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Field Set For NHRA Eliminations

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 17 2011

Tony Schumacher is off to a fast start in Concord. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Tony Schumacher, Matt Hagan, Jason Line and Eddie Krawiec emerged as the top qualifiers in their respective categories Saturday as six track records were established during two days of qualifying for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

The second NHRA event this season at zMAX Dragway kicks off the six-race NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.

In Top Fuel, Schumacher unseated Larry Dixon from the No. 1 position Saturday with a track record elapsed time of 3.771 seconds. That broke Del Worsham’s 3.780-second record set in April. Teammate Spencer Massey recorded an identical E.T., but Schumacher was awarded the No. 1 spot and the record due to a higher top speed, 325.92 mph to 324.98 mph. It was the fifth time this season Schumacher has been the top qualifier and the 66th of his career.

“I shut the car off 25 feet early,” Schumacher, who’s fifth in the standings, noted after making the third fastest pass in Top Fuel history. “When Bruton (Smith) builds a race track you have an amazing place and then to top it with 70-degree weather, most of the crew chiefs were just shaking their head. We can’t do anymore. We’ve got it turned up all the way. It’s either going to go fast or it’s not. There’s nothing left to do.”

In Funny Car, Hagan’s first-ever 3-second pass in NHRA history Friday evening held up

Matt Hagan started eliminations from P1 on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

through Saturday’s two qualifying rounds. However, Hagan’s attempt at a national record Saturday morning ended with a fire that caused extensive damage to his car.

“It just pushed a head gasket out about 900 feet. It shot me over to the center line and I dropped the cylinder there a little bit,” said Hagan, whose 3.995-second pass in a Dodge Charger R/T broke the 4.024-second track record set in March 2010 by Robert Hight. “Unfortunately, it was a pretty big fire. We hurt a lot of stuff. We had a lot of guys come in and help out. We had guys from Valvoline, Fram and U.S. Army (teams) so we could get back out there and try this thing [national record]. It was cool we were able to get the parts together and the guys worked really hard. It will still be a late night for all my guys to service all this stuff and get it back up to par as far as our spare parts and stuff.”

Also in Funny Car, Jack Beckman, who’s second in points behind Mike Neff, shattered Ashley Ford Hood’s top speed record of 316.38 mph set in March 2010. Beckman recorded a top speed of 318.92 mph in his Dodge Charger R/T.

In Pro Stock, teammates Line and Greg Anderson both set records while taking the first and second positions. Line was the top qualifier with an E.T. track record of 6.510 seconds, while point leader Anderson broke the top speed record with 212.69 mph. Both records that were broken were set in March 2010. Jeg Coughlin had the E.T. record of 6.520 seconds, while Anderson broke his own record of 212.46 mph.

For Line, it’s the third straight time he’s been the No. 1 qualifier at zMAX Dragway, the third consecutive time this year, fifth overall and 22nd of his career. The teammates’ efforts marked the 29th time they have qualified first and second and on 28 of those occasions they have won the event. It’s the fourth consecutive time and the sixth this season they have qualified 1-2.

“To peak right now as the Countdown starts is a great thing,” said Line, who’s second in the standings. “It’s something you as a racer and a team you dream about and it’s obvious that we are. It feels really good and we just need to do our job tomorrow and capitalize on it.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Krawiec sits atop the fastest field for that category in NHRA history. Fifteen hundredths of a second separates Krawiec and Steve Johnson, the 16th qualifier. Krawiec’s E.T. of 6.833 seconds also was a track record, breaking the one set by Matt Smith in March 2010. Smith’s E.T. was 6.875 seconds.

“Conditions were definitely good today due to the fact that our head wind was almost gone,” said Krawiec, the standings leader. “It’s a little tricky to get a hold of the track here for our motorcycles with the one tire. We’re not often racing on a track that’s this tight. So it’s really in the clutch department that we struggle to get the motorcycle to move and make that first initial couple of feet; (you’ve) got to have wheel speed and sorta spin the tire. When you can’t spin the tire it makes it very difficult. You tend to shake it or do some weird things that upset the motorcycle and make it pogo as we call it. We’re just trying to overcome it. I think we’re sneaking up on a setup for tomorrow that’s going to be really fast for the first 60 feet.”

In all four categories, the only driver in the top 10 in points who failed to qualify for the event was Pro Stock driver Ron Krisher. He had the 17th E.T. and the top 16 drivers qualified for Sunday’s final round.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 17 2011
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