Schumacher Leads Top Fuelers Into Route 66 Finals

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 1 2012

Top Fueler Tony Schumacher on top in Joliet. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Chicago-area favorite Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher saved his best lap for last Saturday night, blasting into the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries.

John Force (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Sr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their respective categories into Sunday’s eliminations at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event in Joliet, Ill. Coverage by ESPN2 will air at 6 p.m. (EDT).

A resident of Chicago, Schumacher powered his U.S. Army dragster to a 1,000-foot performance of 3.763-seconds at 324.83 mph to claim his second No. 1 position of the season, seventh at Route 66 Raceway and 69th of his career. The seven-time world champion moved from ninth to first in the 16-car order to bag pole while relegating Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown to second in the race day lineup.

“We planned on going for the pole and, fortunately, the car stuck all the way down the track,” said Schumacher, a three-time winner at Route 66 Raceway. “I’m happy we can stay on a roll for our Army Strong Soldiers _ those brave men and women deserve that kind of performance. It’s really nice to come off the win in Bristol and remain hot, if you will.” Schumacher broke a 32-race winless streak at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway two weeks ago.

Interestingly enough, “hot” will be Sunday’s word of the day as temperatures are expected to soar into the 90’s, which should produce a slick racing surface.

“We have qualified for two days during the late afternoon and evening hours, so (Sunday’s) conditions will be vastly different,” Schumacher said. “I don’t think you will see the tune-up we had in the car tonight back in there at 11 a.m. when we start. It will be a whole new ballgame.”

Competing in front of a large contingent of family and friends, Schumacher set-up a first-round confrontation with fellow-Chicagoan T.J. Zizzo, who qualified 16th.

“T.J. is a good friend of mine,” Schumacher said. “His shop is right down the street from me, so we go to lunch quite a bit. I’m sure he’s going to take his best shot at me. Of course, we’re going to give him our best shot as well.”

Friday night qualifying leader Antron Brown dropped to second with his 3.773-second pass at 322.50 mph in the Matco Tools dragster. Shawn Langdon held onto third with a 3.784-second run at 322.73 mph in the Al-Anabi Racing dragster.

“We were definitely challenged today,” Brown said. “But we were also trying some things which did not quite pan out. We’ll crank it up and be ready to roll come tomorrow.”

Brown will face 15th-place qualifier Morgan Lucas, a two-time winner this year, in the opening round. “Morgan and his team have been tough all season,” Brown said. “We’ll have to be at our very best to move on. As I’ve said time and time again, there are no easy draws in Top Fuel. This is yet another example of that.”

In Funny Car, 15-time world champion “Brut” Force earned his first No. 1 of the season and 140th of his career with a 4.050-second 1,000-foot run at 310.77 mph in the Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang. He will meet Terry Haddock in the first round.

“I knew we were in, but two of my cars (Courtney Force and Mike Neff) weren’t,” Force said. “I’d rather go home than have Courtney go home. They had a gremlin and they found it. It was very satisfying when they both got in. We hopped-it-up to see if we could push it because what you do tonight won’t apply (Sunday) because it will be hot. It didn’t stick, but that’s OK. We’ll be fine.

“I ran a 4.05 and we have a hot rod that’s starting to show some potential. I just want to race with these guys as long as I can. When we got to the other end, Jack Beckman asked me, ‘How long has it been since you were the low qualifier?’ I told him, ‘It doesn’t matter. I’m here now.’^”

Past Route 66 winner Tim Wilkerson posted the quickest run of the day to move to second in the starting order. Wilkerson powered his Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang to a 4.052-second run at 308.00 mph to leapfrog Beckman, who will start third in his Schumacher Electric Dodge Charger at 4.054/311.56.

Johnson claimed his fifth No. 1 of the season and 23rd of his career in Pro Stock with a 6.597-second quarter-mile pass at 209.26 mph in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. Johnson will meet fellow Dodge driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the opening round.

“We made four great runs this weekend and picked up the three bonus points on every run so we maxed-out on that,” Johnson said. “The Mopar Dodge Avenger is on a rope right now. That’s all I can say. We probably left about a hundredth (of a second) on the table in the last session. We probably could have run a mid-6.58 (against Greg Anderson’s track record of 6.586 set in June 2010). We weren’t intentionally soft on that run. The track was just a bit better than we thought it would get.

“The temperature got a bit cooler in the 30 minutes before we ran and we didn’t expect that. The first run that we made when we got here today is probably going to be more like race day conditions. We made a real good run in the heat, and so that’s what we’re concentrating on.”

Jason Line and Erica Enders tied for the second-quickest run of the weekend, but Line took the second spot in the qualifying lineup by virtue of his faster speed. Line’s Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro posted a 6.616-second run at 208.17 mph, while Enders’ GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt also had a 6.616 ET but posted a slower speed of 207.08 mph.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Sr. claimed his third No. 1 of the season and 20th of his career, powering his Lucas Oil Buell to a category-best quarter-mile effort of 6.884-seconds at 195.08 mph. Arana will face veteran rider Michael Phillips in the first round.

“I like it and I’m going to like it even better if I can make those perfect runs I’ve been making here Sunday,” Arana Sr. said. “(To win here) would be a load off my shoulders. If I can win my confidence should definitely go up. I got max bonus points, but he (point-leader Eddie Krawiec) is still far ahead of me. Anytime you can out-perform the Harleys it’s awesome, but I’m not going to worry about them. I’m only worried about our program.”

Three-time world champion Andrew Hines was second-quick at 6.917-seconds and 193.79 mph on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod. Hector Arana Jr. was third overall at 6.939-seconds at 193.21 mph on his Lucas Oil Buell.

Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 15th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Route 66 Raceway, the 11th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel _ 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.763 seconds, 324.83 mph vs. 16. T.J. Zizzo, 3.892, 306.88; 2. Antron Brown, 3.773, 322.50 vs. 15. Morgan Lucas, 3.888, 302.96; 3. Shawn Langdon, 3.784, 322.73 vs. 14. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.868, 319.98; 4. Spencer Massey, 3.788, 326.79 vs. 13. Terry McMillen, 3.855, 303.50; 5. Steve Torrence, 3.795, 318.54 vs. 12. Cory McClenathan, 3.852, 311.05; 6. Clay Millican, 3.813, 318.99 vs. 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.847, 317.79; 7. Brandon Bernstein, 3.820, 318.69 vs. 10. David Grubnic, 3.845, 316.38; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.825, 318.54 vs. 9. Hillary Will, 3.828, 312.71.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Luigi Novelli, 3.905, 299.53; 18. Troy Buff, 3.965, 291.45; 19. Tim Cullinan, 3.986, 300.86; 20. Chris Karamesines, 4.016, 300.00; 21. Ike Maier, 5.287, 274.89; 22. Brady Kalivoda, 7.036, 89.52; 23. Rit Pustari, 7.224, 304.74.

Funny Car _ 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.050, 310.77 vs. 16. Terry Haddock, Chevy Impala, 4.362, 273.61; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.052, 308.00 vs. 15. Dale Creasy Jr., Impala, 4.285, 294.82; 3. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.054, 311.56 vs. 14. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.193, 294.43; 4. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.060, 311.13 vs. 13. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.150, 301.13; 5. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.073, 309.77 vs. 12. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.144, 302.69; 6. Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.074, 312.57 vs. 11. Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.134, 307.93; 7. Jeff Arend, Camry, 4.075, 309.49 vs. 10. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.116, 303.43; 8. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.076, 310.63 vs. 9. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.090, 309.27.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Justin Schriefer, 4.427, 276.80; 18. Todd Lesenko, 4.432, 233.44; 19. Bob Bode, 4.728, 229.35.

Pro Stock _ 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.597, 209.26 vs. 16. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Avenger, 6.659, 207.98; 2. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.616, 208.17 vs. 15. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.653, 207.15; 3. Erica Enders, Chevy Cobalt, 6.616, 207.08 vs. 14. Kurt Johnson, Pontiac GXP, 6.653, 207.62; 4. Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.620, 208.10 vs. 13. Warren Johnson, GXP, 6.648, 206.99; 5. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.625, 207.69 vs. 12. Ronnie Humphrey, GXP, 6.646, 207.53; 6. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.626, 208.33 vs. 11. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.642, 207.21; 7. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.635, 206.95 vs. 10. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, 6.642, 207.62; 8. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.638, 207.98 vs. 9. Ron Krisher, GXP, 6.638, 207.66.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Chris McGaha, 6.688, 206.39; 18. Kevin Lawrence, 6.720, 205.01; 19. Grace Howell, 6.741, 204.66; 20. Steve Spiess, 6.810, 203.89; 21. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.850, 201.25; 22. Mark Hogan, 6.876, 203.77; 23. Dave River, broke.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Hector Arana Sr., Buell, 6.884, 195.08 vs. 16. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.072, 190.59; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.917, 193.79 vs. 15. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.068, 189.63; 3. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.939, 193.21 vs. 14. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.061, 191.02; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.941, 192.58 vs. 13. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.053, 188.33; 5. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.954, 191.35 vs. 12. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.050, 189.44; 6. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.962, 190.38 vs. 11. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.034, 191.00; 7. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.986, 190.78 vs. 10. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.009, 191.46; 8. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.990, 191.67 vs. 9. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.997, 190.73.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Wesley Wells, 7.080, 188.04; 18. Jerry Savoie, 7.096, 187.08; 19. John Hall, 7.106, 186.92; 20. Kieth Burley, 7.117, 189.10; 21. Danny Krier, broke; 22. Katie Sullivan, broke.

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 1 2012
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