Schumacher, Force Hood, Krisher, Treble win in Houston
Tony Schumacher, Ashley Force Hood, Ron Krisher, and Craig Treble emerged the winners at the record-breaking 22nd annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park. The event is the fourth on the 24-race 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule.
Favorable weather conditions throughout the weekend led to a slew of career bests and a pair of national records in the Pro Stock classes.
Teammates Schumacher and Cory McClenathan met in a rematch of their 2005 final here, and this one again was resolved in Schumacher's favor, but it took a holeshot, his second straight in eliminations, to get the job done, 3.881, 314.75 to Cory Mac's quicker-but-later 3.880, 313.66. Schumacher's 57th career win moved him into second place in the points.
"Everyone knows we don’t have AJ [former championship-winning crew chief Alan Johnson] anymore, and people said we couldn't win without him, so we had to dig deep, and I love 'suck it up' moments – bottom of the ninth, bases loaded – and that's what we had all day."
McClenathan, who lost his tuner from last year, Green, to Schumacher, reached his 61st career final round by guiding his new Fram Tough Guard dragster, wrenched by Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler, to wins over Shawn Langdon, low qualifier Antron Brown (on a 3.90 to 3.88 holeshot), and upset-minded Joe Hartley, who was looking to duplicate his heroics at the 2007 edition of this event, where he was runner-up to J.R. Todd.
Force Hood, who scored her first win less than a year ago, at the 2008 version of the Atlanta event, earned her second with a strong 4.12, 306.19 to defeat Jack Beckman's 4.22, 303.43 to move to third place in the points.
"Our first win was against my dad [in the final], and we’ve had some people ask me, 'Do you think you dad gave it to you?' and it's heartbreaking because we know my dad would never give away any round-win, so to be able to race against another team's driver in the final and win it where no one can have any doubt, we're maybe a bit more cheerful than after that first win. It's been hanging over our head, and it feels good to get past that."
Third-year pilot Ford Hood powered her Dean Antonelli-tuned Castrol GTX Mustang to her sixth Funny Car final by taking out a trio of class veterans, including her father, John, in the second round. On either side of her dad's tire-smoking, blower-banging loss (which evened their career record against one another to 3-3), Force Hood beat Ron Capps and, in a rematch of last year's final, Del Worsham. Her semifinal 4.173 against Worsham was her first non tire-smoking run of eliminations and cost her lane choice against Beckman.
Beckman, whose most recent win in the Tommy DeLago-tuned Valvoline/MTS Charger came last year at the inaugural event in Charlotte, took out Force Hood's teammate, Robert Hight, in round one, then eked out a .005-second victory against Tim Wilkerson in round two. A solid 4.171 in the semifinals defeated former event champ Tony Pedregon to send Beckman to his 13th career Funny Car final with lane choice.
Krisher was dead late out of the box (.116 to .025) in the Pro Stock final, usually a fatal mistake against Jeg Coughlin, but something went amiss for the Jegs Cobalt as it slowed to a 7.05. Krisher collected the win, the eighth of his career, with a 6.587 at a ripping 211 mph to conclude a wild day of Pro Stock action.
"We have a good car, good power, and it's pretty exciting. I think between [engine builder] Mike [Edwards] and I, we are as powerful as anyone in this class right now. We could have won Phoenix too, but we lost the clutch in the third round. We've been capable of running with anyone anywhere."
Coughlin had won 56 Wallys before this event but only one of them had come at this event, way back in 2000, and Krisher made sure it stayed that way. Coughlin had struggled a bit in qualifying and ranked only sixth entering eliminations, but mastered the tricky track conditions to reach the final, the 70th of his Pro Stock career and 88th overall. Coughlin opened with a 6.61 and followed with a pair of 6.59s to trailer David Beckley, Steve Spiess, and Jim Yates. Spiess had pulled off one of the event's big upsets in round one when he beat Greg Anderson on a 6.59 to 6.55 holeshot on a run where Anderson set the national record at 211.99 (backed up by a 211.89 in qualifying) and just missed becoming the first factory hot rod pilot to exceed 212 mph.
That barrier fell two rounds later when Mike Edwards ripped off a 212.03 pass to break Anderson's record (211.76 backup in round two) but, like Anderson, did it in a losing cause. The two-time Houston winner (2002, '06) fell to Krisher's Valvoline Cobalt by a minuscule .0006-second (six ten-thousandths), 6.573 to 6.576, after gaining a slim .021 to .024 advantage at the Tree. Krisher, who earlier had beaten Allen Johnson and No. 1 qualifier Jason Line, came from behind to beat Coughlin for his eighth career Wally.
Campaigning a 10-year-old bike with a borrowed engine and funded out of his own pocket this season after finishing last season as a rider for Don Schumacher Racing, Treble nonetheless reached his 27th career final and his fourth at this event and scored for the second time here when he beat rookie rider Doug Horne, 6.915, 193.46 to 7.76, 155.60. The win is the 13th of Treble's career and boosted him from ninth to third in the points standings.
Treble impressed early at the event by qualifying his Team Scream Suzuki No. 2 with a 6.925, then flexed his muscles with a 6.885 in the first round, which at the time was the fifth quickest pass in Pro Stock Motorcycle history and a career best to defeat Mike Berry. He followed with a 6.91 conquest of last year's runner-up, Matt Guidera, then erased last year's other finalist, Matt Smith, 6.912 to 6.917. A round earlier, Smith's Nitro Fish/DSR Suzuki had recorded the class' quickest pass and reset Angelle Sampey's 6.871 national record (set in Englishtown 2007) with a 6.865, backed up by his first-round 6.893, but lost the crank trigger in the semifinals against Treble.
Former fuel Harley pilot Horne made his Pro Stock Motorcycle debut just two weeks ago in Gainesville, but the 21-year-old rider looked like a veteran as he cut his way through the field on his Buell. He opened with a 6.94 victory against David Hope then induced red-lights from Gatornationals champ Hector Arana and low qualifier Andrew Hines to reach the final round.
Lucas Oil Sportsman titles went to Duane Shields (Top Alcohol Dragster), Steve Harker (Top Alcohol Funny Car), Jacklyn Gebhardt-Still (Comp), Kenny Doughty (Stock), Tommy Phillips (Super Comp), David Jones (Super Gas), and Craig Abbott (Super Street). The Get Screened America Pro Mod title was won by Danny Rowe.
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