Tony Schumacher raced to the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel Saturday at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals and will try to end one of the longest winless droughts of his career on Sunday. Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock, LEFT) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their respective categories into tomorrow's 11 a.m. eliminations as the No. 1 qualifiers at the second of six events in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's playoffs.
Schumacher claimed his sixth No. 1 of the season and 67th of his career by powering to a 3.863 second run at 319.0 mph in his U.S. Army dragster. The seven-time Top Fuel world champ, who has five wins at the famed all-concrete drag strip including the last two seasons, will try to earn his first victory of the year when he meets Scott Palmer in the first round of eliminations.
“I have to win because I've always said I don't what to have more No. 1s than wins,” said Schumacher, who also has 67 career victories, his last coming last October in Las Vegas. “But really, this is awesome. We've got a great race car. I won my first race here in '99 and I'd been in eight finals before that, and I almost feel like that again. But it is what is it is. We were fourth [quickest] that last session, and we were way off. It had so much more in it, so I'm comfortable. We've got to beat Scott Palmer first, then see what happens. I'd love to have the trophy.”
Schumacher has posted six runner-up finishes this season, including a stretch of four in a row from Denver to Brainerd. He hasn't been shut out of the win column for an entire season since 2001, when he finished eighth in points and had only one runner-up. Since then he's averaged seven victories per season.
“We can't try any harder,” Schumacher said. “We've gotten beat in some crazy ways this season, but I think you win championships by recognizing that those things are going to happen. We've won championships just about every way you can with the exception of not winning a race, and I don't want to try that. We have the best car this weekend, and we didn't only do it last night, we did it today, so we know how to go down a hot racetrack.”
Del Worsham's leading run from Friday of 3.869 at 319.07 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster fell to second and Rod Fuller improved to third with a 3.880 at 319.52 in his Yas Marina/C&J Energy Services dragster. Series leader Antron Brown, who has won four of the last five races, will start 11th in his Matco Tools dragster.
Two-time Funny Car world champ Pedregon earned his fifth No. 1 of the season and 44th of his career as no one was able to improve on his Friday performance of 4.086 at 307.86 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Solara. Pedregon's car was among the top five quickest in both sessions on Saturday.
“I'm just so happy right now,” said Pedregon, who has earned two victories in six finals at the Motorplex in his career. “It one thing to make a great run, but it's another to come out and make good respectable runs, which is something we really haven't done this year. Hopefully, it will show well for us tomorrow. We've been good at making one or two good runs, but then we fizzle out during the race. We made good decisions and the track hung in there even with the heat. Texas Motorplex still has plenty of grip.”
Pedregon's last win here came in 1994, so he's eager to end the drought. With series leader Mike Neff (fifth) and No. 2 points-sitter Matt Hagan (12th) paired in the first round, Pedregon hopes he can improve on his fourth place points position with a good showing tomorrow.
“I remember coming here with the McDonald's car and later with Joe Gibbs, and we brought some good cars here, but this is probably one of the best cars I've ever had here, and we're going try like heck to close the deal,” Pedregon said. “There's a lot of competition, and there are some interesting first-round matchups with points implications that could be good for us, but we need to do our part, too.”
Johnny Gray and Jon Capps held on to the second and third spots in the lineup, while Alexis DeJoria failed to qualify in her debut event behind the wheel of the Patron Toyota.
In Pro Stock, Line earned his sixth No. 1 of the season, and fourth consecutive, with a track record performance of 6.553 at 211.20 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP.
“When we got here in the morning we thought we might have a chance [to go quicker], but it didn't happen,” said Line, who has never won at the Motorplex. “But it worked out good. We're happy about qualifying No. 1 four times in a row because I've never done that before. It was pretty cool, and we know we have a good car.”
Mike Edwards had the quickest car in both of today's sessions, but will start third based off his Friday best of 6.561 at 211.16. Series leader Greg Anderson, Line's teammate and a four-time winner at the Motorplex, will start second with a 6.559 at 210.67 in his Summit Pontiac.
“Mike Edwards ran better today than I thought he was going to run,” Line said. “He ran really well. For the first time in a while, we don't have the best car going into Sunday. We definitely need to work on it and try to go a little faster because Mike made a couple of really good runs today.”
Auto Club Road to the Future Award candidate Arana Jr. earned his fourth No. 1 qualifying position of the season in Pro Stock Motorcycle, setting a track record time of 6.828 with a speed of 195.42 on his Lucas Oil Buell.
“We found our tune-up and got back to where we needed to be,” Arana Jr. said. “The one thing we did different today was to leave [the starting line] at a higher rpm. The bike just came to us. The power has always been there, but we had been lost on the starting line. But we got that straightened out, and now, as you guys can see, we're back on the pole.
Andrew Hines dropped to second with his Friday run of 6.850 at 196.62 on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley Davidson and Hector Arana Sr. was third on his Lucas Oil Buell with a 6.856 at 195.76. Series leader Eddie Krawiec will start sixth on his Harley-Davidson.
Two Countdown to the Championship playoff contenders – Morgan Lucas in Top Fuel and Shane Gray in Pro Stock – failed to qualify for Sunday's eliminations.