Schumacher, Force Hood, Johnson Arana on Pole
All four top qualifiers from Friday’s sessions held onto their respective positions and the valuable bonus point that with them as the season comes down to the final two races.
With several oildowns and a crash in the final round of Funny Car put Saturday’s qualifying session well into the twilight hours. The cool desert air resulted in cooler track temperatures, but not necessarily fastest speeds, as most of the Saturday passes in Top Fuel and Funny Car were slower than the runs set on Friday night.
Schumacher led the Top Fuel class with a 3.812 and a new national speed record of 325.14 mph to earn just his second no. 1 qualifier honor of the season and the 60th of his career.
“Clearly, we've had a great couple of days here in Las Vegas,” said Schumacher. “Now, we need to come back tomorrow with the same kind of intensity. We want to collect another victory.”
Schumacher came into this weekend’s event third in the Top Fuel standings, 154 behind Larry Dixon and a long shot to win his eighth series title, but that didn’t stop him from gladly taking bonus points away from the guys in front of him
“We definitely want to stir the pot a bit over these last two races,” said Schumacher. “It would be nice if we could send a loud message that we'll be very much in the battle once again in 2011.”
Dixon will start third after falling from the no. 2 spot behind second-place points man Cory McClenathan, who ran a 3.822 on Saturday that bested Dixon’s 3.825. David Grubnic (3.838) and Steve Torrence (3.841) rounded out the top five.
Bob Vandergriff took the final spot with a run of 3.996. Countdown contenders Morgan Lucas and Doug Katella were among the ten drivers who failed to qualify.
“I was most nervous because I did not know what the conditions earlier would do,” said Force Hood. “We were hoping for a little delay to get to run in that cool temperature. Then we were really, really delayed and I was worried if it was getting too cold. You hate to wait all that time and then go ten feet on your run.
“I am surprised that more cars did not step up and run quicker. I really think it was up to the tuners to figure this race track and these conditions out. That is a long time to wait and the conditions were changing. I was really proud of my team the in spite of all those distractions and issues we still managed to have a really good run tonight.”
Ron Capps took the third qualifying spot with a run of 4.082, followed by Cruz Pedregon at 4.087. Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan was fifth at 4.090.
Countdown driver Robert Hight failed to make the field, marking his first DNQ of the season. Four other drivers went home early, including Jeff Diehl, who hit the wall after the throttle hung open during his run. Diehl was unhurt in the accident, but the cleanup meant an even longer delay for the already late qualifying session.
Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson continued his impressive run after his embarrassing disqualification last month at zMax Dragway, posting his third-straight top qualifying effort for his seventh no. 1 spot of the season.
Johnson posted a 6.651 at a track record 207.82 mph in the third round to hold onto the top spot over V Gaines, who ran a 6.665.
Jeg Coughlin (6.657), Ron Krisher (6.660) and Jason Line (6.664) made up the rest of the top five qualifiers. Mike Edwards, second in Pro Stock points, will start ninth with points leader Greg Anderson in 11th.
“We knew that this run was going to be the best one after being four hour behind,” said Johnson. “When the sun goes down, the track gets awesome here. We knew we had to get after it to keep it. We stepped it up and it’s the second race in a row now where the Dodges are one-two.
“Our car is a little bit unpredictable, that’s been our problem with race day setups. We’ve worked on it some and hopefully we’ve made that a lot better for tomorrow, were not going to change a lot for tomorrow on race day running behind the filed cars instead of in front of them you got to make a few adjustments, but we’re gong to keep that kill-button pushed.
Hector Arana raced back in the final session to regain the top spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle to earn his second straight no.1 qualifier and sixth of the season.
Arana improved on his time from Friday to hold onto the top spot with a 6.922. Eddie Krawiec briefly took the top spot away in the final round with a 6.911 before Arana topping him with a 6.909 on the final run of the session.
Krawiec maintained second while Karen Stoffer was third with a 6.950. Jim Underdahl (6.954) and Shawn Gann (6.968) rounded out the top five.
Points leader Andrew Hines qualified seventh while second-place points man LE Tonglet was ninth.
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