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Fri, 9 Feb 2007, 09:42 PM

Schumacher, Hight and Johnson Friday Leaders At CARQUEST Winternationals
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2007 Auto Imagery, Inc.

POMONA, Calif. --

Tony Schumacher
Four-time and reigning Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher raced to the qualifying lead Friday at the 47th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals with a performance of 4.483 at 328.30 mph at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Funny Car's Robert Hight and Pro Stock's Allen Johnson joined him on the provisional low qualifier podium at the midway point of time trials.

Representing the U.S. Army, Schumacher assumed his usual position atop the Top Fuel ladder after improving on his previous run of 4.503 at 324.20 mph. Spoiled by his world-record-setting performance here in November, Schumacher almost seemed disappointed by Friday's run.

"Don't get us wrong, we're happy to be No. 1 qualifier," Schumacher said, "but after running 4.44 in testing two weeks ago in Phoenix and then we come here with the exact same car, you just want more. I guess we just expect a lot of ourselves."

Thursday leader Brandon Bernstein experienced engine trouble down-track in session two and didn't improve on his 4.494 at 331.61 mph in his Budweiser dragster, slipping one slot to second place overall.

Hight overpowered the racetrack a couple hundred feet into his second pass but his 4.693 at 326.79 mph in his Auto Club Ford Mustang kept him in the Funny Car lead.

"The track's definitely in better shape today than it was yesterday and after running that 4.69 we decided to really get after it," Hight said. "Obviously we were a little too aggressive and spun the tires. Now we'll concentrate on making sure it goes down the track every time because you have to do that to win rounds on race day."

Robert Hight
Ashley Force dropped to 12th place on the grid after getting out of the groove and giving up on her second attempt in her Castrol Mustang. She's still in much better shape than her father John Force, who has yet to make the field. The elder Force has qualified for a record 392 consecutive events entering this one. Kenny Bernstein is also outside the top 16.

Allen Johnson
"If I was ever going to not make [the field] after 392 races in a row, it would be this one when Ashley gets her first start," John Force said. "I already told Kenny that if both of us don't make it I'm gonna challenge him to a foot race right out there on Sunday morning."

Johnson drove to the lead in his Team Mopar Dodge Stratus, covering the distance in 6.640 at 207.85 mph, just six hundredths of a second off the track record.

"Any time you're even close to those guys it feels great," Johnson said, "and I think we're closer to them now than ever before. It's exciting."

Johnson's run put him ahead of reigning champ Jason Line and three-time champ Greg Anderson. The Summit Racing Pontiac GTO teammates have owned the class for the last four years but are second and third here.

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