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Sat, 1 Oct 2005, 08:37 PM

Schumacher Leads the Way in Top Fuel Qualifying
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2005 Auto Imagery, Inc.

Cruz Pedregon Sets Pace in Funny Car, Greg Anderson Sets Track Record in Pro Stock

JOLIET, Ill. -- POWERade Series points leader Tony Schumacher set a conditional national record with a 4.437-second pass en route to claiming the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel at the Fifth annual Ameriquest Mortgage NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

The other top qualifiers at the $1.5 million race, the 20th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Series, were Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock).

Tony Schumacher
Schumacher set the conditional mark, which won't be official until after the race has been completed, on his second qualifying run Friday night. His first pass on Saturday, 4.473 seconds, was good enough to validate the time -- an NHRA national record requires a second run within 1 percent (4.481) of the record run -- and it will earn him a valuable 20-point bonus assuming no other Top Fuel driver runs a sub-4.437 on Sunday (and backs it up).

Schumacher, who held the previous record of 4.441 seconds, set on Oct. 5, 2003 at Reading, Pa., lives about an hour north of Route 66 Raceway in Long Grove, Ill.

"It's still a home track," said Schumacher, who ran better than 4.50 in all four of his qualifying passes. "We are running really well ... up to now. We have four extremely tough rounds to run Sunday ... last year we had the machine running as well as it is right now and I screwed it up (runner-up to Doug Herbert)."

Not yet counting the 20-point bonus, which won't be official until after the race, Schumacher extended his POWERade Series points lead Saturday by picking up points with his No. 1 qualifying position, narrowly extending the 100-point lead he carried into the race over Larry Dixon (who qualified 7th) and the 105-point lead he had over Doug Kalitta (who qualified 4th).

"The worst thing anyone could do in the history of the sport would be to lose a 100-point lead (this late in the season)," said Schumacher, who two weeks ago said he wouldn't trade his chances of winning the 2005 POWERade Series championship "for anyone's in the world."

It was the sixth straight and 10th overall No. 1 qualifier in 2005 for Schumacher, who has nearly doubled the career total of No. 1 qualifiers (11) he had entering this season.

Cruz Pedregon
In Funny Car, Pedregon's 4.680-second pass in his Advance Auto Parts Chevy Monte Carlo (done Friday night) was the second-quickest Funny Car run in NHRA history and led the quickest Funny Car field (based on elapsed time of the No. 16 qualifier) in NHRA history. The 4.842-run by Gary Densham in his Racebricks Chevy Monte Carlo was the 16th best and it surpassed the previous best of 4.852 at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals just two events ago.

It was the second No. 1 qualifier in 2005 for Cruz Pedregon (Englishtown).

"If we could somehow manage to find our way to the final round ... anything short of a final round, I guess, would be a disappointment," Pedregon said. "The strategy (Sunday) is to win."

The 32nd career No. 1 qualifier ended a stretch of consecutive races where the winner of 22 career NHRA POWERade Series races failed to qualify altogether.

"We did our homework and it paid off," Pedregon said. "I knew we were better than what we were showing. I was a little embarrassed. This is really a morale-booster for the team."

In Pro Stock, Anderson's 6.646-second pass in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO from Friday night, which held up Saturday, was the second-quickest Pro Stock run in NHRA history and it led the quickest Pro Stock field in NHRA history. The 16th-best time of Dave Howard (6.707) was better than the previous best of 6.709 set at the 2005 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.

Greg Anderson
"I'm really looking forward to (Sunday), it'll probably be a little hotter and honestly that will play into our hands so maybe we can get this monkey off our back," said Anderson, who will be looking to complete an impressive career feat with a win Sunday. Anderson has won at every track on the current NHRA circuit except Route 66 Raceway. His win at the just-completed Toyo Tires Nationals was his first win ever at Maple Grove Raceway, leaving Route 66 Raceway as the sole remaining track to shut him out.

"The other drivers have been saying I can't win here ... I've got to go out (Sunday) and prove them wrong,"Anderson said. "Hopefully (Sunday) is a different story."

It was the fifth No. 1 qualifier of 2005 for Anderson and the 38th of his career.

Anderson's time was also the quickest ever at Route 66 Raceway and his teammate, Jason Line, turned in a top speed of 208.17 to set the track record for speed.

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