Tony Schhumacher qualifies No. 5 at Gainesville

Gainesville, FL (March 18, 2000): Final qualifying for the Mac Tools Gatornationals ended as clouds threatened to bring rain, but fuel car qualifying went uninterrupted. Tony Schumacher and the Exide team will start Sunday's eliminations from...

Gainesville, FL (March 18, 2000): Final qualifying for the Mac Tools Gatornationals ended as clouds threatened to bring rain, but fuel car qualifying went uninterrupted. Tony Schumacher and the Exide team will start Sunday's eliminations from the No. 5 qualifying spot in the top half of the brackets.

The sun was out early in the day and many teams struggled to get down the track. The Exide team was one of those who seemed to have a handle on it. Schumacher's pass of 4.677 seconds at 317.49 mph was the low ET of the session and only one of three cars in the .60's as he squared off against Gary Scelzi for the third time in three qualifying sessions.

In what has seemed to be a race within a race, the Schumacher vs. Scelzi matchup was set for the final qualifying session with the advantage to Scelzi, 2-1. This time Schumacher evened the score by running a 4.719 et at 314.39 mph to Scelzi's 4.922. Scelzi remained the No. 1 qualifier of the event and with Schumacher in the top half of the bracket, fans could see a semifinal rematch from the Phoenix race when Schumacher edged Scelzi to advance to the finals.

"These runs don't count for big point's, but I am sure they are keeping score also," said Schumacher as he looked over the brackets for Sunday's eliminations, referring to his qualifying matchups against Scelzi this weekend.

"It also helps to get you into race day mode when you can have a rival during qualifying. We want to run like Sunday every time down the track."

One year ago, Team Exide was stunned as they lost in the first round as they ran a new track mph record. This year fate has dealt them a different hand, as they are scheduled to meet the Montana Express dragster of David Grubnic. As Grubnic completed his final qualifying attempt of the day, he had a motor problem and cut a tire causing the car to crash violently past the timing lights.

Because of the damage to Grubnic's dragster he may not field a backup car and Schumacher might have a single pass in the first round. "I hate to see that happen to anyone," said Schumacher, "we want to run every round."

The reigning Top Fuel champion is also looking to keep his streak of final round appearances alive as he is two for two to start the season. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11am. Check local listings for television schedule.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , David Grubnic