Schumacher Covers The Top Fuel Field In Brainerd
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
Tony Schumacher’s unwavering belief in the enclosed cockpit for Top Fuel dragsters paid an immediate dividend Friday at Brainerd International Raceway, where the seven-time NHRA world champion raced to the provisional pole for the 31st annual Lucas Oil Nationals.
Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Sr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also emerged as qualifying leaders at the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event in Minnesota.
Schumacher and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown posted identical 1,000-foot elapsed times of 3.791-seconds during Friday’s second pro session. But Schumacher’s faster speed – a track-record 323.97 mph to Brown’s 323.74 mph – served as the tiebreaker that earned “The Sarge” the provisional pole heading into Saturday’s final two qualifying sessions.
Schumacher was especially pleased with the performance of his U.S. Army Dragster outfitted with the revolutionary covered cockpit that was approved for competition by NHRA officials on Monday.
“Both runs felt good. The canopy takes some getting used to,” said Schumacher, an advocate of the device since first testing it in January. “You’re driving as though you have snow on the windshield and you wiped off the center of it to see through it, except you’re going 320 mph. “It’s phenomenal, though. You’re in the thing and they close it and you just feel a sense of safety, which is the whole point. For 16 years I’ve driven one with an open cockpit where parts and pieces can fly in. Now I’m in a capsule. I’ve been looking forward to doing this for a long time.
“I’d like to credit first, the U.S. Army team, and Aerodine (Composites Group) for building it. They did an amazing job. Aerodine perfected this thing, and you’ve got to give credit to NHRA for approving it.”
The cockpit canopy is available for use by all Top Fuel teams. The equipment is an optional component, not mandatory.
“The (performance) advantage with the canopy is an advantage in life expectancy,” Schumacher said. “Wally Parks founded NHRA to keep people safe. With all of us working together, we’re going to make that happen. We’re trying to make this car our future with other people putting it on their cars so we won’t have to see any more tragedies. I want to see one on every car I race.”
Schumacher won Top Fuel titles at Brainerd in 2000, 2004 and 2008. If his ET holds on Saturday, it will be his sixth Brainerd pole and 70th of his career.
“We went up there knowing we could put a good number on the board and the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster was flawless,” said Schumacher, who was beaten by Brown in the Brainerd final last summer. “Most of the other guys went up there and spun their tires and we just went down the track. Then Antron goes and matches my time on the next pass. What a great statement for Don Schumacher Racing and the U.S. Army and Matco Tools teams.”
Morgan Lucas, a two-time winner this season, was third with a 3.800-second pass at 322.81 mph in the GEICO/Lucas Oil Dragster in a session featuring fall-like conditions with temperatures in the low 70s under clear skies.
In Funny Car, Wilkerson led the field with a track-record 1,000-foot elapsed time of 4.049-seconds at 307.16 mph in his Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang. Wilkerson currently is 12th in points and needs a strong showing during the final two regular-season events to make it into the top-10 and a berth in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
“Obviously, the conditions are pretty stellar out there,” Wilkerson said. “Our car was trying to go a 4.12 or 4.13 on the first run, but I just missed it to be truthful. The track was a little bit better on the second run, we stood on it a little bit harder and we were lucky enough to get the car to whistle right on through there for low ET.”
John Force, a 15-time world champion and 11-time winner at BIR, was second in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang with numbers of 4.067-seconds at 311.85 mph. Daughter Courtney Force, the category’s most recent winner, was 11th in her Traxxas Mustang with a 4.138-second pass at 310.41 mph. Series point-leader Robert Hight, a former world champion who has yet to win at BIR, qualified 13th in his Auto Club Mustang fielded by John Force Racing.
Enders continued her recent momentum in Pro Stock by powering her GK Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt to a leading quarter-mile performance of 6.550-seconds at 210.37 mph. Enders has recorded a pair of historic victories in the Factory Hot Rod class since early July.
“The guys at our shop have been working hard as far as R&D and it’s showing up on the scoreboard,” said Enders, who drives for team-owner Victor Cagnazzi. “It’s proof that hard work pays off. In the first qualifying run, we went out and got a good baseline and in the second, we swung for the fences.”
Point-leader Allen Johnson was second on the ladder in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger with a 6.560-second pass at 210.87 mph. Meanwhile, Minnesota native, defending event-winner and four-time world champion Greg Anderson was fifth in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro at 6.582-seconds and 210.54 mph.
Arana Sr., who has earned three No. 1 qualifying positions this season in Pro Stock Motorcycle, grabbed the qualifying lead with a quarter-mile performance of 6.882-seconds at 192.63 mph on his Lucas Oil Buell.
“I was very surprised that we ran a 6.88 in the first round,” Arana Sr. said. “We knew that it would be fast but we really didn’t think it would be that fast.”
The Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod duo of Andrew Hines and Eddie Kraweic _ who have combined to win all eight races this season _ were second and fourth, respectively. Hector Arana Jr. was third on his Lucas Oil Buell.
ESPN2 will air Saturday’s qualifying on a delayed basis from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. (EDT) and Sunday’s eliminations from 9 p.m. to midnight (EDT), also delayed.
Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 31st annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, 16th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.
Top Fuel _ 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.791 seconds, 323.97 mph; 2. Antron Brown, 3.791, 323.74; 3. Morgan Lucas, 3.800, 322.81; 4. Spencer Massey, 3.837, 319.14; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.848, 318.09; 6. Clay Millican, 3.858, 317.94; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.862, 283.25; 8. Brandon Bernstein, 3.872, 306.12; 9. Cory McClenathan, 3.895, 309.20; 10. Steve Torrence, 3.896, 308.99; 11. Terry McMillen, 3.907, 294.75; 12. David Grubnic, 3.914, 303.09.
Not Qualified _ 13. Scott Palmer, 3.946, 290.63; 14. Keith Murt, 3.950, 301.47; 15. Chris Karamesines, 3.959, 294.50; 16. Tim Cullinan, 3.983, 291.57; 17. Bruce Litton, 3.995, 247.97; 18. Doug Kalitta, 4.042, 233.20; 19. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 4.402, 184.88; 20. Dom Lagana, 5.789, 110.81; 21. Luigi Novelli, 7.753, 82.77.
Funny Car _ 1. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.049, 307.16; 2. John Force, Mustang, 4.067, 311.85; 3. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.073, 310.48; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.076, 311.85; 5. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.087, 304.94; 6. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.090, 308.92; 7. Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.090, 306.12; 8. Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.098, 311.20; 9. Jim Head, Toyota Solara, 4.119, 306.19; 10. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.132, 308.21; 11. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.138, 310.41; 12. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.138, 302.41.
Not Qualified _ 13. Robert Hight, 4.146, 303.37; 14. Jeff Arend, 4.160, 297.61; 15. Bob Bode, 4.171, 297.61; 16. Tony Pedregon, 4.184, 295.08; 17. Todd Lesenko, 4.230, 285.95; 18. Dale Creasy Jr., 4.234, 288.39.
Pro Stock _ 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Cobalt, 6.550, 210.50; 2. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.560, 210.87; 3. Mike Edwards, Pontiac GXP, 6.573, 210.41; 4. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.576, 209.56; 5. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.582, 210.54; 6. Ron Krisher, GXP, 6.583, 209.43; 7. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.584, 209.75; 8. Ronnie Humphrey, GXP, 6.585, 209.30; 9. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.590, 209.07; 10. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Avenger, 6.597, 209.79; 11. Warren Johnson, GXP, 6.601, 209.20; 12. Mark Martino, GXP, 6.604, 209.56.
Not Qualified _ 13. Rodger Brogdon, 6.624, 208.14; 14. Chris McGaha, 6.633, 207.75; 15. Shane Gray, 6.635, 207.50; 16. Larry Morgan, 6.637, 208.46; 17. Mark Hogan, 6.722, 205.07; 18. Kurt Johnson, 7.410, 196.59.
Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Hector Arana Sr., Buell, 6.884, 192.82; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.887, 193.57; 3. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.905, 192.71; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.909, 192.77; 5. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.918, 192.30; 6. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.948, 192.08; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.952, 189.71; 8. John Hall, Buell, 6.964, 190.86; 9. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.966, 190.03; 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.978, 190.94; 11. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.980, 188.15; 12. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.981, 192.25.
Not Qualified _ 13. Mike Berry, 6.987, 190.59; 14. Shawn Gann, 7.002, 191.35; 15. Chip Ellis, 7.032, 189.18; 16. Michael Phillips, 7.104, 190.65; 17. Buddy Robinson, 7.431, 177.14.No Comment