zMax final qualifying - Hagan & Schumacher grab poles
More track records continued to fall thanks to unseasonably cool temperatures that dropped the track temperature to under 80 degrees, although the track conditions were nowhere as cool as they were Friday night, which saw track records fall in Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle and Funny Car, including the quickest time ever in Funny Car history set by Hagan.
Despite the cool track conditions, the leaderboards remained largely changed from Friday’s sessions, with the exception of Top Fuel, which after coming close to seeing a record-breaking run on Friday, finally got their chance to re-write the record book on Saturday
Defending Top Fuel winner Larry Dixon, who held the no. 1 spot through Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying and just barely missed tying the track ET record, was the next to get his name on a track record with a pass of 3.775 at 320.89 mph that eclipsed the previous mark of 3.780 set by Del Worsham back in April and kept him atop the Top Fuel ladder.
But in the final session, Schumacher and the Don Schumacher Racing stable clawed their way back in front, topping Dixon’s mark with a run of 3.771 at 325.92 mph to set the new track ET record and give “The Sarge” his fifth no. 1 qualifier spot of the season and 66th of his career.
“I love coming here,” said Schumacher, who will face Morgan Lucas in the opening round of Sunday’s eliminations. “Bruton Smith built a great racetrack, and it’s topped off with the great weather we have this weekend. The crew chiefs just turned it up all the way. We saw (Larry) Dixon running 3.70’s and knew that’s where we had to be. The U.S. Army dragster went 3.80, 3.80, and 3.77 in its last three runs. I couldn’t be happier.”
Spencer Massey tied the low ET with a 3.771 run of his own, but his slower 324.98 mph top speed gave Schumacher the record and the no. 1 spot over Massey.
Dixon held onto third, followed by Del Worsham (3.787, 321.81) and Antron Brown (3.802, 324.44).
Bruce Litton, Pat Dakin, Ike Maier and “The Greek” Chris Karamesines all missed the show.
Hagan’s national record-setting run of 3.995, 316.23 proved insurmountable on Saturday, with Hagan himself running the quickest time of Saturday’s sessions with a 4.038 at 310.41 mph before blowing up just past the finish line.
While not enough to back up Friday’s effort and secure the national record, it was plenty to earn him his third top qualifier of the season.
“It’s Tommy’s (DeLago, crew chief) call whether we try to go for (the national record) tomorrow or just go rounds,” said Hagan. “It’s anybody’s ballgame right now, and I’m just excited to have a competitive race car underneath me. I can’t wait to get going in the morning and hopefully we can do big things out here.”
Mike Neff held the no. 2 spot from Friday’s sessions with a 4.038, 314.17 while Melanie Troxel jumped to the third spot with a pass of 4.042, 291.76 in the final session, bumping Jack Beckman (4.044, 318.92) down to fourth ahead of Jeff Arend (4.048, 313.44).
Cruz Pedregon took the bump spot to earn a matchup with Hagan in the opening round on Sunday. Bob Gilbertson was the only DNQ.
Anderson stole some of Line’s thunder by taking the track speed record on Friday with a 212.69 mph pass at 6.513 seconds to take the second spot, followed by Allen Johnson (6.529, 211.79), Ronnie Humphrey (6.534, 211.76) and Mike Edwards (6.540, 211.93).
“We just have to make it so that the No. 1 qualifier wins instead of the No. 2 qualifier,” said Line. “We’ve kind of been jinxed on that the last three races, but we’re going to fix that tomorrow. Obviously to peak right now as the Countdown starts is a great thing. As a racer and a team, that’s what you dream about, so it feels really good. We just need to do our job tomorrow and capitalize on it.”
Countdown contender Ron Krisher failed to qualify, joining Robert Patrick, Bob Benza, Wally Stroupe and Grace Howell.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, none of Saturday’s qualifiers were able to top Eddie Krawiec’s record-breaking run from Friday, earning him the top qualifying honors for the third time this season and ninth of his career. He’ll face off against Steve Johnson for Sunday’s opening round.
Matt Smith (6.871, 191.84) will start second, followed by Karen Stoffer (6.873, 195.59). Hector Arana (6.890, 193.54) moved up to eighth to fourth whole Shawn Gann made a huge leap from 14th to fifth with a run of 6.901, 191.89 in the final session.
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