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Sat, 14 Oct 2006, 07:51 PM

Schumacher, Medlen and Line Earn No. 1 Qualifying Positions at Torco Nationals
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2006 Auto Imagery, Inc.


Tony Schumacher

Tony Schumacher set a single season record Saturday at Virginia Motorsports Park with his 12th No. 1 qualifying effort of the year. Eric Medlen and Jason Line also secured top qualifying spots in their categories at the $1.6 million Torco Racing Fuels NHRA Nationals, the 21st of 23 races in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Schumacher's 12 low qualifiers breaks the mark of 11 he set in 2005. His only challenge for this weekend's top qualifying spot came from Rookie of the Year candidate J.R. Todd, who powered his Skull Shine dragster a 4.528 at 318.39 mph during Saturday's first session. In the end, Schumacher's Friday pass of 4.512 at 313.37 mph in his U.S. Army dragster was enough for his 34th career No. 1 position.

"I always talk about how important these qualifying points are," Schumacher said. "Look at it this way; Brandon Bernstein has one more round win than me this year but we're more than half a round ahead of him in the points standings. That's solely from qualifying better than him all year. I'd say qualifying points are very important."

In an interesting twist to the Top Fuel championship battle, Schumacher, Bernstein and points leader Doug Kalitta are all on the same side of the 16-car ladder for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.

"This race has become a do-or-die deal in my book," Schumacher said. "It's time for one of us to step up and make a statement. We need to win this thing, period."

Eric Medlen
Medlen waited until the second-to-last pairing of qualifying to nudge John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight off the Funny Car podium with a track record time of 4.728 seconds at 311.49 mph in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang. Hight fell to second in his Auto Club Mustang, while team owner and current points leader Force quietly assumed the third position with a 4.765 at 315.78 mph in his Castrol GTX Mustang.

"It's cool to have our three Fords 1-2-3 on the ladder," Medlen said. "We take a lot of pride in that because our job is to put Ford on top and when you have all three cars up there like that I think it's pretty phenomenal, especially in this day and age of drag racing."

Ron Capps, who entered the race one point behind Force in the championship standings, is a distance 13th here with a best of 4.848 at 283.73 mph in his Brut Dodge Charger. He now trails Force by six points in the series standings.

Jason Line
For the second race in a row, Line out-performed Summit Racing Pontiac GTO teammate Greg Anderson and put himself in position to claim a Pro Stock national record and 20 bonus points, which could represent a 40-point swing in the championship standings. At the last race, Line stole the record away from Anderson during eliminations. Here he did it during the second day of qualifying, setting both ends of the national record with a performance of 6.571 at 209.49 mph to lead the quickest field ever.

"That record might not stay with me," Line said. "Greg could easily take it away. I know that car can go quicker and faster than it did today. It'll all depend on the conditions we see tomorrow. I know the mindset on our team is to go as fast as we can every round. We don't change that in eliminations."

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