Veteran driver Tony Schumacher raced to the Top Fuel qualifying lead in his U.S. Army dragster at the 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis during Friday's opening qualifying session. Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders.
Schumacher ran low e.t. and top speed of the round with his 3.814-second pass at 324.67mph under the lights at Lucas Oil Raceway, which earned him the provisional No. 1 qualifying position.
“It was a lot of pressure tonight but the NHRA did a great job with the track, and we got it right and ended up No. 1,” Schumacher said. “We wanted to get down the track tonight, and we managed to earn the top spot. We tested here last week, and we ran great and it definitely helped up tonight.”
Schumacher is tied with “Big Daddy” Don Garlits as the winningest driver at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals with eight wins, and he hopes that starting the weekend off in the No. 1 position will lead to his ninth win at the Big Go.
“We've won this race eight times, but I've won one race in the last two years,” said Schumacher. “We're just getting back to the way we used to be with the car running good. I'd rather race here than anywhere else because of the amount of success we've had.
“We've had some luck at other tracks, but this place has been so special from 1996 when I ran my first race as a kid who'd never driven a Top Fuel car in his life before and went all the way to the final. We've had so many great years and great moments.”
If Schumacher holds on to the No. 1 position, it will be the fourth time he has been No. 1 qualifier at the Mac Tool U.S. Nationals, fourth of the season, and 70th of his career.
Beckman earned the qualifying lead during the opening round of qualifying Friday evening under the lights at Lucas Oil Raceway. Beckman recorded a 4.051-second pass at 302.62 mph for the provisional No. 1 qualifying position heading into Saturday.
“It was hugely important [to get a good first run] because now it doesn't matter what happens the rest of the weekend,” Beckman said. “Whether we get all the qualifying runs or not, we won't get bumped out. We are absolutely safe, and everybody can breathe a sigh of relief.”
If Beckman maintains the No. 1 position through qualifying on Saturday and Sunday, it will be the third No. 1 qualifying position of the season, the seventh of his career, and first at Indianapolis.
Enders continued her recent dominance in Pro Stock with her Chevy Cobalt when she went straight to the qualifying lead Friday afternoon thanks to her 6.624-second pass at 208.84mph.
“I really feel very honored to be here, to be able to carry the momentum that we've had in the last few races into this event,” Enders said. “Our goal and what we're really focused on is winning the championship. We've worked really hard all year, testing, and doing R&D stuff back in the engine shop. We wanted to be able to showcase what we've learned during the entire year right before the Countdown and then the last six races of the schedule.”
The most successful woman in Pro Stock history is coming off her third win of the season, and if she holds onto the No. 1 qualifying position, it will be the second No. 1 of the season and fifth of her career.
Two-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Hines continued the Harley-Davidson dominance when he raced his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod to the qualifying lead with his 6.928-second pass at 194.21mph.
“We want to keep our streak going here,” Hines said. “I've won four times here in the [former] Ringers Gloves Battle, so I know the way to the winner's circle. I just need to get there on Monday. It does add some pressure to know we've won every race this year, but we just want to keep it up.”
Qualifying for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event continues Saturday at 2:30 and 6 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m and 2:30 p.m. Eliminations are set for Monday at 11 a.m.