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“The Sarge” Tames Wild Horse In Day 1 Of Qualifying

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 24 2018

Tony Schumacher laid down the fastest Top Fuel lap in Friday’s qualifying session at Wild Horse Pass in Arizona.

Tony Schumacher and Clay Millican laid down the three fastest Top Fuel passes in NHRA history Friday during opening day qualifying for the 34th annual Arizona Nationals, with “The Sarge” ultimately emerging as provisional pole-sitter at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Schumacher began the afternoon by covering the 1,000-foot distance in 3.649-seconds at 334.65-mph in his U.S. Army dragster to re-set both ends of the record book at the facility in Chandler, Ariz., near Phoenix. The run became not only the quickest and fastest Top Fuel pass officially recorded at the historic track, but also went into the books as the fastest Top Fuel lap in NHRA history.

But as Schumacher waited to run in the day’s final pairing, he and crew chief Mike “Zippy” Neff watched Millican raise the speed record to 335.23 mph in his Great Clips/Parts Plus dragster. That record held up for only six pairs. Schumacher responded by crossing the timing beams during Q2 in 3.667-seconds at 336.57 mph to reclaim top speed and earn three bonus points.

“This track is fast. This track has always shown good numbers. It’s the perfect storm,” said Schumacher, an eight-time world champion for Don Schumacher Racing. “You have the right conditions; the track was good, it was smooth, they prepped it correctly _ all this stuff happened and we have a car with good power.

“Everything is working right. We came here and we tested, we go to Pomona (Calif.) and run low E.T. every run so we’re bringing a tune-up that’s already good. We’re able to fine-tune it with the air. I think the track was mid-70s, to the point where most cars were shaking. There was a 50/50 chance you were going to shake (the rear tires). You were either going to go shake or you were going to give it enough to go fast. There’s really no in-between.”

Meanwhile, reigning Top Fuel world champion Brittany Force returned to work 13 days after a crash that destroyed her Monster Energy dragster during the season-opening Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. Force, who did not make a full-pass, currently is 13th in the provisional order at 4.454-seconds at 172.72 mph.

Force returned to the cockpit of her 2017 race car Thursday after being medically cleared to compete. “I think that was the best decision,” said Force, of John Force Racing. “I jumped in, got belted in and I felt good. I recovered pretty quickly. I’m glad to be back. You know, this is home; these racetracks are home.

“It’s going to take a few runs to figure out this car. It’s our car from last season. The guys had to haul back to Indy (after the Winternationals), pull this car out, rebuild it and get it here in time. We get two more (passes) Saturday. I’m not worried. Plus, it works better for me, getting slowly back into it.”

Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Alex Laughlin (Pro Stock) also emerged as provisional qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the second of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Beckman made the best of the unseasonably cold desert temperatures by making two bonus point-worthy “top-three” runs. “Fast Jack” began his weekend with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.895-seconds, the third-quickest of Q1.  Beckman followed by clocking a 3.845-second pass at 332.43 mph in his Mopar-powered Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T to jump from third to the provisional No. 1 spot.

“We got one point for being third-quickest of the first session which I thought was great,” said Beckman, the 2012 world champ whose car is tuned by Dean Antonelli, John Medlen and Neal Strausbaugh. “But then to come back and back that up, we actually tied Courtney (Force) for low E.T. and got it on speed. I like the fact that we were able to make back-to-back runs like that.

“When it’s this cold, the track gets so tricky. People always think colder means better, and it is to a point. But then it kind of tips over and the track gets so cold that the window for hitting that good run just gets really small. Usually if you have conditions like this you say, ‘We won’t race in these conditions.’ Those ‘hero-runs’ on Friday night are kind of a throw away of data for crew chiefs because you won’t see those conditions again, but I think we’re going to see them (Saturday) and again on race day.

“What makes me feel confident is we have great data that we’ll probably be able to use again in the next two days.”

DSR’s Matt Hagan _ a two-time world champ and winner of the season-opening Winternats _ currently sits sixth while two-time/reigning world champion Robert Hight of JFR is seventh entering Saturday’s final sessions.

In Pro Stock, Laughlin grabbed the provisional pole after covering the traditional quarter-mile in 6.537-seconds at 209.43 mph in his Hot Wheels Chevrolet Camaro SS during his second qualifying pass. The Texan is aiming to secure his first pole of the season and second in his career.

“It’s awesome to be able to go to sleep tonight as the current No. 1 qualifier,” Laughlin said. “Obviously, anything can change (Saturday), but we ran stellar times during testing and I don’t know if it’s the car or the track but I definitely hope that we’re finally connecting the dots.”

Reigning Pro Stock world champion Bo Butner of Ken Black Racing is ninth. Butner began defense of his title with a victory at the Winternationals in his Jim Butner’s Auto Sales Camaro. Butner is unbeaten in his past eight elimination rounds bridging the 2017-18 seasons.

Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Hagan (Funny Car) and four-time world champ Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of a race that will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including finals coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. (EST) on Sunday.

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Friday’s provisional qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 34th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., second of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations:

Top Fuel _ 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.649-seconds, 336.57 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.655, 331.85; 3. Clay Millican, 3.664, 335.23; 4. Richie Crampton, 3.683, 325.30; 5. Billy Torrence, 3.697, 331.45; 6. Blake Alexander, 3.705, 329.58; 7. Antron Brown, 3.717, 333.66; 8. Mike Salinas, 3.737, 326.32; 9. Terry McMillen, 3.740, 316.45; 10. Leah Pritchett, 3.755, 291.07; 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.786, 321.42; 12. Scott Palmer, 3.788, 326.63; 13. Brittany Force, 4.454, 172.72; 14. Greg Carrillo, 4.553, 176.49; 15. Troy Buff, 4.560, 164.53; 16. Kebin Kinsley, 9.187, 74.21.

Funny Car _ 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.845, 332.43; 2. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.845, 328.70; 3. Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 3.866, 317.27; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.879, 328.62; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.888, 333.25; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.926, 330.88; 7. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.927, 329.26; 8. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.944, 324.20; 9. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.971, 316.75; 10. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.148, 306.67; 11. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.244, 235.27; 12. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.333, 209.59; 13. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.474, 188.81; 14. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.551, 182.82; 15. John Force, Camaro, 6.745, 96.00; 16. Del Worsham, Camry, 7.374, 93.25.

Not Qualified_17. Jim Campbell, 7.402, 91.58.

Pro Stock _1. Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.537, 209.49; 2. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.545, 210.54; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.546, 211.13; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.553, 210.57; 5. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.554, 209.49; 6. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.558, 210.31; 7. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.561, 210.41; 8. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.567, 210.08; 9. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.572, 210.50; 10. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.573, 209.65; 11. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.581, 209.36; 12. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.582, 208.84; 13. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.591, 209.65; 14. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.640, 208.65; 15. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.659, 208.55; 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.690, 206.83. 

Not Qualified _ 17. Joey Grose, 6.730, 205.94. 

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 24 2018
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