Fields set for Sunday's final eliminations in Chicago
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Local favorite Tony Schumacher raced to the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel Saturday 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 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event near Chicago.
Chicago resident Schumacher powered his famed U.S. Army dragster to a performance of 3.763 seconds at 324.83 mph to claim his second top qualifying position of the season and 69th of his career. On the run, the seven time world champ moved from ninth to first in the 16-car order. This is his seventh No. 1 qualifying position at Route 66 Raceway. He is a three-time winner at his home track.
Schumacher, who broke a 32-race win drought in Bristol two weeks ago, will face another Chicagoland-based driver — TJ Zizzo — in the opening round as he goes for his second win in a row.
“TJ 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. We planned on going for the pole, and, fortunately, the car stuck all the way down the track. It’s really nice to come off the win in Bristol and remain hot.”
Friday night qualifying leader Antron Brown dropped to second with his 3.773 at 322.50 in his Matco Tools dragster, and Shawn Langdon held on to third with a 3.784 at 322.73 in the Al-Anabi Racing dragster.
In Funny Car, 15-time world champ Force earned his first No. 1 of the season and the 140th of his career with a 4.050 at 310.77 in his 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 and Mike Neff] weren’t. 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 tomorrow because it will be hot. It didn’t stick, but that’s OK. We’ll be fine tomorrow.
“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. He powered his Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang to a 4.052 at 308.00 to leapfrog Jack Beckman, who will start third in his Schumacher Electric Dodge Charger with his 4.054 at 311.56.
Johnson claimed his fifth No. 1 of the season and 23rd of his career in Pro Stock with a 6.597 at 209.26 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. Johnson will meet fellow Dodge Avenger 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 tomorrow’s 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 Chevy Camaro posted a 6.616 at 208.17, and Enders' GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt also had a 6.616 but posted a slower speed of 207.08.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana claimed his third No. 1 of the season and 20th of his career, powering his Lucas Oil Buell to a category-best effort of 6.884 at 195.08. 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 tomorrow,” Arana 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 [points 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 champ Andrew Hines was second with a 6.917 at 193.79 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, and Arana’s son, Hector Arana Jr., was third overall with a 6.939 at 193.21 on his Lucas Oil Buell.
Friday: Brown, Force, Johnson, Arana opening-day leaders in Chicago