Tony Schumacher raced to the Top Fuel qualifying lead Friday at the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the world’s most prestigious drag race.
Del Worsham (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the final regular season race in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Following this event, the top-10 fields in each class will be set for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, which starts Sept. 12-14 at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte.
Schumacher, a nine-time winner of this event, powered his U.S. Army dragster to a leading run of 3.777 seconds at 322.65 mph.
“It’s huge to get that run,” Schumacher said. “Now we can go out and try to dominate the weekend and win the Traxxas Nitro Shootout and the race. We have the opportunity to do something special here and win this race for a 10th time.”
Schumacher was one of only two drivers to record an elapsed time in the 3.7-second range. Steve Torrence, runner-up and No. 1 qualifier here one year ago, was second in his Capco Contractors dragster with a 3.786 at 318.09.
“It wasn’t anything special,” Schumacher said. “The car could’ve gone quicker. Mike (Green, crew chief) was turning knobs and pulling levers trying to make adjustments because a lot of cars weren’t making it down the track.”
Defending winner Shawn Langdon was third in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster with a 3.808 at 313.29, and current series points leader Doug Kalitta is 16th after his Mac Tools dragster launched hard but ultimately slowed near midtrack and posted an opening-day best of 5.066 at 137.36.
Former U.S. Nationals winner Worsham topped the Funny Car qualifying order with a 4.044 at 313.73 in his DHL Toyota Camry. Worsham is ninth in the points standings and says that every point is critical this weekend.
“It was a great run,” Worsham said. “Every run throughout the season is very important, but to get down to the final race of the (regular) season and you’re not locked into the Countdown, you’re paying attention. There’s pressure every run, but there’s a little bit added pressure here to make the Countdown. This sport comes down to a lot of pressure. I tell people every single run down the (track) for NHRA is like the last lap of the final straight of a NASCAR race; it’s that important.”
Ron Capps was second in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger with a 4.052 at 316.01, and Matt Hagan sits third in his Rocky Boots/Mopar Charger with a 4.067 at 318.47. Series points leader John Force, a four-time Indy winner, is 11th overall with a 4.865 at 168.94 in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang.
Force and Capps will decide the Brainerd final round tomorrow during the day’s final qualifying session.
In Pro Stock, new points leader Line continued his recent hot streak with a leading effort of 6.623 at 208.78 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro.
“It feels really good to get a good run under our belt,” said Line, who has won the last two races and is still in contention for the rain-delayed Brainerd event, which will be completed at this event. “Both of the Summit cars ran pretty sporty, so it's a good day to be racing a Chevy Camaro. At least I know I have a good horse. A lot of times when you leave one (track), you wonder if it's going to be as fast (at the next one).”
Three-time U.S. Nationals winner Dave Connolly was second in his Charter Communications Camaro with a 6.637 at 208.01, and six-time Indy winner Greg Anderson is third in his Summit Camaro with a 6.643 at 208.10.
In tomorrow’s Brainerd Pro Stock semifinals, which will also be held during the day’s second session, Line will face Dave River, and Jeg Coughlin Jr. will race Vincent Nobile. The Brainerd Pro Stock final will be held on Sunday during the day’s first session.
Three-time world champ Krawiec, who is seeking his first Indy victory, rode to the Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying lead with a run of 6.930 at 193.57 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
“My Harley-Davidson has been awesome,” Krawiec said. “This is also a home race, and we want to do well for our guys. That was a good run, but I think there is a couple of hundredths left. I actually thought that low e.t. would be about a 6.89, but it’s warm and humid, and there is a lot of water in the air. Personally, I don’t care if low e.t. is a 7.15; I just want to be the quickest rider out here.”
Past Indy winner Hector Arana Jr. qualified second on his Lucas Oil Buell with a 6.931 at 192.96, and 2012 U.S. Nationals winner Andrew Hines is third on his Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson with a 6.953 at 192.14.
Troy Coughlin raced to the qualifying lead Friday in the Pro Mod Series portion of the event.
Coughlin led the 34 cars attempting to qualify for one of 16 spots available for Sunday’s first round of eliminations with a performance of 5.945 seconds at 248.75 mph in his turbocharged JEGS.com Corvette.
"We've been testing a lot, and it's been running pretty good," Coughlin said. "Steve (Petty, crew chief) is just a mastermind at what he's doing. As long as we don't make any mistakes, man, it'll run pretty good."
After a relatively slow start to the season, the 2012 world champ won the most recent event in Norwalk, Ohio and is continuing his surge at this event.
"It's been a pretty good day," Coughlin said. "Jeggie's (brother, Pro Stock driver) qualified in the middle of the pack, we ended up No. 1 and (son) T.J.'s won in Super Comp and Super Gas first round. Pretty good day for JEGS.com."
Steven Whiteley was second with a 5.955 at 243.77 in his J&A Service/YNOT Racing ’68 Camaro, while former world champion Von Smith qualified third with a 5.955 at 241.97 in his Al-Anabi Racing ’69 Camaro.
Defending world champion and current points leader Rickie Smith qualified fourth in his nitrous-injected IDG Chevy Camaro with a performance of 5.985 at 243.68.
Defending U.S. Nationals Pro Mod winner Mike Janis, currently second in points, is outside the top 16 after the first session. The New York native sits 18th with a 6.166 at 239.82 in his Jan-Cen Racing late-model Camaro.
Detailed coverage and features from the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals can be found on NationalDragster.net. The site is open to all users throughout the event.