Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals
By Rob Geiger, NHRA.com
Teammates Gary Scelzi and Tony Schumacher were the stars of Friday qualifying at Maple Grove Raceway as the 21st annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals roared to life in Pennsylvania's Dutch Country. Scelzi brought the capacity crowd to it's feet with a big 4.76-second pass at 322 mph to lead the Funny Car fray, while Top Fuel champ Schumacher continued his love affair with the Grove with a near-perfect 4.47 at 323 mph to close out the night. In Pro Stock, second-generation driver Kurt Johnson continued to stalk points leader Greg Anderson with a class-leading 6.73, a full hundredth of a second ahead of Anderson's second-best attempt. Chip Ellis has the quickest Pro Stock Motorcycle after riding his Buell through a steady 7.10 in the heat of the day.
Teammates Gary Scelzi and Tony Schumacher were the stars of Friday qualifying at Maple Grove Raceway as the 21st annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals roared to life in Pennsylvania's Dutch Country. Scelzi brought the capacity crowd to it's feet with a big 4.76-second pass at 322 mph to lead the Funny Car fray, while Top Fuel champ Schumacher continued his love affair with the Grove with a near-perfect 4.47 at 323 mph to close out the night.
In Pro Stock, second-generation driver Kurt Johnson continued to stalk points leader Greg Anderson with a class-leading 6.73, a full hundredth of a second ahead of Anderson's second-best attempt. Chip Ellis has the quickest Pro Stock Motorcycle after riding his Buell through a steady 7.10 in the heat of the day.
"It's been a wild couple of days," said Schumacher, who became a father for the third time Thursday morning. "The baby came at 2:40 a.m., we had some time with her, then I was able to sleep a few hours before flying here. It's been crazy. For the first time in 10 years I forgot to put my earplugs in that time. It's loud in there.
"I'm so used to hearing what the motor sounds like as I go down the track. That time all I could do is see what was happening. It picked the tires up nice and carried them down there. It was a good run. I shut it off early because I don't like running at night. Maybe it's my eyes but I have trouble seeing."
Larry Dixon drove the closest to Schumacher when he coaxed a 4.538 at 323.43 mph out of his Miller Lite/Ameriquest dragster. Snap-on Tools racer Doug Herbert stayed on the qualifying tear he started in Indy with a third-best 4.541 at 318.92 mph. Morgan Lucas followed in fourth with a 4.542 at in the Lucas Oil/Keystone rail.
Newcomer Doug Foley is in the top 16 in the No. 14 slot after a 4.704 in the Torco Gear dragster. John Smith is on the bump with a 6.093. Scott Weis and Mitch King are on the outside looking in at the mid-point of qualifying.
“Everyone's been kidding me that I'm the 'Point leader,' as in singular point," Scelzi said. "I didn't think my lead would even lat today because [second-place Robert] Hight has been qualifying so well this year I figured he'd pass us up already. It sure is good to see my name on top instead.
"Being No. 1 means a lot for qualifying points but it doesn't mean a lot on Sunday. We saw [John] Force lose a few races ago when he was No. 1. I've lost to Terry Haddock and some of the lesser funded teams. You have to be ready to win the race every single round. They're all so important now.
'It's important not to let anything stupid happen now. We can't have another Indy. We're not gonna get lucky like that again where all the big runners fall out early. The best thing is that my confidence in the car is back. I might have been off in Indy but the car wasn't."
Tommy Johnson Jr. is second in his Skoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo with a 4.794 at 324.59 mph. Brothers Frank and Tony Pedregon are third and fourth, respectively. Coming off a No. 3-qualifying effort in Indy, Frank posted a 4.800 here in his Toyo Tires Dodge. Tony is just a tick behind with a 4.801 in his Q Racing Monte Carlo.
Hight may be second in the points to Scelzi but he's ninth on the sheet here after a best of 4.836 in the Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang.
The man Hight replaced at John Force Racing, Gary Densham, is 16th in the Racebricks Chevrolet with a best of 4.929 at 303.30 mph.
Ron Capps leads the list of four racers who haven't made the field. The Brut Racing driver was livid and highly-animated while talking to officials after being shut off at the starting line in Round 2 when liquid was seen on the racetrack after his burnout.
"Greg's been on a roll and we've been on a roll, it's going to be a close finish," Johnson said. "What we need to do is just keep on racing the way we know how and hope that they go flat a little bit.
"Probably what happened to us in Indy was we got too focused on hitting a home run and gaining a bunch of ground on them all at once. It ended up causing us to stumble and I lost in the second round. I can't worry about November right now. I need to worry about Saturday morning."
Warren Johnson overcame a slow start and moved from out of the field to third place with a Friday-evening pass of 6.750 at 203.80 mph in his GM Performance Parts Pontiac GTO. Larry Morgan has the quickest Dodge on the property after placing his zMax Micro Lubricants Stratus R/T in the No. 4 slot.
Dave Northrop piloted Kenny Koretsky's back-up Nitro Fish Wear Dodge to the Day 1 bump with a 6.792 at 202.64 mph. Thirteen others will try to displace him Saturday, including Greg Stanfield, Mike Edwards, Bruce Allen, Mark "Cowboy" Pawuk, and Koretsky.
"I was figuring we'd pick up in Round 2 but I had my bike leaned over so far I went left," Ellis said. "I thought I was in NASCAR instead of NHRA drag racing I guess. The bike's been very good from the first pass. It's like all these S&S Buells. They just go real well with the Kosman chassis and they run great right out of the box.
"Being No. 1 just means you get a few extra points. We've seen time and again this year that anyone in the field can win. Being No. 1 Friday night is good because at least you know you're probably gonna stay in there so you can work on other stuff. Otherwise, it don't mean much to me. I want to win."
Points leader Andrew Hines kept the No. 1 spot in his sights as he rode his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod through a second-best 7.113 at 189.18 mph. Ellis' new teammate Matt Smith is third with a 7.121 at 186.54 mph on his Red Line Oil/Torco Buell while Antron Brown has the quickest Suzuki after posting a fourth-place 7.146 at 187.55 mph on his U.S. Army rig.
Veteran Mike Berry switched to Pete Briggs’ Lake Mortgage Kawasaki this weekend and placed his new bike the highest on the ladder a Kawasaki has been all year with an eighth-best 7.213.
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