Madison, IL (June 23): Reigning NHRA Winston Champion Tony Schumacher made qualifying for the Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway more than exciting for his teammates and himself. Team Exide needed all four qualifying...
Madison, IL (June 23): Reigning NHRA Winston Champion Tony Schumacher made qualifying for the Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway more than exciting for his teammates and himself. Team Exide needed all four qualifying sessions to make the 16-car for Saturday eliminations.
Schumacher started the day with what looked to be a run good enough to make the show until they lost a blower belt at about 900 feet. The car coasted to a 5.497 e.t. at 176.03 mph which was not good enough to bump Bruce Litton who was on the bump spot with a 5.088 e.t..
With only one chance remaining, Schumacher not only had the track conditions to worry about, but also impending weather. While Schumacher sat strapped in his Exide dragster, he watched as Bobby Lagana had a huge engine explosion putting oil in Schumacher's lane to further delay qualifying and add to the pressure of the moment.
The last time that Schumacher did not qualify for a national event was September of 1998 when they failed to make the field for the Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
After a short cleanup, Schumacher was able to complete what could be one of the Exide teams most important runs this year, with a 4.718 e.t. at 313.00 mph to make solidly make the field.
"At this point, I wouldn't care if we were the 16th qualifier, because you can't win from the 17th or 18th spot."
"These are the days that show what championship teams are made off," said Schumacher, "I would expect Scelzi, Amato or Dixon to do the same thing in the same situation."
Schumacher will start No. 11 and will face No. 6 qualifier, Doug Kalitta. Kalitta qualified with a 4.664 e.t. at 305.08 mph.
"It will be an all new day tomorrow," said Schumacher, "with the rain tonight and unknown weather for the rest of the event, everyone will have the same chance."
Final eliminations are scheduled to begin at 4pm. ESPN2 will televise eliminations. Check local listings for times.