Dallas, TX (October 22): With only 12 rounds of competition remaining for the 1999 NHRA season, Tony Schumacher and Team Exide came to the first day of qualifying for the O'Reilly Fall Nationals looking to defend and stretch their Winston ...
Dallas, TX (October 22): With only 12 rounds of competition remaining for the 1999 NHRA season, Tony Schumacher and Team Exide came to the first day of qualifying for the O'Reilly Fall Nationals looking to defend and stretch their Winston Championship points lead.
Competitors knew that the all-concrete surface of Billy Meyer's Texas Motorplex would provide them a chance to step on their tune-ups and try to put up some big numbers as they fight for valuable qualifying points.
"We came here ready to make a statement," said an eager Tony Schumacher before his first run down the track.
Schumacher's crew chief Dan Olson, who has been very successful on the Ennis, TX track, also came ready to run as Schumacher ran low ET of the first qualifying session with a 4.663 at 314.02 MPH.
The second qualifying session would provide an even better track surface as cooler temperatures provided better conditions for the 6000-horsepower power plants of the Top Fuel class. By running low ET of the first session, Team Exide earned the chance to be last qualifier of the second session. The second session also offered an additional $2500 bonus contribution to charity made possible by Budweiser to the driver that ran the top speed of the night.
Eddie Hill posted an early 320.74-MPH mark that immediately caused everyone to take notice, as he was the sixth car down the track but only one to make a full pass under power. This drew announcer Bob Frey and others to speculate on whether Hill's number would hold. Before long, Exide team owner, Don Schumacher was drawn into the mix and offered that he would donate an additional $2500 to DRAW if the Exide dragster would run Top Speed AND that Bob Frey would have to match his $2500 donation.
Fourteen other cars took to the track before Schumacher; 318.92 MPH was the closest anyone came to taking the top honors from Hill. Drama was high as the last pair staged and it was apparent very early that Tony Schumacher's Exide dragster was again on a very good pass. With flames from the headers down the whole quarter mile, Schumacher again rode Dan Olson's tune-up to a record setting performance by running an event record 326.91 MPH, missing his own track record by .36 MPH. His speed was also the fourth fastest speed in NHRA history of which Schumacher has all top four. His 4.557 ET was good enough for the number two qualifying position.
In addition, Schumacher ran faster than Gary Scelzi's national record of 326.44 MPH. Schumacher must run within one percent of his 326.91 MPH speed during the remainder of the event to set a new national record.
"We have been on to some things," said Dan Olson, "depending on the weather, we will see what this track will hold."
Forecasts for the rest of the event call for cooler temperatures, which should provide near perfect conditions for Schumacher and Team Exide to make a record run. Schumacher will announce Sunday morning during opening ceremonies to what charity he will donate his $2500 Budweiser bonus.
"Everyone on this team is very focused at what we have in front of us," said team owner Don Schumacher, "we plan on winning some races and winning this NHRA Winston Championship."