Todd ends Schumacher's reign of Top Fuel
J. R. Todd ended Tony Schumacher's reign of terror in Top Fuel and Greg Stanfield scored an emotional first career victory in Pro Stock for team owner Greg Hill to highlight final eliminations at the 23rd annual O'Reilly NHRA Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex, the second of sixth events in NHRA's Countdown to 1 playoffs. Todd ended Schumacher's amazing win steak at 31 rounds and seven straight NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series wins.
Tim Wilkerson earned back his points lead in Funny Car by defeating then-points leader Tony Pedregon in the final while Chris Rivas defeated points leader Matt Smith to claim the win in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Todd, who's suffered through about as disappointing a season as the 2006 rookie of the year could have imagined in his worst nightmare, having scored just five round-wins this year, pushed the Lucas Oil Products dragster to his first win in more than a year, since the 2007 event in Houston, up upsetting the heavily favored Schumacher on a holeshot, 3.912, 309.84 to 3.910, 310.64.
En route to the final and his fifth career win, his first since the 2007 Topeka event, Todd defeated rookie Spencer Massey and dented the Countdown hopes of Hillary Will and best friend Brandon Bernstein to make the final, the eighth of his career.
Schumacher's final-round loss ended the greatest run in the history of Top Fuel, as he managed to make to unbeaten since the Denver event in early July. After breaking Kenny Bernstein's 2004 Top Fuel season record of 61 round-wins by beating Rod Fuller in round one and Larry Dixon in round two, Schumacher defeated teammate Cory McClenathan in the semifinals to reach the final round, his 15th of the season – breaking the mark he held with Dixon, who first set it in 2002 – and his own 2005 record of seven consecutive finals. Nonetheless, Schumacher increased his points lead and now is ahead by 97 points.
With the top four Funny Car drivers separated by just two points heading into eliminations, it's no surprise that the final-round was massive and featured a winner-takes-the-lead outcome. Wilkerson eked out the win, the 10th of his career, by .03-dsecond, 4.172, 297.55 to Pedregon's 4.20, 295.98 to grab a 10-point edge in the standings.
Wilkerson, entered the event with four wins already on his 2008, had to survive a weird first-round with fellow Countdown driver Ron Capps after power was lost to the Christmas Tree just as they were preparing to stage. Both drivers shut their mounts off on the starting line and, after the problem was rectified, restarted them in place, staged, and raced. Wilkerson and the Levi Ray & Shoup team then beat Bob Tasca III and comebacking John Force to reach the final, the 19th of his career.
Pedregon, who like Wilkerson was a four-time winner this season, defeated Jeff Arend, low qualifier Robert Hight, and in, what was then a battle for the top spot in points, Jack Beckman in the semifinals, on a holeshot4.276 to 4.261, to reach his 67th career final round.
Stanfield was a man on a mission in Dallas after his Attitude Apparel team found out Friday morning that Hill's granddaughter, Erika Bauermeister, had been killed in a traffic accident. Stanfield finished up his charge with a close .008-second victory over Jeg Coughlin and became one of the few drivers to score a national event win in five classes.
Stanfield, who barely made the Countdown to 1 and entered the race in 10th place, made up a lot of ground up – and did it the hard by – by upsetting former champ Jason Line on a monster holeshot in round one, 6.66 to 6.63, and points leader Kurt Johnson in round two before besting rookie of the year contender Rickie Jones in the semifinals. With his final-round victory, he's now sixth in points.
The final-round appearance was Stanfield's seventh in Pro Stock without a previous win – including two runner-ups this year, in Las Vegas and Bristol. Stanfield also has two career victories in 10 Pro Stock Truck finals and seven wins in 12 finals, with wins also in Comp, Stock, and Super Stock, the latter of which he was a four-time NHRA world champ.
Coughlin, the defending Pro Stock world champ, surged into the points lead he last owned 17 races ago, in March in Gainesville, by reaching his fifth final of the season. In the early rounds Coughlin, the No. 1 qualifier, powered his Jegs Cobalt past Cagnazzi Racing engine leasing teammate Ron Krisher, Mike Edwards, and Dave Connolly with a trio of 6.66 passes. Connolly threw away his chances on a rare red-light.
Rivas, who scored his first career win earlier this season in Chicago, rode the Drag Specialties Buell to his third final this season and the fourth of his career by besting smith, 7.024, 183.97 to 7.098, 187.00. Rivas' win boosted him to third place, just one point behind Steve Johnson.
Rivas ran in the 7.0s in all three pre-final rounds --7.01, 7.03, and 7.07 -- by racing past Junior Pippin and Hector Arana, then partially spoiled Smith's day by beating his girlfriend, Angie McBride, in the semifinals, then ruined it in the final.
Reigning NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Smith built on his incoming points lead by racing to his 20th career final round aboard his Nitro Fish Buell. Smith defeated defending event champ Peggy Llewellyn in round one with a 7.02 and chased down Chip Ellis' holeshot in round two with a 7.09 to win by just .008-second before squaring off with low qualifier Eddie Krawiec and his Screamin' Eagle Harley in the semifinals. Smith was first off the line and won on a holeshot and again by just eight-thousandths of a second, 7.115 to 7.111.
Lucas Oil sportsman titles went to Jim Whitely (Alcohol Dragster), Von Smith (Alcohol Funny Car), David Rampy (Comp), Jerry Emmons (Stock), Richard Pierson (Super Comp), Tommy Phillips (Super Gas), and Greg Parson (Super Street).