Schumacher, Johnson, Jr., McGaha Fastest at Epping

Tony Schumacher
Tony Schumacher
Rhonda McCole /AutoImagery

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson, Jr. (Funny Car) and Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) will lead their divisions from the no. 1 starting position after topping the two-day qualifying sessions for Sunday’s third-annual New England Nationals at New England Dragway and Motorsports Park in Epping, N.H.

Defending Top Fuel winner Tony Schumacher claimed his second top qualifying start of the season and 78th of his career with a record-breaking run during Friday’s sessions that proved unbeatable as crew scrambled to adjust to the warmer than usual New England weather conditions that saw speeds drop dramatically on Saturday.

Schumacher’s low ET of 3.742 seconds at 324.28 mph shattered the previous beat of 3.770 second set by Schumacher’s teammate Antron Brown in last year’s event. Schumacher led both of Friday’s rounds but couldn’t even come close to his own time during either of Saturday’s sessions, where Brown’s 3.826 was the best any of the 16 competitors could muster.

"The car is running great and coming off of a win here last year and to have the opportunity to back it up is very exciting," said Schumacher, who will face Morgan Lucas in the opening round. “This new car is just getting better and the crew chiefs are learning and the car is doing what we want it to."

Richie Crampton took the second qualifying position running 3.744, 325.92, followed by Shawn Langdon (3.745, 324.98), Steve Torrence (3.765, 323.04) and Spencer Massey (3.773, 327.66) who set a new track speed record.

Tommy Johnson, Jr. got his first no. 1 qualifier of the season and his first-ever at New Hampshire, running a 4.047 at 319.45 mph in Friday’s second round to knock Cruz Pedregon off the top spot.

Johnson’s top qualifying effort was the 11th of his career and his first since winning the pole at Chicago last season. He will face Bob Tasca III on Sunday looking for his first win of the season.

"Coming in here to Epping, we knew the car was close to the performance we wanted and we hit it on the head this weekend," said Johnson. "I'm very encouraged by what I see with the team. We've had a dominating car at times this weekend and we want to keep that going on race day."

Pedregon held onto the second position clocking in at 4.052, 308.14. The John Force Racing trifecta of John Force (4.055, 318.24), Courtney Force (4.059, 319.45) and Robert Hight (4.068, 320.13) rounded out the top five.

Chris McGaga
Chris McGaha
Rhonda McCole /AutoImagery

In Pro Stock, Chris McGaha earned his third pole of the season and fifth of his career, topping both of Friday’s sessions. McGaha then came back on Saturday and led the final session in the blistering heat, but still wasn’t able to beat his own time from Friday.

Only 15 cars are entered into Sunday’s final eliminations, giving McGaha a bye into the second round.

"It feels good," said McGaha after winning the pole. “We're starting to show signs of consistency, and that is the important thing to do in this class.

"We did some experimenting there in Q3, trying some new tires – and then this last run we [changed] the carburetors, and you can see the results. It definitely showed some signs of improvement."

Greg Anderson was the second-highest qualifier with a 6.521, 213.30. Jason Line (6.530, 212.83), Erica Enders-Stevens (6.543, 212.66) and Vincent Nobile (6.552, 212.39) made up the rest of the top five qualifiers.

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