Courtesy: Rob Geiger, www.NHRA.com


Three-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher posted a stunning 4.445-second pass at 333.08 mph to close the opening day of qualifying for the sixth annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals in style Friday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Although he's 89 points out of the Top Fuel points lead with just two race days left, Schumacher's track-record run proved he won't go down without a fight.

Fellow title contender Robert Hight led a one-two-three Team Force sweep of the provisional Funny Car ladder with a 4.687. Jason Line inched ever closer to his first Pro Stock championship with a class-leading 6.720, while two-time and defending Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Andrew Hines used a 7.102 to front the two-wheeled category.

Schumacher's impressive run in the U.S. Army dragster, the seventh quickest ever, put him a full eight-tenths of a second ahead of the field, a titanic gap in professional drag racing.

"That run was perfect," Schumacher said. "Of course, we're kind of used to Alan (Johnson, crew chief) making perfect tuning calls. Hey, we need these points. We need a world record. That was nine-thousandths short of one right there but Alan said that was all there was to get. We'll definitely go for it in Pomona but first things first: We need to win this race.

"We're up for tomorrow. We want to win the Budweiser Shootout and get that $100,000. But, not to take anything away from that, we need to win on Sunday. We have no room for error and even than we need help. We have to win this race."

Hillary Will did well to place her KB Racing dragster in second place with a 4.527 at 327.11 mph. She was quick to thank team owners and Las Vegas residents Ken and Judy Black in her top-end interview.

The two men ahead of Schumacher in the POWERade points, Doug Kalitta and Brandon Bernstein, are third and fourth here, respectively. Kalitta posted a 4.530 at 327.74 mph in his Von Dutch/Mac Tools rail, while Bernstein ran a 4.544 at 331.61 mph in the Bud car.

Clay Millican set the Day 1 bump with a 4.689 at 311.05 mph in his Werner Enterprises dragster.

Team Force has done it again in Funny Car, qualifying its three Ford Mustangs 1-2-3 on the provisional ladder. Hight has the best of the bunch as his Auto Club of Southern California ride set both ends of The Strip's class records when he posted a supercharger-lifting 4.687 at 330.46 mph.

"When the car runs 330 mph the motor is definitely happy," Hight said. "I drove it around a little down there but I didn't want to lift because I knew it was running strong. I think I drove it past the finish line and that's why it banged the banged the blower.

"We're in a tight points race right now with our Auto Club Ford and to be running like this at this point in the season makes it exciting, that's for sure. We really want that three-car race for the championship in Pomona so if I can gain some ground on John [Force] and Ron [Capps] here I'll be real happy."

Force was the second quickest, completing a 4.711-second pass in his Castrol GTX hot rod. Medlen followed one thousandths of a second behind in his Syntec car.

Capps, who is between Force and Hight in the points race, did not qualify his Brut Revolution Dodge Charger R/T during Friday's two sessions, smoking his tires in both rounds. The current bump is Cruz Pedregon's 5.087.

Line appears determined to clinch the championship in team owner Ken Black's hometown, running a double-track-record 6.720 at 204.94 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO. Line can clinch his first Pro Stock world championship if he survives one round further than teammate Greg Anderson at this race. Anderson missed the first session when he was timed out at the Tree. He is now ninth with a 6.759.

"We're off to a good start," Line said. "Qualifying on the pole is always the first goal for this team, whether it's Greg or me, so we've taken a step in that direction.

"I'm trying not to think about [the championship] but everyone keeps reminding me. I'm not superstitious but you sure don't want to get this close and then not win it. Hopefully I can go four rounds Sunday and end it. That way we can enjoy Pomona and just forget about stressing out."

Dave Connolly looked sharp in earning the No. 2 spot with a 6.727 at 204.20 mph in the Torco Race Fuels Chevy Cobalt. Allen Johnson has the quickest Dodge in the field with a third-best 6.742 at 203.89 mph in his Mopar Dodge Stratus R/T.

Red-hot Richie Stevens struggled Friday and ended the day in the 16th slot after a 6.792 at 202.88 mph in his Mopar. Erica Enders, Jeg Coughlin, and Warren Johnson all need to improve to make the field.

Hines is doing his best to chip away at Antron Brown's 27-point lead in the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings by qualifying No. 1 Friday. Hines posted a 7.102 at 187.13 mph on his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod in the first session, while Brown struggled to qualify 14th overall with a 7.187 on his U.S. Army Suzuki.

"It seems like we're going in the right direction due to my team and all the work they have put in trying to find as much horsepower as they can," Hines said. "Luckily we're in the running for a third championship and every point is important.

"It's astonishing the way the bike ran because the bike felt like a bucking bronco. It tried to throw me past the handlebars about a dozen times. The good thing is that we have some good data and two more qualifying passes to make before Sunday."

A trio of Suzukis follow Hines at the top of the ladder with Craig Treble (7.117), Shawn Gann (7.120), and Angelle Sampey (7.128) rounding out the top four. Sampey entered the race 64 points back of her teammate Brown's lead in the standings.

Scott Lewis holds the bump with a 7.201, better than six other riders.

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