Schumacher flexes his muscles

Don't count Tony Schumacher out of the NHRA POWERade Series Top Fuel chase just yet. The two-time defending champion, who came into the final two events of the season trailing leader Doug Kalitta by 89 points, showed his U.S. Army team still has...

Don't count Tony Schumacher out of the NHRA POWERade Series Top Fuel chase just yet. The two-time defending champion, who came into the final two events of the season trailing leader Doug Kalitta by 89 points, showed his U.S. Army team still has some fight in them.

Schumacher, with little margin for error, drove to a track-record pass of 4.445 seconds at 333.08 mph for the No. 1 position during the first day of qualifying at the ACDelco Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Hillary Will is second at 4.527 with Kalitta third at 4.530. Brandon Bernstein, who is second in points, 83 back of Kalitta, is fourth at 4.544.

It felt good," said Schumacher, whose run was the seventh-quickest pass in the sport's history. "It had a lot of momentum and felt perfect. But (today) is going to be under afternoon conditions and we're going to have to be careful."

Today's final day of qualifying will also include the Budweiser Shootout, a special event for Top Fuel cars. Schumacher is slated to face David Baca in the first round. "I'd love to win the Bud money," Schumacher said. "But Sunday is everything."

Other top qualifiers on Friday were Robert Hight in Funny Car, Jason Line in Pro Stock and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Hight, who is in his own points battle in Funny Car, also made a statement with a track-record 4.687 at 330.96 mph to top the nitro coupe charts. John Force, who leads Ron Capps by 46 points and Hight by 54 points coming into this event, is second at 4.711 with a third John Force Racing teammate, Eric Medlen, third at 4.712. Capps smoked the tires on both of his runs on Friday and is unqualified after mustering just a 12.128.

"These Fords are really running good right now," Hight said. "Everything (crew chief) Jimmy Prock said it would do, it did. He said he wanted to run a a low-4.70 on the first run, and if we do that, maybe we could go for it in the evening, and it did just that.

It gives me confidence knowing how well he knows the race car. That's what you have to have on Sunday. He's just the master of that."

Line, who could clinch his first Powerade Series title if he advances one round further than three-time defending champion Greg Anderson, set the pace in Pro Stock with a track-record pass of 6.720 at 204.94.

Dave Connolly is second at 6.727 with Allen Johnson third at 6.742 . Anderson is ninth at 6.759 .

"Qualifying No. 1 is the goal this weekend," said Line, who leads Anderson by 119 points coming into this event. "But with Greg, Connolly ... there are a lot of good cars who could do it.

Hopefully, we can go four rounds on Sunday and not have to worry about any pressure (at the last race) at Pomona. I try not to think (about the championship). We're very close and it would be a shame to get this close and not win it."

Hines, who trails first-place Antron Brown by 27 points coming into this weekend, is tops in Pro Stock Motorcycle following a 7.102 pass at 187.13 mph. Craig Treble is second at 7.117.

Three-time champion Angelle Sampey, who is 64 points behind Brown, is fourth at 7.128. Brown is 14th at 7.187.

It's astonishing the way the bike ran because the bike felt like a bucking bronco," said Hines, who has won the PSM championship the past two seasons. "It tried to throw me past the handle bars about a dozen times. The good thing is that we have some good data and two more qualifying passes to make before final eliminations start on Sunday."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , David Baca , Craig Treble , Allen Johnson , Andrew Hines , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight , Hillary Will , Angelle Sampey , Dave Connolly