Tony Schumacher only needed to notch a spot in the "sweet sixteen" to earn his sixth NHRA championship today and after the Top Fuel final qualifying rounds had come to completion, "The Sarge" not only made it into the top 16, he was the fastest ...
Tony Schumacher only needed to notch a spot in the "sweet sixteen" to earn his sixth NHRA championship today and after the Top Fuel final qualifying rounds had come to completion, "The Sarge" not only made it into the top 16, he was the fastest qualifier; his eighth pole this season.
"I think it's very gratifying to wrap up number one because after the whole season being as great as it was, and the last two years coming down to the last run of the year and how exciting it was, you know, we show up and they say, 'All you have to do is qualify,'" said Schumacher. "We got to remember we won 14 races. We didn't just have to qualify. We had to do all of that to get here. So to be number one, at least it is a little bit of an exclamation point. We clearly earned it. I don't think there is a question anywhere in the country that we left anything on the table. It's amazing. To be able to do it in Vegas was great. There is just something special about Las Vegas."
The first-round pairings are set for Sunday's final elimination rounds to determine this weekend's penultimate round winners on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Schumacher took off flying to land a 3.781 seconds (318.92 mph) to place his U.S. Army Don Schumacher Racing Top Fuel dragster in the number one spot to take his fifth consecutive Top Fuel title with his 55th career pole.
"That's the way the U.S. Army team does things," said Schumacher. "We wanted to get the pole and win the championship in the proper way. We didn't want to merely slide into the bottom half of the order. Now, we can go out and celebrate a little bit."
The celebration will actually wait as the team knows that racing comes first and there are 15 Top Fuel drivers, including Joe Hartley who he will meet in round one tomorrow, that aim to leave Nevada with the win.
"We'll gather as a team tonight to reflect on what's been a great season, but then we have to get some rest for what we hope will be another long day," added Sarge. "Our job is to win races and we've got two more left on the table."
Antron Brown qualified second at 3.812 (315.49 mph) with Rod Fuller third fastest at 3.816, 318.39 (mph); both racing for David Power Motorsports.
John Force Racing took the top two slots in Funny Car with Robert Hight besting team owner John Force. Hight had a 4.043 (309.20 mph) while Force's laid his best at a 4.062 (307.37 mph). The two Ford Mustangs were hot but so was Jerry Toliver who placed his Don Schumacher Racing's Dodge third with a 4.066 (307.37 mph).
The Funny Car teams had to deal with a sudden rain shower in Las Vegas and for Hight, it came after his burnout light bringing qualifying to a stop for a short time. Hight then took off and earned his fifth pole this year.
"It was probably the most confusing run I ever made, having to do the burnout and its raining. Then seeing the side windows have water all over them and getting back past the tree and Rick Stewart (NHRA chief starter) is telling me to shut it off," Hight explained. "I was telling the crew guys to do everything right (before restarting). We know we have to do everything perfect. We have been number one here a lot and lost first round too. My radio didn't work. I didn't even know what it ran, but I knew it had to be pretty good run. It was a weird run."
Jeg Coughlin Jr. continued his hot shoe runs at Las Vegas in his Chevy Cobalt, taking fast time yesterday and again today, he sets himself up as the racer to beat in Pro Stock. The Team Jegs driver set a new track record with a time of 6.703 (205.47 mph) to earn his third pole of the year.
"I got a little aggressive with the car in the left lane this morning, but had to abort the run," said Coughlin. "We came back and ran nice and tied for low of the round with Jason Line. The momentum we were looking for, the consistency we were looking for is exactly what we accomplished. We feel confident going into tomorrow."
Qualifying second was Greg Anderson who hit a fast time of 6.709 (205.85 mph) in his Pontiac GXP. Jason Line was third fastest today for Pontiac with a 6.716 (205.38 mph).
Angelle Sampey found her first pole in Pro Stock Motorcycle this year on The Strip with a track record of 6.993 (188.23 mph) on her Rush Racing Buell. Having been on top yesterday and with 45 career poles, now Sampey aims for Sunday's top spot.
"After the first round I was praying for 20 mile an hour headwinds because I wanted to keep the No. 1 spot," said Sampey. "I'm really excited. I haven't been No. 1 qualifier in so long I have forgotten what it feels like."
Eliminations begin at 11:00am (PST).