‘Sarge’ In Command At Gatornationals
Eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher is poised to seize another historic moment Sunday after securing his first Top Fuel pole of the 2017 season during qualifications for the 48th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.
“The Sarge” drove his U.S. Army dragster to a Gainesville Raceway track-elapsed 1,000-foot elapsed time of 3.682-seconds at 328.22 mph in Saturday’s second qualifying session to earn his 81st career pole.
“The Gatornationals, to me, even as a kid, was always one of the greatest moments for my father,” said Schumacher, referring to team-owner/NHRA Funny Car pioneer Don Schumacher. “It’s a great chance, great opportunity. When you’re given a great opportunity, you surround yourself with people capable of that moment, which we have done. You hope for great weather and the perfect situation (Sunday). What you want is for the fans to walk away going, ‘We paid good money for this race and we feel like we owe more.’^”
Eliminations for the third event on the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule are set to begin at 11 a.m. (EDT) at the historic Florida facility. FOX Sports 1’s live telecast will air at 1 p.m. (EDT).
Schumacher, who could become the first five-time Top Fuel winner at the Gator Nats, will face Smax Smith in the opening round of eliminations. Gainesville Raceway is the home track of NHRA Top Fuel legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits _ a point not lost on Schumacher and his experienced crew.
“I am so proud of (crew chief) Mike Green, (assistant crew chief) Phil Shuler and all the guys on the U.S. Army team,” Schumacher said. “The preparation to come down to the Gatornationals, one of our biggest races, and be this good says a lot about their desire to win. Every run has been spot-on and we’re ready. We have a chance to make history and winning the Gatornationals would be a big one.
“If we can go out there and do what we did today and what we did (Friday), we might have a chance and that’s all you can ask for. It would be a record that I wouldn’t forget for a long time. Here we are today with a great chance.”
Doug Kalitta of Kalitta Motorsports qualified second with a pass in 3.698-seconds at 328.78 mph in his Mac Tools dragster and will race Ike Maier in Round 1. Meanwhile, three-time/reigning world champion Antron Brown and his Matco Tools dragster qualified third. The Don Schumacher Racing ace will line up against veteran independent campaigner Chris “The Greek” Karamesines.
John Force (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also emerged as No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories after four rounds of time trials.
Force piloted his PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS to the 155th Funny Car pole of his iconic career with a track-record 1,000-foot elapsed time of 3.832-seconds at 333.25 mph. “Brute” Force will face Bob Tasca III and his Ford Shelby Mustang in the first round.
“I haven’t run this good in years,” said Force, the 16-time world champion who continues to benefit from a recent swap of John Force Racing crew chiefs and teams with son-in-law Robert Hight. “We kept low ET, that’s an honor, I love it. It’s a good weekend for us. The team gelled. We’ll just go from there. I want to come out here and I want to try to win. Don’t know who I race _ don’t matter _ I race my lane. I go A-to-B. But I’m really excited just to be in the hunt.”
Hight, the 2009 world champion, qualified second at 3.844-seconds and 331.61 mph in the Auto Club Camaro and will race 2015 world champion Del Worsham’s Toyota Camry in the opening round.
Recapping the JFR swaps announced last week: crew chief Jimmy Prock moved to Hight’s car, with crew chief Mike Neff switching to Force’s. Moving with Prock are co-crew chief Chris Cunningham and crew members who started the season with Force’s team, while co-crew chiefs Jon Schaffer and Jason McCulloch and Hight’s former team members moved to the PEAK Chevy.
Two-time world champion Matt Hagan of Don Schumacher Racing qualified third in his Dodge Charger R/T and will line up opposite Dave Richard’s Mustang in the opener.
Line’s quarter-mile pass in 6.476-seconds at 213.87 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro from Friday held up to secure his third consecutive Pro Stock pole of the season and 52nd of his career.
“We just try to go as fast as we can,” said Line, the three-time/reigning world champion from Ken Black Racing. “The strategy is the same early season, late-season, midseason, it doesn’t matter _ it’s to put the Summit cars in the Winner’s Circle. Qualifying No. 1 is the best way to start. Our Summit Camaro is running really, really well so I’m super-excited about tomorrow.” Line will open with a bye run in a 15-car field of “Factory Hot Rods.”
Teammate Bo Butner is second with a 6.477-second pass at 213.60 mph in his Jim Buner’s Auto Chevy Camaro; he will line up against John Gaydosh in the first round. Two-time world champion Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports Camaro qualified third and will race Alan Prusiensky’s Dodge Dart in Round 1.
Reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Savoie earned the ninth pole of his career with a quarter-mile pass in 6.753-seconds at 198.99 mph aboard his White Alligator Racing Suzuki in the third qualifying session. He will race Karen Stoffer and her Suzuki in the first round.
“I’ve been coming to the Gators six years now,” Savoie said. “My first year out we qualified No. 6. I had really thought when I bought all of Mr. (Don) Schumacher’s (PSM) stuff and everything that it was going to be easy. I thought we were going to qualify No. 1 and win the race. Six years later finally, finally we get to qualify No. 1 in Gainesville. For me it’s a special privilege.”
Savoie bumped Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson factory rider Eddie Krawiec off the pole. A three-time world champion, Krawiec sits second aboard his V-Rod via his 6.791-second pass at 198.17 mph from Friday. Joey Gladstone, competing in his second Pro Stock Bike season, qualified third at 6.810-seconds and 197.51 mph aboard his San Marino Excavation Suzuki.
Sunday’s first-round eliminations pairings for the 48th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, third of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based upon results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings:
Top Fuel _ 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.682-seconds, 328.22 mph vs. 16. Smax Smith, 15.934, 23.58; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.698, 328.78 vs. 15. Ike Maier, 4.084, 273.11; 3. Antron Brown, 3.716, 326.24 vs. 14. Chris Karamesines, 4.043, 290.26; 4. Brittany Force, 3.719, 326.79 vs. 13. Larry Dixon, 3.988, 239.31; 5. Steve Torrence, 3.726, 327.51 vs. 12. Shawn Reed, 3.879, 315.49; 6. Troy Coughlin Jr., 3.738, 328.86 vs. 11. Pat Dakin, 3.862, 289.63; 7. Leah Pritchett, 3.750, 327.66 vs. 10. Scott Palmer, 3.826, 321.73; 8. Clay Millican, 3.762, 327.11 vs. 9. Terry McMillen, 3.780, 324.51.
Funny Car _ 1. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.832, 333.25 vs. 16. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.544, 191.57; 2. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.844, 331.77 vs. 15. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.215, 235.80; 3. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.854, 328.70 vs. 14. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.152, 255.10; 4. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.860, 333.49 vs. 13. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.152, 295.72; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.865, 329.83 vs. 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.947, 323.12; 6. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.865, 329.58 vs. 11. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.928, 327.98; 7. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.871, 332.51 vs. 10. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.927, 325.37; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.883, 330.23 vs. 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.920, 309.06.
Pro Stock _ 1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.476, 213.87 vs. Bye; 2. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.477, 214.28 vs. 15. John Gaydosh Jr., Camaro, 6.708, 205.94; 3. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.490, 214.01 vs. 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.582, 211.69; 4. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.491, 214.31 vs. 13. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.561, 212.33; 5. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.491, 214.59 vs. 12. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.553, 211.83; 6. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.493, 214.11 vs. 11. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.549, 211.56; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.517, 212.96 vs. 10. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.539, 214.08; 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.526, 213.20 vs. 9. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.531, 213.37.
Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.753, 198.99 vs. 16. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.922, 194.07; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.791, 199.88 vs. 15. Mike Berry, Buell, 6.918, 195.00; 3. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.793, 198.35 vs. 14. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.910, 193.99; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.793, 198.15 vs. 13. Angelle Sampey, Victory, 6.898, 194.02; 5. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.813, 198.26 vs. 12. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.890, 189.71; 6. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.819, 196.79 vs. 11. Cory Reed, Victory, 6.888, 192.71; 7. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.828, 198.03 vs. 10. Matt Smith, Polaris, 6.857, 195.17; 8. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.831, 197.94 vs. 9. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.848, 197.77.
Did Not Qualify _ 17. Shawn Gann, 6.941, 191.21; 18. John Hall, 6.952, 192.22; 19. Chip Ellis, 6.955, 192.49; 20. Scott Bottorff, 6.969, 191.62; 21. David Hope, 6.970, 191.24; 22. James Surber, 7.307, 182.70; 23. Andie Rawlings, 8.273, 135.65; 24. Brian Pretzel, 10.993, 72.09.