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Sat, 28 Oct 2006, 01:13 AM

Schumacher, Hight, Line and Hines Lead Qualifying
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo by: Auto Imagery, Inc.

At ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Natioanals


Tony Schumacher
Three-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher raced to a track record time of 4.445 seconds at 333.08 mph in his U.S. Army dragster Friday to highlight the opening day of qualifying at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals.

Robert Hight, Jason Line and Andrew Hines also were qualifying leaders in their respective categories at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The $1.8 million race is the 22nd of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Although he's 89 points out of the Top Fuel lead with just two races remaining, Schumacher's track-record run proved he won't go down without a fight. The pass was the seventh quickest ever and put him a full eight-tenths of a second ahead of the field, a titanic gap in professional drag racing.

"That run was perfect," Schumacher said. "Hey, we need these points. We need a world record. That was nine-thousandths short of one right there but Alan said that was all there was to get. We'll definitely go for it in Pomona but first things first; we need to win this race. We have no room for error."

Doug Kalitta and Brandon Bernstein, first and second in the Top Fuel points order, qualified third and fourth. Kalitta posted a 4.530 at 327.74 mph in his Mac Tools/Von Dutch dragster, while Bernstein ran a 4.544 at 331.61 mph in the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster.

Robert Hight
Hight powered his Auto Club Ford Mustang to a track record run of 4.687 at 330.46 mph lead the Funny Car starting lineup.

"When the car runs 330 mph the motor is definitely happy," Hight said. "I drove it around a little down there but I didn't want to lift because I knew it was running strong. I think I drove it past the finish line and it banged the banged the blower."

Force was the second quickest, completing a 4.711-second pass in his Castrol GTX Mustang, while Medlen followed one thousandths of a second behind in his Castrol Syntec Ford.

Ron Capps, who is between Force and Hight in the points race, lost traction in his Brut Dodge Charger during both rounds and is not qualified.

"We're in a tight points race right now with our Auto Club Ford and to be running like this at this point in the season makes it exciting, that's for sure," Hight said. "We really want that three-car race for the championship in Pomona so if I can gain some ground on John [Force] and Ron [Capps] here I'll be real happy."

Jason Line
Line appears determined to clinch the championship in team owner Ken Black's hometown, running a track record 6.720 at 204.94 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO. Line can clinch his first Pro Stock world championship if he survives one round further than teammate Greg Anderson at this race. Anderson missed the first session when he was timed out at the starting line. He is now ninth with a 6.759.

"I'm trying not to think about [the championship] but everyone keeps reminding me," Line said. "I'm not superstitious but you sure don't want to get this close and then not win it. Hopefully I can go four rounds Sunday and end it. That way we can enjoy Pomona and just forget about stressing out."

Andrew Hines
Hines is doing his best to chip away at Antron Brown's 27-point lead in the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings by qualifying No. 1 Friday. Hines posted a track record time of 7.102 at 187.13 mph on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson in the first session, while Brown struggled to qualify 14th overall with a 7.187 on his U.S. Army Suzuki.

"It seems like we're going in the right direction due to my team and all the work they have put in trying to find as much horsepower as they can," Hines said. "Luckily we're in the running for a third championship and every point is important."

Qualifying continues Saturday at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations. Schumacher will try to win his second straight $100,000 Budweiser Shootout Saturday, starting at 12:30 p.m. The Budweiser Shootout is a lucrative race-within-a-race bonus event for the eight best Top Fuel dragsters from the last year.

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