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Thu, 10 Nov 2005, 11:35 AM

41st Annual Auto Club NHRA Finals Post Race Notes
Courtesy of NHRA Communications





POMONA, Calif. -- Post race notes from the 41st annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, Nov. 3-6, Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

TOP FUEL

Tony Schumacher, of Long Grove, Ill., cemented his place in the NHRA history books with his final-round pass of 4.496 seconds at 324.36 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to best Don Schumacher Racing teammate Melanie Troxel (10.744 at 73.88) for the event win.

This was Troxel's second career Top Fuel final round, her first since Dallas in 2000. Troxel's crew was able to put her dragster back together after a fiery explosion just past the finish line in her semifinal win over David Baca, but it spun the wheels early in the final against Schumacher.

Schumacher, who had already clinched his second straight and third overall POWERade Series world championship, set single-season NHRA Top Fuel records for No. 1 qualifiers in a season (11), consecutive wins (5), consecutive final rounds (7), consecutive round wins (20) and final margin-of-victory (415 points).

Schumacher was one of the previous record-holders in each of the first four categories; the others were: Gary Beck (1983) and Blaine Johnson (1996) for most No. 1 qualifiers in a season (10); Scott Kalitta (1994) and Cory McClenathan (1997) for most consecutive wins in a season (4); Kalitta ('94), McClenathan ('97) and Larry Dixon (2002) for most consecutive final rounds in a season (6); Scott Kalitta ('94) and McClenathan ('97) for most consecutive rounds won in a season (19).

The previous record-holder for largest margin of victory in Top Fuel was Shirley Muldowney, who finished up the 1977 season 330 points clear of Pat Dakin.

Schumacher finished with 1,981 points, 415 clear of Larry Dixon and 443 better than Doug Kalitta.

The victory was Schumacher's ninth of the season and the 30th of his career, placing him alone in fifth on the all-time Top Fuel wins list. It was his third career victory at Pomona Raceway where he'd swept the two events in 2004.

Schumacher earned his record-setting 11th No. 1 qualifying position with a pass of 4.466 seconds at 328.78 mph.

Clay Millican's Nitro Fish/Werner crew earned the event's Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship award.

Doug Kalitta's Mac Tools crew, led by Rahn Tobler, won the 2005 Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship award and the $25,000 check that accompanied the honor.

FUNNY CAR

Tony Pedregon played spoiler in his Q Racing Chevy Monte Carlo with his second-round victory over former boss John Force and he carried the momentum on to win his second event of 2005, covering the final quarter-mile in 4.751 at 319.22 to easily outrun Eric Medlen (14.598 at 68.73).

Medlen's Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang plowed into the sand pit following his semifinal round win over Tommy Johnson Jr. and it was a surprise to almost everyone in attendance that he was able to stage the car, but in the end it was no match for Pedregon.

The drama in the historic Funny Car championship points race played out in a wild second round that saw all three competitors lose, thus handing the POWERade Series world championship to the man who had the lead entering the season-ending race, Gary Scelzi.

Ron Capps was the first to be eliminated when Cruz Pedregon took him out with a 4.756 at 329.26 (vs. the 5.456 at 245.27 for Capps); Then it was Tommy Johnson Jr.'s turn to eliminate Scelzi with a 4.794 at 327.11 (vs. the 4.807 at 326.16 for Scelzi); Finally, it was Tony Pedregon (4.778 at 316.75) who delivered the championship to Scelzi by taking out Force (4.752 at 323.27) on a holeshot (.053 vs. .096).

Scelzi finished the season with 1,516 points, eight more than Capps and 32 more than Force for the closest finish in NHRA Funny Car history. Prior to this season, the closest margin came 31 years ago when Shirl Greer was 23 points ahead of Paul Smith in 1974.

Scelzi raced to the No. 1 qualifying position with a 4.696-second pass at 330.23 in his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus. It was Scelzi's second straight No. 1 qualifier, sixth of the 2005 and 42nd of his career (Ninth in FC).

Scelzi led the quickest Funny Car field in NHRA history, anchored by No. 16 qualifier Tim Wilkerson, who posted a 4.828 in his Levi, Ray & Shoup Chevy Monte Carlo.

Scelzi's Mopar/Oakley Stratus crew earned the event's Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship award.

Scelzi's Mopar/Oakley Stratus crew, led by Mike Neff, also overtook the crew of Force's Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to win the $25,000 Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship award.

PRO STOCK

Jeg Coughlin, from Delaware, Ohio, raced to his first victory of the season in his Jeg's Mail Order Dodge Stratus R/T, defeating surprise finalist Tommy Martino, who left the starting line early and was disqualified.

Jason Line, who claimed his second No. 1 qualifier of the season in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO, was eliminated in the semifinals by Coughlin. Line had a -0.009 red-light while Coughlin had an almost-perfect .001 light.

In fact, Coughlin's four Sunday lights didn't even add up to a tenth of a second. He had a .059 in the first round win over Allen Johnson, a .004 in the quarterfinal round win over Greg Anderson, a .001 against Line and a .010 against Martino for a total reaction time of .074 (or an average of .0185).

Anderson, who ended his season with the quarterfinal loss to Coughlin, had already clinched the 2005 POWERade Series world championship to join only Bob Glidden and the late Lee Shepherd as drivers who have won at least three consecutive Pro Stock world championship titles.

Anderson finished the season with 1,904 points, 204 points ahead of Kurt Johnson and 305 more than Summit Racing teammate Jason Line.

Among those who failed to qualify included Greg Stanfield, Ron Krisher, Jim Yates and Dave Howard.

Coughlin's .004-second reaction time against Anderson was the difference in a holeshot win that led to a Motel 6 "Who Got the Light" award winning margin of .0037 seconds.

Erica Enders' Slammers Milk crew earned the event's Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship award.

Anderson's Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GTO crew, led by Jeff Perley and Rob Downing, earned the $15,000 Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship award.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

Ryan Schnitz earned the win atop his Muzzy.com Buell when he and Andrew Hines both left the starting line early, but his -0.010 reaction time was less premature by a thousandth-of-a-second than Hines' -0.011.

It was Schnitz's class-best third win of the 2005 season and it moved him up to fourth in the final POWERade Series point standings. It is the best points finish for the Decatur, Ind. native, who previously had not finished higher than ninth (2004).

Andrew Hines clinched his second consecutive POWERade Series world championship atop his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with his first-round victory over Chris Rivas.

Hines finished with 1,100 points, 111 better than teammate GT Tonglet and 135 more points than Angelle Sampey, who rides the U.S. Army Suzuki.

Matt Smith's G2 Torco Buell crew earned the Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship award.

Hines' Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson crew, led by Byron Hines, won the $15,000 Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship award.

POWERade FAN NATIONALS

The popular POWERade Fan Nationals concluded at the Auto Club NHRA Finals Nov. 6 with 16-year old Evan Keaton of Kettering, Ohio claiming the inaugural championship.

Each of the 23 Event Champions and two "Wildcard Winners," who were selected online through the POWERade Pick the Winner promotion and through a local Pomona radio promotion, won a trip for two to the 41st Annual Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona. There, finalists competed in a series of side-by-side races in one of two Funny Car simulators to claim one of the top 16 qualifying positions. Today, each of the 16 qualifiers went head-to-head for the win and Keaton raced his way to victory to ultimately claim the title of POWERade Fan Nationals Series Champion.





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