Tony Schumacher clinched his sixth consecutive and seventh overall NHRA Full Throttle Top Fuel world championship, and Hector Arana earned his first in Pro Stock Motorcycle during a dramatic day of racing at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. Both titles were decided during a stunning semifinal round.
Schumacher collected the Top Fuel crown when Larry Dixon, racing directly in front of Schumacher, smoked the tires of his Alan Johnson/Al-Anabi Racing dragster and lost to Spencer Massey. In a surprising twist, Schumacher also lost his semifinal match with Antron Brown, meaning the final points result was just two points in favor of Schumacher and his Mike Green-led U.S. Army team, earned on their low qualifying pass late Saturday.
“Having to rebuild and go through the adversity of a new team, it’s outstanding to be standing here on the podium,” said Schumacher. “That run [Saturday] night was bone-crushing, weight-of-the-world pressure, and that U.S. Army team came through — unbelievable.
“You can’t mention it before the race because you don’t know if you’re going to win it, but this thing’s going to sit at Fort Hood for the families. I don’t think there’s a question about it; it has to be there. They deserve it. This is an Army Strong trophy, and it’s going to sit there and be beautiful.”
Schumacher won his first Top Fuel championship in 1999. He added a second title in 2004 and has carried the No. 1 every season since. That string will continue into next year after he outlasted Dixon in another nail-biter (in 2006, Schumacher won the championship by winning the final round and setting the national record at the season finale, and in 2007, Schumacher won it by winning the final round in Pomona).
Schumacher entered the Auto Club NHRA Finals just one point ahead of Dixon, and the two put on quite a show throughout the weekend, swapping the lead several times. Schumacher added one point to his lead on the opening day of action, but Dixon rebounded on day two and jumped to the front by two markers. Schumacher made a comeback on the final qualifying day, running low e.t. of the weekend, 3.772, to grab three bonus points for the session and the No. 1 spot on the ladder. Those points lifted Schumacher back into the lead by two. Those two points were the deciding factor when both lost in the semi’s.
Arana joined Robert Hight and Mike Edwards as a first-time NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world champion when Eddie Krawiec was unable to run quick enough for a backup to a national record in the semifinals. Arana could have clinched the title with a win against Krawiec’s teammate, Andrew Hines, in round two, but Arana red-lighted, leaving the competition somewhat open. At that point, Krawiec needed to win and set a national record to pass Arana and claim the title. Without a backup run earlier in the weekend, that meant that Krawiec needed to run 6.918 or better in the semi’s to have the backup; Krawiec only mustered a 6.953 to end his hopes.
Racing in his 20th season of NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle competition, Arana had a career year aboard his Lucas Oil-backed Buell. Arana won five times in six final-round showings this season, and he qualified No. 1 eight times, including at the final three events of the season. Prior to this year, Arana had just one win (2008 Norwalk) and one top start (1994 Gainesville).
“It feels good,” said Arana. “It hasn’t really hit me yet. I do feel better, lighter now that the stress is over and the worries. It’s an awesome feeling to have this accomplishment this year. A lot of things happened this year that I accomplished: I won five races, I won three in a row, I set the national record, and I won the championship. This is awesome.
“Quitting never crossed my mind; that’s not me. I’m going to stick to the end and find a solution for it,” added Arana of his challenges over the years. “I just started going five, six races a year for a while, and I would stay home and work on the bike. If I was going to quit, that would have been the time to quit, but I just could not see myself quitting. I knew I had it, I knew it was there, and with Lucas Oil behind me, how can you quit? When things were going harder, I just worked harder. My determination was even more.”
Arana is the 10th rider since Pro Stock Motorcycle became a Professional class in 1989 to win a championship.