Tony Schumacher raced to the qualifying lead in dramatic fashion Friday at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries. Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) were also qualifying leaders at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona during the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opener.
Schumacher drove his U.S. Army dragster to the provisional No. 1 spot with a 3.758-second run at 328.14 mph to lead the Top Fuel class. If the performance holds through two more rounds of qualifying, it will be his 72nd No. 1 of his career. During his run, Schumacher's parachutes failed to deploy properly, and his 8,000-horsepower machine came to a stop in the sand trap at the end of the track (ABOVE). He was not injured.
“It was a great run,” Schumacher said. “From half-track to the finish line, it was extremely fast. It was just a dynamite run. The parachute came out, and it dropped for whatever reason. It could be a million different things that was the problem. Every time I would start to bounce, I'm on and off the brakes because you've got to settle it down. I flipped the second parachute out, and I don't think it opened quick enough.”
Also in Top Fuel, Brandon Bernstein moved to second with his Thursday performance of 3.761 at 325.22, and 2012 world champion Antron Brown is third with a 3.768 at 328.14 in his Matco Tools dragster.
Reigning Funny Car champion Beckman powered his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger to the qualifying lead with a performance of 4.045 at 316.67.
“We are halfway through qualifying,” said Beckman. “We're not even close to declaring who's going to take the No. 1 position. It was gratifying because we struggled on the first run, and it was gratifying because that first run and the 19 test runs we made in the off-season didn't really go the way we had hoped they would. We thought we had a pretty good hot rod at the end of last year.”
Gary Densham moved to second with his Thursday run of 4.053 at 307.09, and 2012 rookie of the year Courtney Force is in third place with a 4.071 at 311.49 in her Traxxas Ford Mustang.
In Pro Stock, Edwards knocked off V. Gaines to secure the qualifying lead with a 6.528 pass at 212.39 mph in his Interstate Batteries/I am Second Pontiac GXP.
“I'm very excited,” Edwards said. “We came here with a brand-new car and got three new members on our team, and we came here just hoping to qualify. After two days, to do this, we're ecstatic. I've been coming here for 20 years, and I don't think I've ever made a run like that in that right-hand lane. It's had its hold on me for a long time, but it's very gratifying to come out here and run like that.”
Gaines was second in Pro Stock with a 6.538 at 211.49 in his Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger, followed by Erica Enders-Stevens, who posted a 6.539 at 212.23 in her GK Racing Chevy Cobalt.
Qualifying continues Saturday at noon and 2 p.m. Eliminations are scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m.