Schumacher, Force, Anderson, Longlet Cash In
Tony Schumacher, John Force, Greg Anderson and LE Tonglet scored huge victories in Sunday’s 11th Annual Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the points battle ramped up with one race to go in the Countdown to the Championship.
Sunday’s action featured a major shakeup in the leaderboard in Top Fuel while the points lead tightened up in both Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle, with several of the frontrunners falling in the opening rounds.
Entering the day as the no. 1 qualifier with a new national speed record, Schumacher bested Dom Lagana in the final round to score his sixth win o the season and 67th of his career.
More importantly, he leapfrogged to second spot in the points after Cory McClenathan fell in the opening round, and is now 85 point behind leader Larry Dixon.
“It was a fun car to drive this weekend,” said Schumacher. “It almost brought a little pressure back. I was starting to feel a little relaxed. We’re in Vegas and I’m not in the points lead, I’m not even that close, and all of a sudden we have this fast car. The thing was amazing.
“I’m looking forward to going to Pomona. Like I said it back in ’06 and ’07, it’s kind of out of my hands. We have to go out and set a national record and win the race, and he has to go out and get beat or not show up, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to show up. But, the most fun about it is - we’re in it, we haven’t been written off. We’re a long way out and it’s a super big longshot, but we’re great at coming from behind. It’s our specialty.
After beating out Bob Vandergriff in the opening round, Schumacher rolled past Shawn Langdon with a new national speed record of 325.61 mph to take on David Grubnic in the semi’s, easily getting past him to move onto his eighth final round of the season.
Lagana was the surprise of the field at Vegas, making the show in just his third race of the season and bumping off Clay Millican, points leader Larry Dixon and Antron Brown to reach his first career final round.
In the final, Schumacher led at the start and never looked back, running 3.845 to Lagana’s 3.987.
“I said we have to get every point on the table,” said Force. “At the end of the day we got rid of four points during qualifying and that took us from four to three rounds. That was very important. If he would have won that round that would have been ugly. Then we would have needed a miracle. I don’t want to have to go up against setting the national record in Pomona to have a shot. I’ll still go for it.
“Hagan is a great racer and I really love the kid. We talked every round before we raced. He has big money behind him and he has a great team. We got some points in qualifying that put us back with three rounds. You can’t be four short at Pomona. It was a long shot but did good and we got him in the finals.”
Hagan made it look easy going into the final round, winning all but unchallenged over Tony Pedregon, Jim Head and Ashley Force Hood to move onto his fifth final round of the season.
Force had it a little tougher. Following and easy win over Jeff Arend, Force had to pedal his Ford Mustang to just beat out Melanie Troxel before cruising past Bob Tasca III to move onto his 10th final round of the season and 212th of his career.
But in the final, Hagan’s lucky streak finally gave out as he went up in smoke right off the line, giving Force a green light to his 131st career victory at.
The Pro Stock ladder would prove to the most competitive of the day as Summit Racing teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line met in the final round for the first time this season, and ran each other to a near photo-finish in the final with Anderson just beating out Line by two one-thousandths of a second, 6.654 to 6.656.
It was a victory Anderson desperately needed to give him some breathing room in the points race after second-place Mike Edwards lost on a holeshot in the opening round.
Anderson bested Rodger Brogdon, Jeg Coughlin, Jr., and Shane Gray in close races to make it to his seventh final of the year, while Line had equally close runs against Larry Morgan, Ronnie Humphrey and Greg Stanfield to reach his fifth final of season.
Pro Stock Motorcycle second-place points driver LE Tonglet closed the gap on points leader Andrew Hines with his fourth victory in the last five events, taking out Matt Smith 6.951 to 6.983 to cut Hines’ lead to 34 points in what has been a spectacular run for the rookie sensation.
“I don’t want to wake up,” said Tonglet of his dream season. “It’s just been an awesome year since after Brainerd - we came into the countdown seventh and after Indy we were number two. We’ve really been on a roll since Indy we just got to keep this momentum going and see what happens.
“That Harley team (Hines) is going to be a tough team to beat. Andrew (Hines) has been in this position before - we just need to keep our head straight, and if it happens it happens.”
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