Dixon passes Schumacher in Pomona qualifying showdown
Larry Dixon's pace-setting 3.801-second pass at a track record 318.99 mph on the second day of qualifying at the 45th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals on Friday earned him three bonus points and moved him into first place in the dramatic Top Fuel race.
Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team entered the day with a two-point lead, but he lost traction on his second qualifying run, opening the door for Dixon and the Al-Anabi team that will now enter Saturday's final day of qualifying with a one-point lead over Schumacher.
"If we just wanted to call it a weekend and everyone goes home, that's fine by me," said Dixon, who finds himself in first place for the first time all season. "We'll just see if we can hang on to the points lead now."
The other provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 24th and final race in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season were John Force (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle). The Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona is the sixth and final race in NHRA's six-race playoff, the Countdown to 1.
Dixon entered the final race of the season trailing Schumacher by a single point and in the first round of qualifying he fell behind by two points (Schumacher and Dixon were 1-2 on Thursday) before rebounding to move around Schumacher Friday.
"As a driver, you dream of winning a championship and we have a chance to do that this weekend," Dixon said.
For Force (4.060 at 307.72), the 14-time NHRA champion who's now 60 years old, it would be his first No. 1 in more than three years, dating back to the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in 2006 and it would be his 132nd career No. 1, second all-time in NHRA history behind Pro Stocker Warren Johnson (138).
"Everyone's worked on (this car), the whole braintrust ... love being here, just wish old John Force could give you a better car, but we're sure trying," said Force, longtime driver of the Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang.
In Pro Stock, points-leader Edwards maintained his place on top of the qualifying ladder in his A.R.T./Young Life Pontiac with an improved 6.575 at 210.31 mph.
"I've been doing this almost as long as you've been driving. This is my dream. I've been dreaming of doing this and now it's fulfilled," Edwards said.
If Edwards maintains the No. 1 position, it would be his 16th and that would match the all-time single-season high in NHRA history, previously set by Greg Anderson in 2004.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, no one bettered Stoffer's 6.982-second pass at 191.70 mph aboard her GEICO Powersports Suzuki from Thursday.
Qualifying resumes Saturday with Rounds 3 and 4 before the 16-car fields are set for Sunday's final eliminations.