Championship Drag Racing

Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
Clermont, IN
(August 31-September 5)

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Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
Schumacherís 4.45, 329 leads Fridayís all-out assault on Indy record books

By Rob Geiger,

Four-time Indy winner Tony Schumacher ran the quickest and fastest run in Indianapolis Raceway Park history Friday night during the opening round of qualifying for the 51st annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Schumacher's 4.459 at 329.18 mph were two of seven IRP track records reset Friday. Robert Hight and Del Worsham doubled-teamed the record book in Funny Car. Greg Anderson and Kurt Johnson did the same in Pro Stock, and Andrew Hines set a new E.T. mark in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Schumacher's run placed him a lengthy six hundredths of a second ahead of points leader Doug Kalitta, who was second on the grid. Hight's 4.747 placed the No. 1 by his name, while Worsham's top speed of 328.14 mph was the best in the class. Title contenders Anderson and Johnson continue to trade blows with Anderson gaining the E.T. record with a 6.714 and Johnson the mph mark with a 205.35-mph clocking. Hines' 7.085 dropped the IRP bar to an all-time low.

Tony Schumacher

Anticipation of Schumacher's run ran high and many of his Top Fuel peers returned to the starting line after their runs to see what he and crew chief Alan Johnson could pull off in the cool night air. The two-time champ didn't disappoint, posting his big pass with fireworks chasing him down the quarter-mile.

"We tested here last week and ran a 4.50 flat," Schumacher said, "and that was with three cylinders out because the rev-limiter deal kicked in at about 1,200 feet. It really lays over when that happens. I asked Alan today what I should do when that happens and he said, 'it's Indy, stay in it,' so I did but let me tell you that's hard to do.

"That was an outstanding number but I think something needs to be done with the rev limiter deal. I know Alan's a smart guy but there's work to be done there.

"Having Melanie [Troxel, teammate] in a Hadman car now will start to pay off right away. It was comparing apples to oranges before when she had a McKinney because they're so different."

POWERade leader Doug Kalitta ran next to Schumacher but didn't come close to keeping up in his Mac Tools dragster, posting a second-best 4.517 at 327.59 mph. The tour's most recent winner, Rod Fuller, got things started earlier in the round when he piloted David Powers' special-edition Valvoline dragster through a 4.520 at 325.61 mph. Scott Kalitta followed with a 4.531 in the Jesse James/Mac Tools dragster.

Modern Outlaw Apparel racer Mitch King set the bump with a 4.875 at 268.38 mph.

Clay Millican unveiled a special Popular Mechanics paint scheme at the starting line and then promptly tried to burn it to the ground as his Werner Enterprises rail blew-up a few hundred feet into his run and stayed on fire all the way down the race track. Even with obvious trouble in the engine compartment, Millican posted a 4.888 at 245.14 mph and got his car stopped safely without the aid of his parachutes, which burned off.

Millican, Dave Grubnic, John Smith, and David Baca are part of the 10-man list of drivers who have yet to qualify for this event.

Robert Hight

Hight has early dibs on his seventh Funny Car pole of the season after setting a track record elapsed time of 4.747 at 321.65 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang. Rookie Hight, the son-in-law of John Force, has led the POWERade points after the last five events.

"Was that a track record?" Hight asked in the pressroom. "Wow, cool. I knew John had run a 4.74 last year but I couldn't remember what the third number was. I guess we slipped by him.

"To be honest I'm just really glad we're qualified. I didn't think I'd get caught up in the Indy hoopla but once you get here and the race starts it's impossible not to. Every fan you talk to asks about the points lead or being Rookie of the Year, or winning the race this weekend. You can't avoid how big this event is to everyone.

"This is the car that won the race and the Showdown last year and the crew is pretty much intact so I like our chances. I have to race John in Round 1 and he said he was going to show the rookie how to do it during the press conference today so we'll see what happens."

Del Worsham set a track speed mark of 328.14 mph, although his 4.798 placed his Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Chevrolet Monte Carlo seventh on the grid.

Tommy Johnson Jr., who could walk to his home in nearby Avon, made the second fastest run down the quarter-mile Friday with a 4.748 at 325.77 mph in his Skoal Chevrolet. Hight's teammates Force and Eric Medlen were third and fourth, respectively, with a 4.767 and a 4.775 in their Castrol Fords.

Currently second in the points, Oakley's Gary Scelzi is 13th with a 4.842, while Autolite XP Spark Plugs pro Bob Gilbertson set the bump at 4.979.

There are nine Funny Car pros, including Cruz Pedregon, on the provisional DNQ list with four time trails yet to be run.

Greg Anderson

At the start of the day, Anderson and Kurt Johnson held the IRP track records for speed and elapsed time, respectively. By the end of Round 1, those roles had been reversed as Anderson clobbered K.J.'s 2-year-old E.T. mark with a 6.714 at 205.13 mph to put his Summit Racing GTO on the pole, while Johnson cruised to a top speed of 205.35 mph in 6.728 seconds to park his ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt in second place overall.

"It's magic coming here," Anderson said. "It's so good to be No. 1 right out of the box, but we can't be over-confident. There's a lot of work left to be done. We missed the tune-up a little and definitely left something on the track so to still have the pole after a run like that is a good thing. We have room to improve.

"I'm really surprised that only three cars came here to test last week. It was just us, [Ron] Krisher, and Dave [Connolly]. I know the track is a little different than it is at a national event but the weather is basically the same. We always test here before this race. It's the biggest race of the year, why would you test somewhere else?"

V. Gaines is a bit of a surprise in third place after clocking a 6.737 at 203.92 mph in his Kendall Synthetic Blend Dodge Stratus R/T. "Tricky Rickie" Smith is fourth in the Dart X machine after a 6.739 at 204.54 mph.

Championship challenger Warren Johnson didn't have the best start possible. He's 12th overall with a 6.759 in his GM Performance Parts Pontiac GTO.

J&J Racing/Mopar racer Allen Johnson was quicker than 17 other drivers, posting a 16th-best 6.778 at 202.82 mph in his Stratus. Erica Enders, Dave Connolly, Mike Edwards, and Ron Krisher are the big names on the early DNQ list.

Andrew Hines

Hines used an IRP elapsed time record run of 7.085 seconds to earn provisional low qualifier honors after the first of five time trails in Pro Stock Motorcycle. The Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod rider benefited from running in the last pairing of the session as the sun dipped below the grandstands during the round. Hines now holds both ends of the track record as he set the top speed mark of 190.65 mph in '03.

"I think everyone pretty much knew what we were capable of running because we tested here last week," Hines said. "We ran a 7.10 and a 7.12 then so all we did was work on the 60-foot time and use basically that same tune-up and we had a 7.08. The 1.09 60-foot time was what we needed.

"I like that number. This is usually the best session of qualifying so it could hold. I really like the right lane and I think that's where I'd like to stay tomorrow during the Pro Stock Battle. If we can be consistent and I do my job, we should turn on the win lights."

Hines' number has a great chance of holding up. Red Line Oil rider Matt Smith made the switch to an S&S Cycle Buell V-Twin at this race and it immediately paid dividends as rode to second place overall with a 7.154 at 181.89 mph, giving Hines a whopping seven-hundredths of a second cushion. Smith is riding the bike Chip Ellis rode to the pole here in 2004.

Championship challenger Antron Brown ended up third with a 7.177 on his Army Suzuki. His teammate Angelle Sampey had her 7.144-second run thrown out after failing the fuel check. Craig Treble is fourth with a 7.184 on his Matco Tools/Lucas Oil Suzuki.

Joe DeSantis held off 10 other riders to end opening day on the bump with a 7.312 at 177.84 mph.

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