Courtesy: Anthony Vestal,  NHRA Communications


Tony Schumacher raced to his third Top Fuel victory of the season Sunday at the NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Phil Burkart and Greg Anderson also were winners at the $1.8 million race, the fourth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Schumacher stretched his POWERade Series points lead over his rivals by outrunning two-time defending champ Larry Dixon in the final round. Schumacher clocked a 4.525 second run at 331.53 mph in the U.S. Army dragster for his 14th career win, while Dixon's Miller Lite dragster trailed with a 4.571 at 323.97.

With talented crew chief Alan Johnson tuning his machine, the determined Schumacher, who defeated Scott Weis, Scott Kalitta and Doug Herbert in the first three rounds, is in hot pursuit of a second NHRA Top Fuel championship crown.

"This is a lot of fun, but [Dixon] has the No. 1 on his car right now, and it's there for a reason ¿ those guys kicked butt last year," said Schumacher, who leads Brandon Bernstein by 110. "We were chasing them and making mistakes. Now we've kind of leap-frogged them a little bit and maybe the roles are reversed, but they're still the champs. Those guys are stout and I'm sure today has motivated them. They're not going away and we'll duke it out all year. As I've said many times before, Dixon is a great driver. The fans are going to get every nickel's worth watching how things unfold the rest of the season. We're going to have a lot more close races and exciting finishes before we're done."

Burkart earned his second career victory in Funny Car, defeating Whit Bazemore in the final round. Burkart, who last won at Columbus, Ohio in 1999, powered his Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird to a 5.029 at 264.03 while Bazemore's Matco Tools Dodge Stratus R/T had an engine explosion past mid-track and limped to a finish of 5.452 at 189.50.

Burkart defeated Tim Wilkerson, Gary Scelzi and John Force before knocking off Bazemore in the final.

"To be able to win three of the first four races is just awesome for this Checker Schuck's Kragen team and Worsham Racing," said Burkart, who watched teammate Del Worsham win back-to-back races earlier in the season at Phoenix and Gainesville, Fla. "Today we just raced our hearts out and it feels great to win here in Vegas. It seems that I race better when I am coming from the bottom half of the field (12th). I guess we just dig down a little deeper when we are the underdogs."

Worsham, who lost in the first round, stayed in the points lead, 71 ahead of Force.

Anderson continued his domination in Pro Stock, scoring his third win of the season and 19th of his career. He raced to a 6.849 at 201.31 in his Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am to defeat Kurt Johnson's ACDelco Chevy Cavalier, which clocked a 6.908 at 200.08.

Anderson, who has now won three in a row at The Strip, increased his points lead to 92 over runner-up Johnson.

"Just to be mentioned in the same sentence with some of the guys that have dominated this class over the years like Bob Glidden, Lee Shepherd and Warren Johnson is just unreal for me to believe," Anderson said. "Our car worked better this weekend than it ever has before. It really loves this track. This is just a great place for us to win here in front of my team owner (Ken Black). It's certainly great for job security."

The next NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event is the 17th annual O'Reilly Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil, April 15-18 at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Texas.