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Wed, 5 Sep 2007, 08:14 PM

Another Great Indy is in the Books
By Bob Frey
Photo copyright 2007 Auto Imagery, Inc.

It's really hard to know where to begin with the highlights of the 2007 MAC Tools U.S. Nationals. For me the thrill of the event began with the press conference and the cacklefest of historic cars at Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis on Wednesday. In addition to introducing some of the top stars in the sport, we also got to see some of the cars and stars that have been part of the long history of the National Hot Rod Association. >From Jerry Baltes, to Larry Dixon Sr. in the Howard Cams Rattler, to the "Barnstormer" of Tommy Ivo and the "Poachers" spectacular front engine car and more, that was a great way to kick off the 53rd running of drag racing's biggest event. And when you throw in "Big Daddy" Don Garlits and his Swamp Rat VIII car, well, it really was something special. The fans loved it, the press loved it and I loved it and it was just the start of a great weekend. Fast forward to the end of the event when I had some time to talk with a lot of the fans who stayed around for the winner's circle, fans who expressed their amazement at the magnitude of the event, and I have to think that this was one of the best Indy races ever. Of course, I think I say that almost every year.

Alan Johnson
I guess the best place to start is at the top of the pack and that would be Top Fuel eliminator. What can you say about Tony Schumacher, Alan Johnson and the entire Army team that Don Schumacher has put together? With his win this weekend Tony has now won Indy an amazing six times in the sport's premier class and that has to put him in the record books as one of the great stories in the history of this race. He has also been to the final round another two times so that makes eight finals in the last twelve years for the "Sarge." One of the finals that he lost was at the very first race he entered in Top Fuel and that was in 1996. At that race he qualified 16th and was scheduled to race Blaine Johnson in round one. Now, a dozen years later, Blaine's brother, Alan, is leading Tony's charge into the record books. I got to share a brief moment with Everett and Agnes Johnson after the race and you could see the pride in their face as they joined Alan in the winner's circle again at Indy. Alan has now taken Tony, Gary Scelzi and, in 1991, his brother Blaine to Indy titles....The

Schumacher vs. Dixon
win for Tony from the number one spot was special for several reasons. First of all, it was the first time this year that anyone had won in Top Fuel from the top spot. It was also only the fifth time that a dragster driver had ever won Indy from the top spot. It also makes Tony the first guy to win Indy twice after qualifying number one and he has now done that in back-to-back seasons. When Tony beat Larry Dixon in the finals it also featured a meeting between the number one and two qualifiers in TF. Did you know that this was only the fifth time in history that that has happened at Indy? It's also the third time that the number one guy won the race. The classic one vs. two meeting was probably the 1971 final between Don Garlits and Steve Carbone, a race that featured the famous burn down and a race that was won by Carbone, the number two qualifier. The only other time that the second qualifier beat the number one guy at Indy was in 2004 when Tony Schumacher beat Doug Kalitta. Go figure, huh? With the win Tony has taken over the points lead for the first time this year and now it's up to the other teams to try to catch him..Larry Dixon and his Skytel team had another good weekend at Indy, but that shouldn't come as a real surprise. Larry has now been to five final rounds at Indy with three wins and he is now in second place in the points. With Don Bender, Todd Smith and the rest of the team that Don Prudhomme has assembled, Larry has a very solid car that will contend for the championship again this year. Larry's qualifying effort of 4.481 matched the best run that he has ever made and just goes to show how tough this team

Rod Fuller
will be down the stretch....David Powers announced that he has signed Caterpillar as a primary sponsor for the rest of this year and for all of 2008. The yellow and black team, with driver Rod Fuller, then went out and made it to the semi-finals before losing to Larry Dixon. Rod is now third in the points, thirty-four points behind Tony..One of the sad stories of the Indy race was the accident that was suffered by David Powers' crew member, Adam Hiller. Adam, who works on the Matco Tools car of Whit Bazemore, was injured in a freak accident on Thursday at the races. David immediately set up a recovery fund at the races and, at last word, they had received over $10,000 in donations. Among that amount was the Full Throttle money that was won by both Rod's team and the team of Andrew Hines in the motorcycle class and David has said that he will match all the donations that are received. If you get to the Memphis race stop by the David Powers pit area and make a donation and we'll keep you up to date on how you can make donations on line in the immediate future. Adam's a wonderful young man and we wish him well in his recovery and hope to see him back at the races real soon. I have to say that the response from the fans at Indy was great and we hope to see the same at Memphis. Get well, Adam.

John Force
One of the big stories of the weekend had to be the fact that John Force did not qualify for the race. John made his best run, a 4.856 on his last run but it was too little and too late and, for the first time since 1984, John would not be part of the field at Indy. In true John Force style he told the press that, "we just didn't get it done when we had to." No excuses, no talk about bad lanes or bad conditions, just the truth and that's what makes John so special. John also had an open house at his shop where he unveiled the Eric Medlen Project and that was something to behold. John is determined to see to it that the legacy of Eric lives on and he, Austin Coil and the entire Team Force operation also want to be sure that everyone in the sport learns something from Eric's accident. The amount of time, effort and money that he has put into the "project" is amazing and it's just one more thing that makes John the great champ and person that he is. It also puts a lot of things into their proper perspective..In addition to his 1984 DNQ at Indy John also missed the field there in 1979 along with several others including John Lombardo, Gary Densham and Paul Smith. The DNQ's in '84 included Jim White, Chuck Etchells and Murf McKinney. With John out of

Ashley vs. Hight
the starting lineup the field appeared to be wide open and Mike Ashley took advantage of the situation to win the race over Robert Hight. Mike's win was one of the more emotional in recent years since he was running a special car that was dedicated to the memory of the son of Donnie and Hollie Faulkner, the folks who run the Oakley "Rolling O" Store on the midway. Adorned in a special paint job that was designed by Chip Foose, Mike went out and won in impressive fashion by beating Gary Densham, Skoal Showdown winner Jack Beckman, former Indy champ Del Worsham and the reigning Indy champ, Robert Hight. The car will now be given to the Barrett-Jackson folks where it will be auctioned off at their big show in January. Nice job, Mike and thanks to everyone who had a hand in making that car possible. With the win Mike has jumped to second place in the standings behind only Robert Hight. Mike also announced that he will have two funny cars next year with Melanie Troxel

Jeff Arend
driving the second one. Now that should be some team!!...Jeff Arend was the surprise number one qualifier at Indy making him just the 17th driver to occupy the top spot at Indy in the Funny Car class. The other number one qualifiers included such greats as Don Prudhomme, Raymond Beadle, Tom McEwen and other Funny Car heroes. But, like Jeff, several of them were not around at the end of the program. Did you know that since 1970, the number one qualifier in Funny Car has lost six times in the first round at Indy? Leonard Hughes, Beadle and the "Mongoose" are among those who qualified number one but didn't win a round at the Nationals. John Force, the top qualifier in both 2005 and 2006, lost both years in round one so it has now happened three times in the last three years while it occurred a total of three times in the previous thirty years at Indy. One of the teams to inflict the loss on John was the Checker, Schucks and Kragen "blue team" in 2005 when Phil Burkart was driving. The classes are so tough that anyone can beat anyone in any round at any race. Really. Did you know

Jon Capps
that the FC field went from Jeff's 4.754 to Jon Capps, the 16th qualifier, at 4.826, a spread of only .072 which makes this the closest field in Funny Car history, eclipsing the old mark set at Las Vegas in 2005 when the spread was .088 from top to bottom? Now I ask you, how tough is the FC class this year?...Ashley Force, now officially America's Hottest Athlete, according to the poll on, was the number two qualifier and she got that spot because she ran slower than Jeff Arend. Both drivers recorded 4.754 times but Jeff went 327.51 to Ashley's 309.70 and so he got the top spot. Did you know that is the first time in the history of the class that the number one spot was determined by speed at Indy? Like I said before, the FC class is so tough now that just making the field is a real credit to the teams, while qualifying number one is a real accomplishment. For the record, Jeff becomes the 84th driver to sit at the top of a Funny Car field in the history of the class.

Warren Johnson
For the first time in his career Warren Johnson was not part of the starting lineup at Indy. WJ, who first came to the Nationals in 1972 and qualified 28th, missed the cut when his 6.706 was just shy of the 6.705 bump spot. Did you know that this marked the first time since the Winternationals in 1980 that both John and Warren sat out on eliminations' day?...Max Naylor was as much a surprise as Jeff was in the FC class. Max, whose previous best qualifying effort was a 6th place start at several races this year, made several good runs with the Jagermeister Dodge and he held on to the top spot from the first round on Friday through the last run on Sunday. Everyone in the field had a shot at the top spot on Friday night and again on Saturday but Max made his 6.655 track record run stand up. Max becomes the 53rd driver to be the top qualifier in Pro Stock and now he'll try to do it again so he doesn't become one of those

Max Naylor
fifteen drivers who were number one just once in their careers. Stuart McDade, Chuck Harris and Jack Roush are among those in that category. In my opinion, Max's top spot was the most surprising in the Pro Stock class at Indy since Ron Hutter did it in 1972, a race that did not feature a lot of the top stars since they were racing in Tulsa that weekend. Max deserves a lot of credit for running well and holding off the best cars, teams and drivers in the class....Max lost in round two to Greg Anderson who then beat Ken Koretsky in the semi-finals to give himself a shot at Indy history. Greg had already won the race in four consecutive years and he was looking to be the first driver in any class to win it five straight times. Greg gave it a good shot off the line in the finals but Dave Connolly was able to run him down with his Torco Chevrolet. Dave's 6.648 pass in round one was stunning and that held up as low elapsed

Connolly vs. Anderson
time of the met in the Pro Stock class. With the win Dave is now the leader in the points for the first time since after the Las Vegas race in 2005, a race where he beat Greg Anderson in the final round. With all the talk about how hot John Force has been the second half of the season, did you know that this was Dave's sixth final round since St. Louis, a span of only twelve races? Dave added the win to his Maple Grove victory and that makes the second time in his career that he has won back-to-back races....Greg qualified ninth for the second time in the last six races and you would have to go back another fifty races to find the last time that the Summit Racing Pontiac was in the bottom half of the field. He then navigated the tricky right lane to win his first two rounds before moving to the left lane and beating Kurt Johnson in the semi-finals. Back in the right lane for the final round Greg was slightly ahead of Dave off the line but the yellow and black tracked him down to get the win. Dave averaged a solid .032 off the line and it's that kind of driving, coupled with the power he has, that just might make him the champion this year.

Treble vs. Smith
Craig Treble may have been the real surprise winner of the weekend. The rider of Harry Lartigue's Suzuki qualified sixth in the field before beating Matt Guidera, Andrew Hines (fouled), Hector Arana (late) and Matt Smith (fouled). "I guess I just had them all rattled," he told me after the race." I guess he did, and now he is in second place in the points and I'm sure that he is a big fan of the new "Countdown" system..Andrew Hines did win the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle on Saturday but that red light eliminated any chance of a double-up for the Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle driver on Monday....Chip Ellis made the most surprising single run of the weekend when he went 6.948 in the heat of the day on Sunday to take the number one spot away from Hector Arana. Did you know that this was the ninth time in his career that Chip has qualified at the top of the pack and he has yet to win from the number one position? That just goes to show how tough the motorcycle class is these days....Matt Smith, who has now been to three straight final rounds at Indy, left town as the point's leader and he is fifty-one points ahead of Craig. Matt was one of four Indy winners last year who made it back to the final round and he was one of the three who couldn't close the deal in the final round this year. Did you know that there has never been an Indy race where the Top Fuel and Funny Car winners one year both won the next year, let alone having four champions repeat?...The motorcycles will race at one additional event next year, the now famous "TBA" race that is on the new 2008 schedule, and while I have my guess as to where the race will be I can tell you without hesitation that it will not be in Australia, no matter what Mike Dunn says.

Manzo vs. Tasca
Frank Manzo joined the Indy record books when he won for the ninth time and that ties him with Robert L. Glidden for the most wins in Indy history in any class. Frank still has hopes of winning another Lucas Oil championship and we will now have to wait and see what he does this weekend in Englishtown and what Jay Payne does at his remaining point's races. The two could go down to the sixth tie-breaker to decide the season's champion. More on that later...Scott Richardson missed a shot at Indy fame when he lost to Jason Coan in the Competition Eliminator final round. Scott, who had already won Indy in three classes, was looking to make it four which would be a record. He was also looking to win a national event in his sixth class and that, too, would also be an NHRA record, but Jason Coan ended Scott's hopes with a strong performance from his little roadster in the finals....Marty Thacker, Brandon Wilkinson and Peter Biondo also were among the sportsman winners at Indy while Pat Fitzpatrick and Andrew Thomas in Super Comp and Super Gas each won their first ever national event and they made it a big one. Congratulations to all the sportsman winners at Indy.

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