Dramatic Saturday sets up championship Sunday at NHRA Finals

Dramatic Saturday sets up championship Sunday at NHRA Finals

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Tony Schumacher, Ashley Force Hood, Mike Edwards, and Hector Arana locked up the top qualifying spots on a dramatic and championship-crowning Saturday at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.

Half of the Full Throttle championship battle drama was concluded with the close of qualifying as Funny Car racer Robert Hight and Pro Stock veteran Mike Edwards had gained enough points even prior to Sunday’s final eliminations to lock out all pursuers. The focus on Sunday now turns to the remaining two classes, Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle, where the battle rages on. In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon are separated by just two points in a war that surely will be decided solely based on who goes the most rounds on race day with Cory McClenathan still maintaining an outside shot. The fight in Pro Stock Motorcycle is a little more one-sided as points leader Hector Arana needs only to win one round Sunday to become the third first-time NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series champion crowned this season.

Tony Schumacher

Schumacher and Dixon brought an oft-delayed day to a stunning conclusion under the lights at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona when Schumacher took away Dixon’s low qualifying berth and his two-point point lead with a wild 3.772, the second quickest pass in NHRA history behind his own 3.771 from last year’s Richmond, race. Schumacher’s speed, 320.58 mph, was the second fastest in history, behind the 321.58 Dixon recorded earlier in the day to reset the national speed record. Although just two points separate them, both also have backups for new national records that would earn 20 bonus points and could complicate the situation.

"We’ve only had one other No. 1 this year and I think Larry has had nine, but if I had to pick one this was so monumental and so important at that exact time," said Schumacher, "but neither of us wants to win it by the other guy going out. It would be great to win, but not the gratifying moments we’ve experienced in the past from winning the race. I think that both is us plan and anticipate on digging deep and meeting in the final to crown a world champion. This is the ultimate dream for us to be in this position. We’re both going to have to get in the car and cowboy up."

Addressing the possibility of an all-or-nothing final, Dixon commented, "There are 14 other guys out there racing for trophies and cash, and I wouldn’t take anyone for granted because neither of us has won in a couple of races. There are good cars out there and a tight field. And drivers are chopping Trees. A perfect scenario for me is that I still have a chance to win the championship. Neither of us is looking past first round, but tomorrow when they pull the mag wires and light ‘em up, it’s game on."

Schumacher owns the national e.t. record with that 3.771-second pass and obviously has a backup to better it, but Dixon’s second-place 3.801 also could potentially be used as a backup towards breaking Schumacher’s record — he could run anywhere between 3.770 and 3.762 to get what could be 20 very important points. Schumacher will face No. 16 qualifier Mike Strasburg, while Dixon will take on Del Cox Jr.

Spencer Massey did not to hurt his rookie of the year bid by qualifying No. 3 with a 3.809, while Antron Brown finally overcame an event-long series of woes to take the No. 4 spot with a 3.813. Brandon Bernstein (3.832), Doug Kalitta (3.836), Cory McClenathan (3.838), and Morgan Lucas (3.844) round out the top eight. McClenathan also still has a shot at the title, but he’s 61 points behind Schumacher. Cory Mac could face Dixon in round two if they both win their first-round matches.

Strasburg held onto the final spot in the field with a 3.995 that was matched by Troy Buff, but Strasburg’s better speed, 300.66 to 274.50, earned him the final spot.

Rookie of the year contender Shawn Langdon suffered his first DNQ of the season after posting just a 4.016 best. He had lots of company as 24 Top Fuel dragster tried to make the 16-car field.

Ashley Force Hood

Force Hood may have seen her dreams of a first Funny Car championship end when her teammate, Hight, locked her out with a solid qualifying performance of his own, but she can have some solace in being the No. 1 qualifier at the season finale and leading a John Force Racing sweep of the first three spots after punching out a dramatic 4.059 on her final pass. Her father matched her e.t. a few seconds later, but her superior speed, 310.20 to 309.20, earned her the top spot, her sixth of the season.

“I told my team tonight, ‘This is so bittersweet, isn’t it? We just ran our best time and we’re No. 1 at the last race of the year and yet we missed [the championship],’ ” said Force Hood. “Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Robert could win the race and we could go out first round, but there’s a chance if we do well we could have missed it by that much. We’ve never been in this situation before where we’re right at the end fighting for it. We didn’t buckle under the pressure. We had a slump in Vegas, but it was all a mechanical thing. It wasn’t the guys messing up or me messing up. It just happened. It happened to us at the wrong time of the year. I told them, ‘We can do it. We can run with the big guys and stick with it right to the end.’

“Tonight, the conditions set up perfect. I’m sure a lot of people were going for it, trying to get a record or just see what they could push it to do. You can’t lose anything by trying. We were real excited that it actually went and that we got No. 1 and that, most important, we got our car back on track. It might have been a little too late for the championship, but at least we got it back, that’s all that matters. We’ll go into tomorrow and try to get in that winner’s circle.”

Hight also improved in the final session with a 4.067 from his Auto Club Mustang and slid a spot to third, but still had the day’s biggest prize. Behind the Force triumvirate are a pair of Don Schumacher Racing cars of rookie of the year contender Matt Hagan (4.073) and Ron Capps (4.076).

Tim Wilkerson’s Mustang is qualified sixth with a 4.080, and he’s followed on the grid by Jim Head and outgoing world champ Cruz Pedregon to round out the top eight. Bob Bode qualified No. 16 with a 4.172 to seal the field and will race Force Hood in round one.

Mike Edwards

Edwards put the finishing touches on his first Pro Stock championship, a title that was a mere formality entering the event but needed to be seen through to the conclusion of qualifying for it to become official, and did that in emphatic style with a 6.562-second blast on his final qualifying pass to improve on his already field-leading 6.575. Edwards was officially crowned the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Pro Stock world champ in a ceremony after the conclusion of Pro Stock qualifying.

"We went into 2010 test mode for the run this morning," Edwards said of his first-pass 6.592, which was "only" the third-quickest pass of the round. "but we came back tonight and made an extremely good run, a nice clean run. It’s just everyone doing their job and trying to get another Wally.

"Right now, though, I’m not really thinking about 2010. I’m thinking about tomorrow and doing my job. Lane choice will absolutely be a priority tomorrow. I prefer the left lane – I think most guys do – because that lane has always been better here. Hopefully we can make good runs and keep lane choice all day."

Ron Krisher, who utilizes Edwards power, surprised a lot of people by leaping up to the No. 2 spot with his Valvoline Chevy in the day’s first run with a session-leading 6.587. Jason Line improved in the final session to a 6.589 that pushed his Summit Pontiac to the No. 3 position just in front of his teammate, Greg Anderson, who’s qualified fourth at 6.604. The Dodges of Allen Johnson and Johnny Gray are qualified sixth and seventh, while Ronnie Humphrey, in the third Summit entry, rounds out the top eight.

Las Vegas winner Larry Morgan, in his last event in a Dodge, made the field on his last run, bumping Warren Johnson’s 6.639 with a 6.637. W.J. had a chance in the next pair to get back around Morgan but ran another 6.639. Morgan will open eliminations Sunday against low qualifier Edwards.

Hector Arana

Arana’s 6.918 in the opening session powered his Lucas Oil Buell to the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle field — and broke Chris Rivas’ 6.929 record set here last year. Arana then had the quickest run of the second session, a 6.943, to earn the maximum six bonus points on the day while his closest points pursuer, Eddie Krawiec, earned just one, extending Arana’s points lead to 62 entering race day. Although Arana and Krawiec are on the same side of the ladder, they couldn’t face one another until the semifinals, at which point the championship already would have been decided. Barring a national record, Arana would have to lose in the first round and Krawiec would have to win the race to steal the championship from Arana.

“To have a chance to win the championship, that’s what my dream, my focus point is,” said Arana. “It’s been a hell of a year, I know I’ve said it before. I’m just thankful for this opportunity to run for the Full Throttle championship, and I’m thankful to Full Throttle for sponsoring the NHRA and allowing us to do what we love. This is what we live for, what we breathe.

“I’m being surrounded by excellent people, not just Larry [Morgan] and Forrest [Lucas], but there’s a bunch of other people that has been there for me at all times. I’ve been the small guy, the underdog, but to win this race and win this championship, the biggest thing for me would be for Lucas Oil. They’re the ones that never gave up on me. I’ve struggled through many years, and he did sponsor other racers but he never abandoned me, he never let me go, he never said anything. He just kept pushing me. To win the championship for Forrest and Charlotte [Lucas] and everyone at the plant would be great.”

Shawn Gann has the second-quickest pass of the final session, a dazzling 6.951 aboard the RumBum Buell to take the No. 2 spot, while rookie of the year contender Doug Horne is third with a 6.956, also on a Buell. Krawiec, the reigning world champ, is fourth with a 6.959 recorded on his Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley Davidson in the final session.

In all, 11 riders qualified in the six-second zone. Bailey Whitaker’s career-best 7.047 wound up on the bubble, just shy of the record 7.033 bump established at the 2007 Englishtown event. His reward will be a first-round date Sunday with low qualifier Arana. Krawiec will race Steve Johnson.

Related stories:
Thursday: Schumacher, Hight, Edwards in championship form; Stoffer also leads
Friday: Dixon, Force jump to nitro leads; Edwards, Stoffer remain on point

Hight, Edwards clinch 2009 Funny Car, Pro Stock NHRA world championships

Hight, Edwards clinch 2009 Funny Car, Pro Stock NHRA world championships

Mike Edwards

Mike Edwards in Pro Stock and Robert Hight in Funny Car claimed their first NHRA Full Throttle world championships at the close of qualifying for the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.

The points Edwards earned for his No. 1 starting spot combined with 10 qualifying bonus points gives him a 150-point lead over second-place Greg Anderson, which is more than enough to mathematically eliminate Anderson from championship contention (only 100 more points are available at the event). Though it is his first Pro Stock title, this is Edwards’ second overall NHRA crown; he also won the Modified championship in 1981.

Edwards had the dominant car of the 2009 season, wheeling his ART/Young Life Pontiac GXP to five wins (Atlanta, Bristol, Seattle, Charlotte, and Richmond) in 10 final-round appearances. He was also the No. 1 qualifier 15 times during the season, including at the eight events leading into the season finale. He held both ends of the national record during the season (he is the current e.t. holder at 6.509, but his 212.03-mph speed mark was bettered by Anderson). Edwards also tied Anderson’s single-season record for No. 1 starts at 16.

"I can say words, but they just don’t describe the feeling I have," said an emotional Edwards. "It’s so exciting for me, and it’s been such a long time coming, but it’s all worth it. It’s Roger Stahl and a bunch of guys who got together a couple of years ago and decided to give it our best effort. We decided we’d try one time to do it the right way and started our shop, and we’ve all just kept pulling at the same end of the rope, and here we are, living our dream.

"We knew over the winter we were a lot better, but until you get out here and run against the Summit team, the Jegs team, the Johnsons, and everyone, you just don’t know. We started off well here and got on a roll. It wasn’t until the middle of the summer when we got four or five runners-ups and a couple of wins that I thought if we could keep our momentum going and keep fighting adversity that we knew we had a good chance. We made a lot of good decisions on the car and just tested and tested and tested. We did everything we could this year to make it happen, and it’s all paid off.

“There are a lot of people behind this, and they all give me great opportunities,” said Edwards. “It’s been a long time coming, but it sure feels good right now. [Our final run] just goes to show you what Terry Adams, Josh Robinson, Al Lindsay, and Nick and Paul and Carl and just the whole team can do — they’re fabulous. I feel like there were times I let them down, but they never gave up on me. They kept encouraging me and telling me that I could do it, and somehow I guess I believed them a time or two. I can’t forget my backbone, my friend, the one that keeps me in line and keeps encouraging me when I lose a little bit or get stressed out: my wife, Lisa. Thank you, Lisa, and thank you to my sister, Marilyn.”

Edwards is the 15th driver in NHRA history to win a Pro Stock championship. His previous best finish in Pro Stock was third, in 1996, when he also set his previous best mark for wins in a season at three. This is Edwards’ ninth top 10 finish.

Robert Hight

Minutes after Edwards accepted the Wally trophy emblematic of his title, Hight became the second of two first-time NHRA Professional champions crowned when he earned enough points in qualifying with his Auto Club Mustang to mathematically eliminate his closest points rival, teammate Ashley Force Hood, to claim the Funny Car championship, the 16th for John Force Racing.

For Hight, who moved from clutch specialist on Force’s Funny Car to the cockpit in 2005, it has been a relatively short ride to glory — a path that has included his being named the winner of the Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as 2005′s top rookie and second-place points finishes in 2006 and 2007 – but it has been a rocky ride this season.

The fifth-year pilot struggled through the season’s first two-thirds, winning just 12 rounds at the first 17 events and twice failing to qualify, and he needed a last-second near-miracle to qualify for the Countdown playoffs, which he got with a runner-up finish to Force Hood at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil.

"We started with the same team we had last year, and I was so excited, and that’s how John won so many championships. We started struggling, but I still think that’s what got us through it. We never doubted each other and worked through the hard times. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this but never really got emotional about it until that last run. We’ve all worked so hard and so long for it.

"Coming so close so many times before makes this really special, but it’s really all about this team. It’s a whole team behind this, starting with John Force, who put me with the best people. The best advice he gave me was to team up with [crew chief] Jimmy [Prock] and become his buddy, like he and [Austin] Coil and just live with him, and that’s what I’ve done. He’s like my brother. I can’t thank John enough for taking a chance on a guy who’d never driven anything but a Ford F-150 truck and for the sponsors like AAA for supporting John."

After Indy, Prock found the magic that had eluded him all season and turned up the wick on his Prock Rocket. They won back to back in Charlotte and Dallas to kick off the playoffs, then returned to the winner’s circle in Las Vegas with a performance that all but sealed the championship.

Hight, a son-in-law of Force (who has won 14 championships and was team owner for Tony Pedregon’s Funny Car title in 2003), is a former championship trapshooter and finally has zeroed in on another title target.
 

McNeal, Kadar, Crutcher, and Herrera crowned 2009 Summit national champions

McNeal, Kadar, Crutcher, and Herrera crowned 2009 Summit national champions

Sunday

POMONA — James McNeal (Super Pro), Tibor Kadar (Pro), Tracy Crutcher (Sportsman), and Augustine Herrera (Super Pro Motorcycle) won the three-round eliminators in their respective categories to score top honors at the 2009 NHRA Summit Racing Series National Championship, held in conjunction with the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.

Division 4’s McNeal made the tow from Paris, Texas, pay off when he turned on the win light against Division 5 runner Tom Williams in the Super Pro final. McNeal got off the starting line first, .015 to .044, and carried the advantage all the way through the quarter-mile, winning with a 7.703 (7.67 dial). Williams settled for runner-up honors with a 7.640 (7.52).

Kadar, the Division 7 titlist, added the Pro national title to an impressive resume that includes two national event wins in Stock. In the final, both Kadar and Division 1 champ Andy Anderson broke out in the final with Kadar’s 10.746 (10.76) getting the nod over Anderson’s 9.706 (9.73).

Crutcher added the Sportsman national championship to the one he earned in Division 3 when he bested Darrel Goheen, the Division 5 champ. Crutcher scored the title at the Tree when he jumped to a huge .011 to .102 lead. That allowed Crutcher to slow to a 12.226 (12.19) and win. Goheen ran closer to the dial with a 12.021 (12.00), but it wasn’t enough to move him around Crutcher.

Herrera, the Division 7 champion, defeated Division 3 ace Bruce Damewood to claim the Super Pro Motorcycle national championship. Herrera paired a .013 reaction with an on-the-dial 8.498 to claim the crown over Damewood, who cut a game .019 light and clocked an 8.960 (8.90). 


Preview

POMONA — The top Super Pro, Pro, Sportsman, and Super Pro Motorcycle racers from NHRA’s seven geographical divisions will journey to Auto Club Raceway at Pomona to vie for a national title in the NHRA Summit Racing Series National Championship. Summit Racing Series national champions will be decided in each of the four classes following three-round eliminators held during the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.

Event sponsor Summit Racing Equipment is an industry leader in the distribution of racing parts and equipment through catalogs and the Internet. The company also sponsors the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals, Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, and several Pro and Sportsman drag racers, including Pro Stock drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line.

This year, bracket racers competed for points and cash awards during qualifying events at NHRA’s 140 member tracks throughout North America. Each track’s top drivers then moved on to compete for individual and team honors at the NHRA Summit Racing Series Finals, which were held in each of NHRA’s seven divisions. Twenty-eight champions — seven each from Super Pro, Pro, Sportsman, and Super Pro Motorcycle — were determined and will compete for national titles in Pomona.

Each of the 2009 national champions will receive $5,000, an NHRA Gold Card, a champion’s trophy, and a jacket. All qualifiers who attend the Pomona event are guaranteed a minimum of $3,500.

Indexes for the classes are as follows: Super Pro (7.00-11.99 seconds), Pro (10.00-13.99), Sportsman (12.00-19.99), and Super Pro Motorcycle (7.50-15.99). Competitors in Super Pro and Super Pro Motorcycle are permitted to use delay boxes; those in the Pro class are limited to a transbrake, two-step ignition, and four-wheel line-loc. Competitors in Sportsman are not permitted to use any electronics and must employ mufflers. All racing is done on a five-tenths full Tree; the Compulink Cross Talk feature will be used in Super Pro and Super Pro Motorcycle.
 

NHRA Full Throttle Awards Ceremony available via the Web

NHRA Full Throttle Awards Ceremony available via the Web

NHRA is excited to announce that the NHRA Full Throttle Awards Ceremony will be available to viewers worldwide on the Internet at NHRA.com and the NHRA channel on YouTube beginning Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 3 p.m. ET/noon PT. It marks the first time the event will be available to NHRA fans via the Internet.

The NHRA Full Throttle Awards Ceremony will be available via webcast nearly in its entirety. The webcast will feature five to six 30-minute segments, for a total running time of up to three hours. The NHRA Full Throttle Awards Ceremony, showcasing the world champions in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle, will take place Monday, Nov. 16, at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles.

The webcast also will include the crowning of the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner, the winner of the Full Throttle Moment of the Year in each of the four Professional categories, and the acceptance speeches from the Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle world champions.

 

Dixon, Force jump to nitro leads; Edwards, Stoffer remain on point

Dixon, Force jump to nitro leads; Edwards, Stoffer remain on point

Info | Tickets | Schedule | Entries | Results
Team reports | Notebook | Photos | Video

Larry Dixon took over the qualifying lead and the provisional points lead in Top Fuel and John Force became the new front man in Funny Car, and they, Mike Edwards, and Karen Stoffer lead qualifying at the halfway point of the drama-filled Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.

The white-knuckle drama in Top Fuel continued as Dixon, who came into the event trailing Tony Schumacher by one point and lost another point Thursday when he qualified one spot behind the field-leading U.S. Army driver, vaulted right past him by scooping up three bonus points Friday for having the quickest pass of the day’s lone session while Schumacher earned none, giving Dixon the one-point lead heading into the final qualifying sessions of the season at the 24th and final race of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

Larry Dixon

Dixon’s 3.801 blast in the Alan Johnson/Al-Anabi dragster came alongside Schumacher, who smoked the tires early and watched Dixon’s maroon marauder roar to the No. 1 spot to cap a great session. Dixon already has nine pole positions this year and 40 in his great career. Dixon’s speed on the pass, 318.99 is a new track record; Spencer Massey originally broke Schumacher’s year-old 317.42-mph track speed mark with a 317.94-mph blast on a 3.809 ripper that finished second.

“Provisionally [I’m in the lead]; obviously, it could all flip tomorrow,” said Dixon. “We got two points yesterday and three today, and obviously, we just try to do as much as we can for the given day. Tomorrow, there’s six points on the table, so you want to try and get as much as you can and go into Sunday hopefully a round up as opposed to a round down.

“It’s exciting to come to the last race of the season and have a chance to win a championship. As a driver, unless you’ve wrapped it up with three to go, you definitely want a shot at it. I haven’t been in that position for a while, so I’m enjoying it. This is fun. If you’re not having fun now, you’re never going to have fun.”

Behind Massey’s Don Prudhomme-owned rail is Schumacher with his Thursday 3.832, a number matched by Brandon Bernstein, but Schumacher’s superior speed, 316.52 to 312.28, gives him the higher position. Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals champ Doug Kalitta is fifth with his Thursday 3.836, while championship contender Cory McClenathan sits sixth with a 3.838, also record Thursday.

Antron Brown recovered from a subpar 4.59 Thursday to run 3.853, the fourth-best pass of the session behind Dixon, Massey, and Bernstein, while the fifth-best run of the round was a pleasant surprise as Chris "the Golden Greek" Karamesines ran a career-best 3.891 that moved him into the No. 10 spot.

Twenty-four fuel dragsters filled the staging lanes today, including Europeans Urs Erbacher (Switzerland), Lex Joon (The Netherlands), Stig Neergaard (Denmark), and Thomas Nataas (Norway).

John Force

Force, who knows that one of his drivers — son-in-law Robert Hight or daughter Ashley Force Hood — will win the season championship, has his own agenda as he is trying to extend to 23 the number of consecutive seasons in which he has won at least one NHRA national event, and his stunning 4.060 Friday evening puts him in his best position to do so all year. Force hasn’t qualified No. 1 since the 2006 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, a span of 72 races, the longest drought of his career.

"It’s nice to come up and see you," Force told the media, "instead of following Robert or Ashley up here, which is what I usually do. We’re just trying to get back in the game. Castrol and Ford pay us good money and we just haven’t done our job. This is probably the second-worst season of my career. It’s just good to see something come out of this season for me. Being No. 1 qualifier means a lot, and I used to take them for granted.

"There’s a lot going on in our camps and where we’re going in the future with this economy, so I’m a little tired, but I’m excited. No complaints; I have a pretty good race car, and I’ll be in the show. Tomorrow is a new day and guys will run faster; I know Jimmy Prock [crew chief for Hight] will."

Hight, Thursday’s leader at 4.093 in his Auto Club Mustang, improved to a 4.069 to take the No. 2 spot and the two bonus points he earned over Force Hood now puts his lead at 110 points. Force Hood is qualified fourth at 4.098 with only Don Schumacher Racing pilot Ron Capps and his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge breaking up the John Force Racing stranglehold with a third-quickest 4.076.

Rookie of the year contender Matt Hagan is qualified fifth with a 4.107, and he’s followed on the sheets by the fourth JFR pilot, Mike Neff, who dropped from second to sixth while standing on his Thursday 4.137 pass.

Jeff Diehl is the surprise guy in the No. 12 position with a 4.192 ahead of regular qualifiers such as Del Worsham, Cruz Pedregon, Jeff Arend, and Jerry Toliver. Twenty Funny Cars are competing this weekend for 16 spots.

Mike Edwards

Wholesale changes were the order of the day in Pro Stock as by the time they ran late in the session, Thursday leaders Edwards and Greg Anderson had been bumped down to Nos. 8 and 12, respectively. Edwards climbed right back to the top with a stunning 6.575 from his ART/Young Life Pontiac, more than three-hundredths ahead of his closest rival.

"It’s hard to believe we’re that far ahead of everyone, but I don’t think it will be that way when qualifying ends," Edwards admitted. "There’s quite a difference between the lanes, and some cars didn’t run real good in the right lane today.

"The conditions were a little bit better because we got a second full day of racing on the track so it should be even better in the morning tomorrow. We run at about 11 o’clock, and I think I’ll have to run better than that 6.57 if I want to stay No. 1. I’m always ready for the season to be over, but we’re running so good I almost don’t want it to end."

If Edwards stays No. 1, he’ll tie Anderson’s class record of 16 No. 1 qualifying positions in a season, set in 2004.

Anderson ran 6.630 to improve on his Thursday 6.647 but still slipped to fourth behind Allen Johnson’s Dodge (6.611) and Rodger Brogdon’s Pontiac (6.621), who earned bonus points for the second- and third-quickest passes of the session.

Anderson’s Summit teammate Jason Line is right on his heels with a 6.630, while three drivers — Greg Stanfield, Ronnie Humphrey, and Jeg Coughlin — round out the top eight with matching 6.632s. Coughlin, who didn’t get down the track Thursday, opened the session by zipping from No. 22 to No. 1 with a 6.632 but eventually fell back to eighth.

Johnny Gray’s Dodge holds down the 12th and final transfer spot to Saturday’s qualifying with a 6.642. Among those outside the top 12 are Kurt Johnson, Las Vegas winner Larry Morgan, Warren Johnson, Ron Krisher, V. Gaines, and several others.

Karen Stoffer

Thursday Pro Stock Motorcycle leaders Stoffer and Andrew Hines remained 1-2 in the field, but they got a more serious challenge Friday as the list of six-second qualifiers doubled to six. Stoffer’s GEICO Suzuki still leads with a 6.982 and Hines’ Screamin’ Eagle Harley is still No. 2 at 6.986 though neither picked up any bonus points in the session as they ran respective passes of 7.03 and 7.46.

“The GEICO Powersports Suzuki was on a good run. I think if we had been in the other lane and had the same setup on it we would have bettered our 6.98,” said Stoffer. “For the Pro Stock Motorcycles, there happens to be a little bit of a difference in the lanes. The top end actually was pretty good; it was the first half of the track that we saw the difference in the track. But we’re happy with it, and we learned a lot about those lanes and the differences — at least for these two days there were some differences.
 
“Gary was able to come out here yesterday and hit the tune-up pretty darn close, and that put us into the first position. I think tomorrow the conditions are going to be a little bit better, and I think that now that we all have data on both lanes, I think we’re probably going to see even more of those Larry Cook amazing runs come out, and I don’t think the 6.98 is going to hold. I think we’re going to have to better ourselves. I definitely think there’s room for us to improve.”
 
Larry Cook was the surprise session leader with a 6.987 aboard the Guidera Racing/Mohegan Sun Buell with a 6.987 that ranks him third, while rookie of the year contender Doug Horne rebounded from a Thursday 7.42 to post a 6.989 for the fourth spot, also aboard a Buell. Reigning season champ Eddie Krawiec, trying desperately to catch points leader Hector Arana, got around his foe by one position with a 6.995 that slipped past Arana’s Thursday 6.997 and earned Krawiec one bonus point. Arana spun the tires to a disappointing 7.09 Friday.

Jim Underdahl holds down the all-important 12th position with a 7.075 that will carry over to Saturday. Outside the field and needing to make a top-16 pass Saturday are former world champ Matt Smith, Steve Johnson, and 10 others.

Related stories:
Thursday: Schumacher, Hight, Edwards in championship form; Stoffer also leads
 

U.S. Army to continue partnerships with Schumacher, Stewart-Haas

U.S. Army to continue partnerships with Schumacher, Stewart-Haas

Tony Schumacher

The U.S. Army Accessions Command has that the U.S. Army will continue its sponsorship of Tony Schumacher’s Top Fuel dragster in the NHRA and will return as a primary sponsor of Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Chevrolet Impala SS for 15 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2010.

“Tony Schumacher and Ryan Newman are not only outstanding drivers, they are also powerful and effective advocates for the great men and women of our Army.  Both drivers possess and demonstrate a passion for our Army Strong Soldiers and their families.  They and their teams share our Army values and demonstrate the mental, emotional and physical strength which are the hallmark of our Soldiers,” said Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, Commanding General U.S. Army Accessions Command.  “We are very excited about the opportunities our participation in the National Hot Rod Association and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series present us to tell our Soldiers’ stories and connect with Americans across the country.”

The 2010 season will mark the Army’s 10th with Don Schumacher Racing and the NHRA since its return to the sport in September 2000.  Tony Schumacher has won five consecutive championships while piloting the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster.  He enters the weekend as the points leader for the 2009 championship.  Should Schumacher capture the crown, it will be the Army’s 10th including four won in the mid-1970s as the sponsor of Don Prudhomme’s Funny Car.

“I am extremely proud and humbled to represent the U.S. Army and the brave men and women who make it possible for us and our families to live in freedom,” Schumacher commented.  “My team and I are motivated by the dedication, sacrifice, and service of our Soldiers and their families.  It is also an honor to team up with Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart to help tell young Americans about the wonderful opportunities the Army offers.”

The U.S. Army will serve as the primary sponsor on Schumacher’s Top Fuel dragster for all 23 NHRA national events and as an associate sponsor on all Don Schumacher Racing cars.  In addition, the Army will return as the Official Military Partner of the NHRA and presenting sponsor of the NHRA Youth and Education Services Program (Y.E.S.)