JOLIET, Ill. --
Tue, 4 Oct 2005, 09:45 AM
Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook at the 5th Annual Ameriquest NHRA Nationals
By Jim Luikens
Photo copyright 2005 Auto Imagery, Inc. & NHRA
Tony Schumacher qualified number one here in Top Fuel with a great 4.437-second elapsed
time, which was quick enough for a new elapsed time national record. The number one qualifying
position was his sixth consecutive T/F pole position and it set a new NHRA single-season
consecutive pole mark for T/F pilots. On race day Tony went all the way to the final round where he
defeated a tire-smoking Doug Herbert.
Doug Herbert, the event's defending T/F champ, announced a three year extension of his
Snap-on Tools sponsorship at a luncheon here. The new agreement extends to 16 years total one of
the longest sponsorships in all of motorsports. Roy Hill was a constant in the Herbert pit area
throughout the weekend. Roy could not be pinned down as to the reason for his presence but did
admit that his long-hyped announcement, now rescheduled for this weekend in Dallas, does involve
The Stevens Family top fueler, driven by Tim Gibson here, carried a memorial on its cowl to
Tim Mahrenholz of Lawrenceville, Illinois. Tim passed away recently after a single car accident
while returning home from the NHRA race in Reading, Pennsylvania. Tim was a member of the David
Baca team at the time of his passing but originally got his start in racing with the Stevens' team.
In fact, was buried wearing a Stevens Family racing uniform. On a related note, Marshall Topping
may drive the Stevens Family fueler at the Las Vegas and Pomona races later this year.
Gary Densham had a scary moment during Saturday's first Fuel Funny Car qualifying session.
Unbeknownst to Gary one of his body mounts had pivoted 90 degrees when his Monte Carlo body was
lowered. When he left the starting line under power it interfered with the operation of his
steering linkage and prevented him from steering his car. Gary started his run in the right lane,
drifted left, narrowly missed clipping the rear of Mike Ashley's Monte Carlo and struck the left
wall. Gary was unhurt but that could not be said for his car. Besides the body, his frame, left
header and left front wheel and tire combination all suffered damage. Gary and his crew
straightened their frame, replaced the damaged parts and installed his spare body for the final
qualifying session. Gary was not able to improve his elapsed time but his earlier 4.842 elapsed
time held up for the 16th, and final, position in the field. On race day Gary lost to Cruz Pedregon
in the first round but remains happy with the recent progress his team has made. After a slow start
to the season his team has really gathered momentum in the back half of the year.
Cruz Pedregon had not qualified at the two most recent NHRA events. In fact, he went 0-for
September. But that has all changed now that we are into October. In an unusual turn of events both
Cruz and Tony Pedregon tied for the Fuel Funny Car pole with a class-best identical elapsed time of
4.680 seconds. To make things even more interesting Tony and Cruz were also tied at 31 number ones
each. Cruz broke the tie when he was awarded the number one qualifying position for this event
because his 330.80 top speed was better than brother Tony's 320.36 best.
One of the big surprises in Fuel Funny Car qualifying was the 4.879 elapsed time that was
recorded by Vinnie Arcadi of Lancaster, New York. Vinnie, who is most famous for his mid-track
wheelstands, had never run run below five seconds before this weekend. Out of the field going into
Saturday's final qualifying session he leapt right over the 4.90 bracket, and all the way up into
the 80s. Unfortunately, his 4.879 was only good enough for the first alternate position in the
final F/C standings. Part of the credit for the improvement goes to crew chief Jay Lewis, who moved
some weight around on Saturday in an attempt to make the car more drivable for Vinnie.
Greg Anderson and Jason Line shared the Pro Stock qualifying honors here. Greg qualified
number one with a 6.646 elapsed time, a new track record and the second best elapsed time ever
recorded by a Pro Stocker. Meanwhile, Jason Line qualified second with a 6.663 elapsed time but his
208.17 mile-per-hour top speed was good for a new track speed record as well as the second best P/S
speed ever recorded. Route 66 Raceway is the only track on the current tour that Greg has not won
on. His streak continued for at least one more event here when he was defeated by Warren Johnson in
the second round. On the other hand, Jason went all the way to the final round where he defeated
Erica Enders made NHRA history here when she became the first woman to advance to a Pro
Stock championship round. Previously this year she had become the first woman to qualify at the US
Nationals (in a 16 car field) and the first to advance past the first round at any event. On Sunday
she became the first woman to reach the semi-finals and, then, the finals. Her race day ended with
an untimely red-light after going further in eliminations than any woman previously had in Pro
There were so many special paint schemes here that one might have thought they were at a
NASCAR race. By my unofficial observation the Top Fuelers of Scott Weis (Chicago Carpenters),
Morgan Lucas (Fuel for the Fight Breast Cancer Fund) and Clay Millican (Nitro Fish) were all
carrying special colors, although some had been seen at earlier events this season. Over in Fuel
Funny Car, Tony Bartone (Johnny Lightning), Whit Bazemore (Rat Fink) and Phil Burkart (Techron Fuel
Additive) all gave fans something different to look at. All of the above went on to qualify except
Scott Weis, who had over 1000 carpenters in attendance for the second straight Chicago event.
Although he has only run the specially painted carpenters body twice he did admit that he might run
it once more this year to make up for not qualifying here. Additionally, Aaron Olivarez had his Top
Alcohol Dragster also painted in the special black with pink trim Fuel for the Fight color scheme.
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