Jeg in the opening round, I could move closer to third and could help (his son) Kurt (Johnson) out from letting Jeg catch him."

Current Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson lost in the semifinals to Coughlin, but with closest rival K. Johnson failing to qualify, Anderson extended his lead in the standings to 354 points.

Michael Phillips scored his first Pro Stock Bike win in eight years and the second of his career when he rode his Calmes Motorsports Suzuki to the finish line in 7.133 at 189.07 to hold off three-time series champ Angelle Savoie and her numbers of 7.165 at 188.07.

Phillips, who lives in Baton Rouge, La., almost didn't attend the event at all.

"I didn't get here until 10 a.m. Saturday morning," said Phillips. " I was trying to buy a new truck on Friday, and the sales guys were taking so long, that I told my brother I wasn't going to go. He told me I was, but I didn't want to make that long drive alone. One of my buddies came by the house and I told him the situation and he told me to give him 15 minutes. He went home, grabbed some clothes, went over and closed up his barber shop, and jumped in the truck and made the drive with me.

"I called my old boss Harry Lartigue after the first round because I was having some clutch problems. Everybody thinks there is a lot of animosity between him and I, but that isn't right. We just both wanted to do things our way. He gave me a pretty good tune-up over the phone today though. Angelle and I go back a ways. When she was first coming out to the track in 1995, I would help her out and teach her things. She knew I was always good on the tree and she knew I was going to be on my game today."

The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series will move event will be the 18th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex outside of Dallas.

-nhra-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Doug Herbert , Clay Millican , Troy Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Warren Johnson , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson , Michael Phillips