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Sat, 16 Sep 2000, 10:10 PM

Schumacher and Force Enter Eliminations as Top Qualifiers
Courtesy of NHRA Communications

MOHNTON, Pa. - Tony Schumacher earned his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at Maple Grove Raceway.

Schumacher, from Park Ridge, Ill., blasted down the quarter-mile in 4.535 seconds at a track record 324.67 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to hold the No. 1 spot in Top Fuel. Schumacher's will meet Bobby Lagana in the first round of eliminations.

"We've got a good car and good tune up to go with it," said Schumacher. "We are definitely one of the strong running cars of this event. This class is so competitive that I think you are going to see some races won at the lights on the starting line tomorrow. That's how close (the dragsters) are."

Schumacher's top qualifying effort, his second in the last three events, earned him one more qualifying point than his closest competitor in the championship race, Gary Scelzi. Scelzi finished qualifying in the No. 2 slot.

"I just got one point on Gary right there," said Schumacher concerning the tight points chase. "That's like a whole round. If Gary and I were to meet in eliminations, it wouldn't be until the finals. But my teammate, Melanie (Troxel), could possibly meet him in the third round and she has got a great car too."

John Force, Ron Krisher and Angelle Seeling also led their respective categories at the 16th annual Keystone Nationals, the 18th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

John Force

Defending NHRA Winston champion Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., set two Funny Car track records when he covered the distance in 4.836 at 312.50 to lead the 16-car field for the seventh time this year.

"We are just getting the bugs out of the Mustang," said Force. "It's a good hot rod but we want to stay focused and win rounds. If I win two rounds I'll feel good even though I didn't win the race. I want to win the race but I can survive until the next week because your taking away races in this championship run. Everywhere you can pick up a point to stay ahead, that's what we're trying to accomplish. I'll sweat until it's done."

Force's teammate, Tony Pedregon, will meet Jerry Toliver in the first round of eliminations. Toliver entered the event trailing Force by 222 points in the NHRA Winston championship standings. Force will face the defending event winner Tommy Johnson Jr. in the opening round.

Krisher, from Warren, Ohio, set the pace in the Pro Stock category with his pass of 6.846 at 200.56 for his fifth No. 1 spot of the year. Krisher's elapsed time established a track record. Krisher will line up against Scott Geoffrion in the first round.

New Orleans' Seeling also used a track record performance of 7.156 at 186.23 to lead the competitors in Pro Stock Motorcycle. The field, anchored by Seeling's first round opponent Reggie Showers and his elapsed time of 7.405, is the quickest motorcycle field in NHRA history.

Professional eliminations begin Sunday at 11 a.m.

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