Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals
By Rob Geiger, NHRA.com
Reigning Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher used the fastest pass in drag racing history to win the 41st annual Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals at National Trail Raceway in After a three-hour rain delay, Schumacher gave the diehard fans something to see when he zipped down the strip with his jaw-dropping speed. He's now just 43 points out of the lead. Force took out red-hot Gary Scelzi on a holeshot while
Reigning Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher used the fastest pass in drag racing history to win the 41st annual Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals at National Trail Raceway in
After a three-hour rain delay, Schumacher gave the diehard fans something to see when he zipped down the strip with his jaw-dropping speed. He's now just 43 points out of the lead. Force took out red-hot Gary Scelzi on a holeshot while
Schumacher had already backed up his final-round speed mark with a 334.57 in the quarterfinals, so the mark is officially an NHRA national record. This was the 24th victory of Schumacher's career. He's now over .500 for the first time with a 24-23 mark. Kalitta fell just below the medium and now has a 22-23 record in finals.
"When you're in the middle of a race speed doesn't matter," Schumacher said. "It was cool to hear [about the record] but I'm more excited about beating the points leader. When you beat the points leader that's an automatic 40-point swing. We could have been 83 back, now we're just 43 back.
"I really pulled my back last night, ironically lifting up Doug's little boy Mitchell. I think Doug filled his pockets with lead and sent him over. It was an issue because the G-force levels are higher here. It's a shorter track and you have to throw both chutes every pass.
"We're excited. We have the world's fastest bracket car back. We struggled for a few races but we're back on track now.
"My buddy Darrell Russell beat me here in last year's final. I asked him to ride with me today and we won so I guess he likes winning here."
After a relatively quiet qualifying session where he ended up fifth on the ladder, Schumacher came to life Sunday, easily running the quickest elapsed time of every elimination round. He posted 4.51s against T.J. Zizzo and "Fast Jack" Beckman, a 4.50 versus Brandon Bernstein, and a 4.48 opposite Kalitta.
No. 2 qualifier Kalitta raced his Mac Tools rail to his fifth final of the year and fourth in a row by beating Bruce Litton, his cousin and teammate Scott Kalitta, and Morgan Lucas. The race against Scott was the second closest of the entire weekend, decided by just .0027-second at the finish line, which should put to rest any lingering rumors that there are team orders dictating wins at Kalitta Motorsports.
"That was a good race," Force said. "If you look at it, I've only beaten a few champions along the way. Scelzi was 3-0 against me before that race. Any time you beat Gary Scelzi you feel like you earned it. I was sticking my chest out down there.
Emerging from mid-pack, Force had a very interesting ride to his record 182nd final, putting his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang into the sand pit after his 4.77-second semifinal win over Ron Capps. Prior to that, Force took out Dale Creasy Jr. and Tony Bartone with a pair of 4.8s.
Force benefited the most from the rain delay between the semifinal and final round as his crew had extra time to clean up the mess he made in the kitty litter.
"They were pushing us all day because they knew the rain was coming," Force said. "We were down to 65 minutes between rounds so it would have been close."
Winning two of the three races that got him to the final out of the right lane, which most drivers with lane choice avoided, Scelzi looked sharp reaching his second final of the year and 48th of his career. The Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T driver beat brothers Tony and Cruz Pedregon as well as rookie Robert Hight to move from fifth to second place in the POWERade points. He's now 80 points, or four rounds, behind Force.
Whit Bazemore's third straight first-round loss has dropped him from first to fifth place.
This was the 33rd victory of
"Either I need more sponsors or my sponsors need to run more races because every time I run at one of my sponsor's races we do really well,"
"Inch by inch we're reeling [Warren Johnson] in. He's been fantastic this year, that's for sure, but at the last two races he's slowed down against me for some reason. I don't know if I'm in his head or what but I know that would bother the heck out of me. All I know is he better look in his rearview mirror because we're coming."
Johnson's ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt was as consistent as a Pro Stock car can be as he posted a 6.746 against Ken Koretsky and a pair of identical 6.750s opposite Richie Stevens and Jason Line to reach his 55th career final round.
"Any time you race a champion, in the NHRA or any series, there's a vibe you get that makes you nervous," Schnitz said. "But I've got a lot more racing experience going up against champions than Andrew has so it wasn't too bad. Even so, I was hoping he'd red-light and give me an easy one. I was shocked when he did.
"Everything is still so new with this bike. We're still teething. I didn't expect we'd win a race this soon. I remember when National DRAGSTER had us at 8-1 odds to be the first bike in the sixes. I thought that was a huge compliment because we were completely unproven at that point.
"As soon as I left and saw the win light I went into a state of shock I think. This hasn't hit me at all. Maybe it will by tomorrow. I know it can't get much better than this."
Competing in just his 18th NHRA event, 23-year-old Schnitz made the biggest move of the day in the rankings just by reaching his first NHRA final round, jumping from 11th to sixth in the POWERade rankings. The two-time AMA/Pro Star champion had one of the quickest bikes on the property as his Muzzys.com Buell V-Twin rolled past Joe DeSantis,
Hines has been sweating his reaction times all year, but on this day he was very solid at the Tree, at least until the final, averaging a .015-second start on his way to his sixth career trophy round. The Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod rider rumbled past former points leader Steve Johnson, former champ Geno Scali, and low qualifier and teammate GT Tonglet, who will remain in the points lead by 57 points. Hines is now 3-3 when the race is on the line.
Return to the Home Page