Tony Schumacher leads NHRA winners in Dallas
Tony Schumacher raced to the Top Fuel victory Sunday at the O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex. Matt Hagan, Greg Anderson and LE Tonglet also were winners in their respective categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoff event at the famed all-concrete dragstrip that sits just south of Dallas.
Schumacher scored his fifth win of the season and first in the playoffs by outrunning Shawn Langdon in the final round. Schumacher posted a performance of 3.838 seconds at 320.43 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to hold off Langdon's Lucas Oil/Speedco dragster, which trailed with a 3.908 at 298.67 in his second-career final.
With the victory, Schumacher took advantage of a second-round loss by rival Larry Dixon and now trails the series leader by 94 points with three playoff races remaining in the season. Cory McClenathan, who lost to Schumacher in the semis, is second overall in the point standings, 69 behind Dixon.
“When Dixon goes out [like he did today], you absolutely have to rise to the occasion and win and put some pressure back on him,” said Schumacher of his fifth Texas Motorplex victory and 66th win of his career. “I wish we could have done this a race or two earlier, but we didn't and Dallas is a great place to start. It's the site of my first career Top Fuel win. We're only down  points with three races to go. I've been down a lot further than that. What NHRA and Full Throttle did was to make it this way, make it last all the way to the end. I'm in a happy place right now. Not where I want to be yet, but a lot better place than I was at 9 a.m. this morning."
Hagan made a major move in the playoffs by earning his third Funny Car win of the season. The Virginia cattle rancher powered his DieHard Dodge Charger to a 4.155 at 294.63 to beat series leader John Force, whose Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang lost traction near mid-track and finished in 4.491 at 203.74.
Hagan, who qualified 14th, took the long road to the victory by knocking off early round foes Jeff Arend, Cruz Pedregon and Ashley Force Hood to advance to the final. With the win Hagan moves into second place and trails Force by 25 points.
"I left the line and never saw [Force in the final]," Hagan said, "but I was listening for him and looking over. I about hit the wall because I jumped up out of the [roof hatch] while it was still moving because it was overwhelmingly exciting. Coming in here [qualified] 14th and having to do a pedal job just to get into the show -- it's great to get the win. We definitely stepped up and did what we had to do, because coming in 14th you have to wonder how long your day is going to be, but we had confidence in [crew chief] Tommy DeLago tuning the car.”
Anderson overcame a near-perfect reaction time (.001) from Mike Edwards to claim his second consecutive playoff victory in Pro Stock. Anderson pushed his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP to a performance of 6.585 at 209.39 to drive around Edwards' Penhall/Interstate Batteries GXP at the finish line.
“I had a big weekend last weekend and got myself back in the Countdown,” Anderson said. “Every race you go to is sudden death out here. If you have a really bad race you can knock yourself completely out of it. You just can't make a mistake, and my team has been flawless for two races now and I'm so proud of them.”
With the win three-time world champ Anderson -- who beat Ronnie Humphrey, top qualifier Allen Johnson and rookie Shane Gray in early rounds -- cuts Edwards' series lead to 16 points.
“We've got a serious chance at getting the championship back and I really had doubts a few races back,” said the three-time world champ, who hasn't won the title since 2005. “The guys are giving me a race car every race that I can win with now. We're still not in the lead after back-to-back wins and that just goes to show you how tough this class is and how tough Mike Edwards is. We're going to have to find a way to take that trophy from him; he's not going to give it up. He's the champion for a reason. He's a great racer, he's got a great team, he's got a great hot rod, and he just doesn't make many mistakes. The good news is we're kind of peaking at the right time. We're a threat to win every race now and we're threat to win the championship.”
Rookie Tonglet continued his hot streak in Pro Stock Motorcycle, winning his third consecutive playoff race over Andrew Hines. Hines fouled with a red-light start on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson and gave NitroFish Gear Suzuki rider Tonglet the automatic win.
Tonglet, who covered the distance in 6.972 at 187.94, cut Hines' series lead to 44 points with the victory.
"For him to go up there and red-light, you know that he had to be thinking about the pressure," said Tonglet, who defeated Angie Smith, Karen Stoffer and Eddie Krawiec in the first three rounds. "It's just unreal. When I saw the red-light and knew I was the winner even before I reached the finish line was really great. I try not to think too much about the pressure, but it's there. We were just happy to be in the semis, and the win just made everything all that much better."
The fourth of six playoff events in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship will be held Oct. 7-10 with the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.