CONNOLLY, HIGHT, SCHUMACHER POWER TO PROVISIONAL NO. 1s AS QUALIFYING ENTERS FINAL SESSIONS KENT, Wash. - Dave Connolly entered the 21st annual Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals near Seattle 53 points below the Top 10 cut in the points - the...
CONNOLLY, HIGHT, SCHUMACHER POWER TO PROVISIONAL NO. 1s AS QUALIFYING ENTERS FINAL SESSIONS
KENT, Wash. - Dave Connolly entered the 21st annual Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals near Seattle 53 points below the Top 10 cut in the points - the line that in just one month will separate those who will battle for the 2008 world championship titles from those who won't.
Since his return at the Atlanta event in April, Connolly has hunted his way up the point standings with one win in three final-round appearances and it appears he's not ready to stop. Connolly turned in a blistering track-record time of 6.573 seconds at 209.49 mph behind the wheel of his Charter Communications Chevy Cobalt to lead the Pro Stock field into Saturday's final qualifying sessions Friday at Pacific Raceways, where Tony Schumacher and Robert Hight also were qualifying leaders in their respective categories.
"We're on the chase to try to make it in the Top 10 now and we missed the first five races of the season, so we have our work cut out for us," Connolly said. "To be honest with you, I think last weekend (in Denver) we let a good opportunity slip away on top of that mountain. We struggled from the time we got to that track and we come here and looked over everything from head to toe...it's a complete 180 from last weekend, and that makes the driver feel good.
"Even though we have a great car right now, we still have tomorrow morning's sessions just to get by and try to hold on to this No. 1 spot for Charter Communications."
Hight paced the Funny Car category in his Auto Club Ford Mustang, recording a 4.056 at 304.39.
"You really don't know where you're at, coming here," Hight said. "Denver is so much different from anywhere else we race. It's hard to come out of Denver (where Hight advanced to the semifinals) with a lot of confidence, when we're coming back to sea level, and we have had engine gremlins all year, not making it even to 1,000 feet cleanly. It runs really good to 1,000, then it was burning itself up and just making a mess of it. Honestly, this new format I think is kind of helping us. Get to 1,000, not hurt it, and work on our tune-up."
The race distance for Top Fuel and Funny Car was changed from the traditional quarter-mile to 1,000 feet as an interim safety measure after the death of the late Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta in Englishtown.
"It's going up and down the track a lot," Hight said. "That's what you've got to do. That's why Tim Wilkerson's leading the points. He's way out there, but it's still not unattainable to catch him."
Schumacher is on track to earn his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the year with a 3.802 at 316.90 in his U.S. Army dragster. Schumacher's no stranger to success in Seattle - he comes to this year's event riding a streak of four consecutive final-round appearances.
"Our team is so good at being calm and cool and doing what we have to do," said Schumacher, who clinched his spot in the Countdown to the Championship last weekend in Denver. "I oversimplify this and I say it every week - the fact is, the light comes on and you push the pedal down. You react to the light. I don't want to get out and go 'oh, the third cylinder did this and that' like you hear some of the drivers do. It doesn't matter.
"It's not going to help you drive your car. Drive it like you know how to do - push the pedal down and let your body do what it knows how to do."
Qualifying continues Saturday at noon and noon and 2:30 p.m. for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.