Schumacher Clinches Top Fuel Championship No. 8

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, November 15 2014

Tony Schumacher is your 2014 Top Fuel champion. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series)

Tony Schumacher woke up Saturday as a seven-time NHRA Top Fuel champion. He went to bed Saturday night as an eight-time champ.

Schumacher clinched the 2014 championship when closest challenger

Spencer Massey failed to improve on his sixth-place qualifying position at the close of time trials for the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway.

Schumacher qualified ninth and will face Larry Dixon in the opening round of eliminations as he goes for his sixth win of the season and fourth in the Countdown playoffs.

Schumacher earned the championship over second-place Massey by building a 104-point lead with only a maximum of 100 points available to a single driver on Sunday.

Schumacher entered the Countdown playoffs as the fourth seed, but won the first two Countdown races and then pulled away from his rivals with another playoff victory at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa. on Oct. 5.

He missed clinching the championship two weeks ago in Las Vegas and entered this race needing to earn a few more points to close the deal. By the end of qualifying on Saturday, he had the necessary points.

“It is much more difficult now than it ever has been,” said Schumacher, who won seven titles between 1999-2009, including six in a row from 2004-2009, to become the most successful Top Fuel driver in NHRA history. “The key to winning these (championships) is to come on at the right time. This is a great sport but there is some luck involved. You gotta fight the battle and like (John) Force says, you gotta be part of the battle to win it.”

Rookie Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton claimed his first No. 1 qualifying position with a track record time of 3.711 seconds at 316.30 mph in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster. The Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner and Auto Club Road to the Future award candidate will race Troy Buff in the opening round.

The longtime crew member and Australian transplant feels fortunate to be in a position to win his third race of the season and finally get a top qualifying position for his resume after being close several times this season.

“I came here as a spectator to this race in 1999 and sat in the grandstands with my family,” Crampton said. “I was just in awe of the sport, lining up to get autographs from the drivers. To be in this position now is just a dream come true. I am probably the most spoiled rookie in the history of NHRA because I race with a team that gives me such great equipment. Just like Indy, this is a huge race where we wanted to do well. It’s looking good so far and hopefully it will translate into some round wins tomorrow.”

Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will lead their categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations as No. 1 qualifiers at the final NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship event of the season.

In Funny Car, DeJoria powered to her third No. 1 of the season with a 3.998 at 311.41 in her Patron Café XO Incendio Toyota Camry. DeJoria, a three-time winner this season, will meet veteran driver Gary Densham in the first round.

“It’s one of the fastest tracks on the circuit and to be No. 1 right now is great for our whole team, and they’re hungry,” DeJoria said. “I’m so excited and it’s with a three-second run. It was an incredible session. It’s great to be a part of it.”

Meanwhile, only 23 points separate Funny Car championship contenders Matt Hagan and John Force. Hagan will race Chad Head in the first round on one side of the bracket, while Force will meet Bob Tasca on the other side. Hagan needs to hold his ground to earn his second title, while Force needs to advance two rounds past Hagan to score his record 17th world championship.

Pro Stock championship challenger Line raced to his third No. 1 qualifying effort of the year and 38th of his career by posting a 6.517 at 212.19 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. Line, who will meet Jeff Isbell in the first round, trails series leader Erica Enders-Stevens by 19 points heading into eliminations. Enders-Stevens, who is trying to become NHRA’s first female Pro Stock champ, qualified third and will race Larry Morgan in the opener.

“The way the ladder worked out it should set up for a phenomenal day tomorrow if she and I race in the final,” Line said. “Whoever wins that would win the championship. This is a cool place. This is where champions are crowned. I’ve always said I like Pomona at the beginning of the year because you’re ready to get back to racing, and at the end of the year you’re done, you’re worn out. I have one more day before I’m worn out, though.”

Arana Jr. raced to his third No. 1 of the season and 16th of his career in Pro Stock Motorcycle, powering his Lucas Oil Buell to a leading effort of 6.832 at 197.62. He will open eliminations against Fred Camarena.

“My bike is running good,” Arana Jr. said. “I’ve got my bike back from the beginning of the year and that makes a big difference. It’s easier to ride and it gives me confidence. We looked at the weather today and figured there would be some improvements, especially in Q3 when conditions were at their best. We put a good tune-up in the bike but I made a mistake as a rider and we didn’t get down the track. I how forgot to let go of the clutch. We did learn some things that we could use for tomorrow, though.”

In the hunt for the championship in the two-wheel category, Eddie Krawiec trimmed Andrew Hines’ series lead to 89 points with his qualifying effort. The two Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson riders will battle for the championship tomorrow, although a first round win by Hines will secure his fourth world championship title.

Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the final of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel — 1. Richie Crampton, 3.711 seconds, 325.45 mph vs. 16. Troy Buff, 3.834, 314.90; 2. Antron Brown, 3.720, 322.58 vs. 15. Clay Millican, 3.825, 312.64; 3. Morgan Lucas, 3.738, 323.35 vs. 14. Billy Torrence, 3.799, 321.12; 4. Doug Kalitta, 3.745, 328.30 vs. 13. Steve Torrence, 3.790, 324.83; 5. J.R. Todd, 3.745, 325.06 vs. 12. Bob Vandergriff, 3.774, 321.42; 6. Spencer Massey, 3.748, 326.48 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, 3.768, 323.50; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.751, 325.85 vs. 10. Dom Lagana, 3.763, 322.42; 8. Larry Dixon, 3.760, 327.03 vs. 9. Tony Schumacher, 3.761, 323.81.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry McMillen, 3.836, 321.04; 18. Brittany Force, 3.917, 306.26; 19. Steve Faria, 4.064, 286.38; 20. Steven Chrisman, 4.220, 284.75; 21. Jenna Haddock, 4.440, 216.65.

Funny Car — 1. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.998, 314.39 vs. 16. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 4.136, 306.46; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.003, 317.34 vs. 15. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.134, 306.12; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.005, 318.02 vs. 14. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.126, 287.05; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.011, 311.77 vs. 13. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.102, 313.73; 5. John Force, Mustang, 4.015, 316.60 vs. 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.072, 312.93; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.016, 319.60 vs. 11. Chad Head, Camry, 4.070, 313.88; 7. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.029, 313.29 vs. 10. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.062, 314.97; 8. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.036, 317.87 vs. 9. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.055, 316.60.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Jeff Diehl, 4.196, 266.27; 18. John Bojec, 4.235, 298.47; 19. Jon Capps, 4.693, 187.34; 20. Shane Westerfield, 5.107, 233.20; 21. Terry Haddock, 8.246, 84.68; 22. Bob Bode, 18.203, 721.92.

Pro Stock — 1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.517, 212.19 vs. 16. Jeff Isbell, Camaro, 6.724, 206.80; 2. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.522, 211.79 vs. 15. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, 6.601, 209.39; 3. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.526, 212.03 vs. 14. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.583, 209.85; 4. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.534, 211.89 vs. 13. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.577, 211.43; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.538, 211.96 vs. 12. Matt Hartford, Pontiac GXP, 6.562, 211.06; 6. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.539, 211.33 vs. 11. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.550, 211.36; 7. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.543, 211.83 vs. 10. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.548, 211.00; 8. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.547, 211.89 vs. 9. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.547, 211.73.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Joey Grose, 6.948, 198.85.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.832, 197.62 vs. 16. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 6.974, 194.63; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.834, 195.76 vs. 15. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.962, 191.57; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.842, 195.99 vs. 14. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.952, 191.05; 4. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.863, 195.17 vs. 13. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.945, 192.17; 5. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.884, 193.02 vs. 12. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.940, 191.40; 6. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.888, 195.62 vs. 11. Elvira Karlsson, Suzuki, 6.937, 190.73; 7. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.924, 193.68 vs. 10. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.936, 195.31; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.931, 192.49 vs. 9. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.933, 193.60.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Redell Harris, 7.055, 189.82; 18. Rhett Lougheed, 7.092, 186.77; 19. Gert-Jen Laseur, 7.114, 183.15; 20. Lance Bonham, 7.344, 181.62; 21. Bill Burkhart, 7.490, 181.13; 22. Michael Ray, 10.856, 177.88.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, November 15 2014
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