Schumacher makes NHRA history at zMax Dragway

(L-R) Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Justin Humphreys (Pro Stock), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) celebrate in the winner's circle
Rhonda McCole/

Tony Schumacher made history on Sunday as the National Hot Rod Association’s Top Fuel point leader notched his 12th victory of the year, beating out Antron Brown to win his 53rd national event in the inaugural Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C.

Schumacher’s victory pushed the defending Top Fuel champion past Joe Amato as the winningest Top Fuel driver in series history, notching his 7th straight final round appearance and his 12th of the season, extending his streak to 28 consecutive round victories and putting him atop the standings in the Countdown To 1 championship race.

“It will hit me later," Schumacher said of becoming the all-time wins leader in Top Fuel. “I am very aware of it. I know how difficult it is, and I know how great Joe Amato is, but I also thought that I need to keep winning races so we can get another championship.

“As for the points, we knew that no matter how many we had, they were going to take them away when the Countdown started. We knew we had to keep winning in these last six races, but I know I have a team that’s capable of doing that."

Schumacher’s beat Brown for the second time this season with a wire-to-wire victory, scoring an elapsed time of 3.882 and a top speed of 317.64 mph.

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) in the winner's circle
Rhonda McCole/

Schumacher now leads Brown by 46 points and teammate Cory McClenathan by 85 points heading into next week’s event at Dallas with five events left in the Countdown to 1 playoff.

Schumacher joined Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Justin Humphreys (Pro Stock) and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) in the winner’s circle in the first event held at the track dubbed the “Bellagio" of dragstrips.

Beckman beat out Cruz Pedregon to win his third Funny Car final of the season. Beckman easily beat Pedregon off the line with an elapsed time of 4.130 and a top speed of 302.82 mph. “We’ve tried to race smart lately," said Beckman. “Last race in Indy and first round here, we tried to stage shallow because we thought lane choice could be a difference, and if it was, we wanted to maintain lane choice. I think now you’re seeing a little more strategy because every round is technically a little more important.

“We’ve got 24 rounds [in the Countdown to 1], and we just won four of them. If you are in a position to win a race, it’s huge. It’s huge for points, and it’s huge for the guys who have busted their butts. This year, it may not necessarily go down to the last round of the last race, but I think at least now you could stumble and still be a factor in the chase. John Force isn’t out of this deal by a long shot."

Force failed to qualify for the finals on Sunday and watched from the sidelines as his three remaining team cars carried on, lead by his daughter Ashley. Ashley and teammate Mike Neff failed to make it past the second round, while teammate Robert Hight advanced to Round 3 where he lost to Beckman.

Pro Stock driver Justin Humphreys won his first National event over Kurt Johnson in an uncontested final round after Johnson’s car failed to fire when the two came to the line.

Humphreys crept from the starting line and coasted to the finish at a speed of just over 42mph.

“That’s not the way we wanted to get our first win," said Humphreys, “but I came up six-thousandths short at Pomona last year, and that has been on my mind ever since.

“I saw Kurt was having problems, so I was moving as slow as I could. Kurt is my teammate now, and I was hoping that he could get his car started. Kurt was quicker than I was, so we knew we had to get after it a bit. My car was also hot, and when we knew we had a single, I really didn’t worry about the leave. That’s why it shook pretty hard in the final."

Johnson won his second straight Pro Stock Motorcycle final after Eddie Krawiec red-lighted at the line, winning his second final of the year with an elapsed time of 7.029 and topping the speed chart at 191.46 mph.

Krawiec actually beat Johnson to the finish line, and at first Johnson was unaware he had won. He became so distracted once he crossed the finish line that he ran into the gravel trap at the end of the track.

“I didn’t know that he red-lighted," said Johnson. “I was tucked under the paint and looked over and he was ahead of me. I thought, ‘How the hell did he do that?’ Then I saw my win light, and I figured out that he’d red-lighted. I was so excited that I didn’t get the bike stopped in time and ran into the sand.

“I’ve been racing longer than any of the motorcycle guys, but I’ve been trying a little different routine the last three races. I’m ready for whatever they throw at me now. Confidence is a scary thing. I am so proud of my lights. I’m proud of the team, but I can cut lights good."

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