The folks who called in sick with a bad case of "Nitro fever" enjoyed a special Monday at Memphis Motorsports Park with the conclusion of the rain-delayed O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals presented by Pennzoil. Tony Schumacher recovered from a massive accident Friday night to turn back points leader Larry Dixon and win his second race in a row, while his nitro counterpart Whit Bazemore managed to move into the POWERade points lead for the first time ever with his victory over Dean Skuza.
In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson padded his massive lead with a come-from-behind win over Jeg Coughlin Jr., while Pro Stock Bike upstart Reggie Showers, a double-amputee, doubled his career victory total with his second win in as many races.
For the second time this year, former series champion Schumacher took care of reigning titleholder and current points leader Larry Dixon when a trophy was on the line. Just as he did in Chicago, Schumacher drove away from Dixon's powerful rail, posting a 4.581 at 317.79 mph to Dixon's 4.651 at 316.52 mph.
The win, his third of the year and second in a row, moved Schumacher to within one point of third place in the rankings. The fact he was able to race at all was quite a feat as he used a back-up car for most of the race after destroying his primary car in qualifying.
"No question, this win is special," said Schumacher, who was racing in his third straight final. "When you have a wreck like we did, the first thing you think of after you realize that you're okay is that you've ruined a great racecar. Well, apparently we have more than one great racecar because this back-up one was unreal today.
"To come out and post low E.T. of the first two rounds and then take out Larry Dixon in the final out of the right-hand lane says it all. Alan Johnson [crew chief] and this collection of guys are the best in the business. When next year starts we'll be right in the championship chase from the word go."
Schumacher's rebound from his spectacular accident Friday evening was astonishing. Driving the back-up U.S. Army dragster, Schumacher didn't miss a beat, posting the quickest pass of the first two elimination rounds with a 4.56 against Dave Grubnic and a 4.57 versus Clay Millican. Schumacher slowed slightly in the semifinals opposite Doug Kalitta, running a 4.61, which awarded lane choice to Dixon in the money round. But it didn't seem to matter as he took care of business in the same lane where his wreck occurred.
Dixon set his Miller Lite rail on cruise control Monday, rolling by Cory McClenathan and Darrell Russell with runs of 4.62 and 4.59, respectively, to get to his 12th final of the year and 59th of his career. Dixon's 4.58-second first-round win over Scott Weis came Sunday before the rain hit. Top Fuel results
After chasing Tony Pedregon for the last 14 races, Bazemore has moved into the POWERade lead by seven points after his 4.894-second, 309.42-mph victory over Dean Skuza, who clicked off early and posted a 5.225 at 227.50 mph. This is the first time in his career that Bazemore has ever topped the championship chart.
Although he had lane choice in the final, Skuza was the decided underdog after a huge fire at the top end of the track destroyed his racecar after his semifinal win over John Force. Nearly every other team in the pits chipped in to help the Team Skuza make it back in time for the final but Bazemore was just too much when it counted the most.
"So many people have helped me get here," Bazemore said. "This win, and moving into the points lead, is for all of them. And I know there is a long way to go with five races left on the schedule, but this is quite a feeling.
"I won't put any more pressure on myself than usual. I did an interview with NHRA.com in Indy about the points chase and that was the first time I let myself taste what it would be like. I know it'll be tough down the stretch. Tony Pedregon and that team will not back off, but as I said in that interview, I think we have a car that can contend with them on a weekly basis. I still believe that.
"When I saw Skuza's fire I knew it was bad. We were waiting for them because I know the effort it took for them to fix everything. For them to show up for the final and run a 5.22 is amazing. I almost wanted them to win for sentimental reasons."
Bazemore's third win of the year and 15th of his Pro career came after victories over Bob Gilbertson, Cory Lee, Ron Capps, and Skuza. The Matco Tools Dodge Stratus R/T did slow in each of the first three rounds as the sun beat down on Memphis Motorsports Park, posting a 4.87, 4.96, and 4.99 as the sessions progressed. But crew chief Lee Beard tuned it perfectly in the spotlight round.
Despite his lack of a major sponsor, Skuza ran like a champion Monday with impressive wins over three of the best cars in the world. He opened with a 4.87 to 4.86 holeshot victory over Gary Scelzi, dismissed Tony Pedregon 4.92 to 494 in Round 2, and outran Force 4.92 to 4.99 in the semifinals. Funny Car results
Even though Coughlin entered the Pro Stock final with the advantage of lane choice and a weekend-long performance edge, Anderson rose to the occasion and took his ninth win of the year by the closest margin of victory all day, a .0052-second advantage. After yielding a .025- to .031-second edge at the light, Anderson caught and passed Coughlin, posting a 6.814 at 202.67 mph to Coughlin's 6.825 at 200.95 mph.
"I really have struggled with this racetrack over the years, but now it's one of my favorites," Anderson said. "This win was tough, just like every single one of them have been. Racing K.J. in the second round was big. That one felt good. Then I get to the final and I felt like a total underdog to Jeg. I haven't felt like that in awhile. But he shook his tires in the final and it was just enough for me to sneak by.
"This feels awfully good and all the credit goes to my teammates, both on the road and back at the shop. It takes all of them for me to look good."
It wasn't a surprise to see Anderson's Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am in a final. After all, he's raced to 10 this year including the last four in a row. But it was strange to see him in the role of underdog, as he was Monday afternoon. Nevertheless, he looked as strong as ever in round wins over Steve Schmidt, Kurt Johnson, Mike Edwards, and Coughlin, padding his points lead to 240.
Just as it was in qualifying, Coughlin's Jeg's Mail Order Chevrolet Cavalier was a tick quicker than everyone else's hot rod in eliminations. He began with a 6.79-second win over Scott Geoffrion, used a 6.80 to best Dave Connolly, and carded a 6.79 opposite Jim Yates. His 6.82 in the final was his slowest pass of the day. Pro Stock results
Just as he did one race ago in Indianapolis when he captured his first career victory, Showers simply rolled through the field Monday. The final was an all-Star Racing affair as Showers, who is tuned by Star Racing founder George Bryce, took on the company's lead rider, Fred Collis.
This one was over at the starting line when Collis got a little antsy and jumped the light by -.005 seconds. Showers might have won it outright anyway as he went on to post a 7.237 at 182.11 mph. The victory propelled Showers all the way up to third place in the POWERade points.
"I had a dream and a vision a long time ago and it's all coming true," Showers said. 'I have a disability but I've overcome that and realized my dreams. I couldn't do it without all the people that support me, especially George Bryce and all the guys at Star Racing who have taken me in like a brother. Plus, the guys at PDI who made these legs for me so I can race this bike.
"I tell kids to always believe in themselves. If you do that, and have faith in God, anything can happen. Just look at me. I'm living proof."
Riding the wave of his double-win in Indy, which includes the K&N Klash special event, Showers returned his Prosthetic Design Inc. Suzuki Hayabusa to the trophy round once again by dismissing Michael Phillips, Geno Scali, and Shawn Gann. Scali, the current POWERade points leader, had a -.022 second red-light start.
Star Racing Pro Collis rode the Christmas Tree to his third career final. His Round 1 opponent Antron Brown was tragically late, with a .008 to .066 starting-line deficit. Collis then had two red-light wins handed to him by Andrew Hines and Angelle Savoie. Pro Stock Bike results
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