Tony Schumacher raced to the Top Fuel qualifying lead Friday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Sr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Schumacher powered his U.S. Army dragster equipped with the new cockpit canopy to a leading time of 3.791 seconds at a track record speed of 323.97 mph. Schumacher's team unveiled the NHRA-approved technology at this event and utilized the enclosed cockpit on his car for both qualifying attempts.
“For the car to go out there, not miss a beat, and qualify No. 1 is a perfect situation,” said Schumacher. “The canopy takes some getting used to. You’re driving as though you have snow on the windshield and you wiped off the center of it to see through it, except you’re going 320 mph. It’s phenomenal, though. It’s safe, and that’s the whole point. Wally Parks founded NHRA to get people off the street and make things safe, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to continue to do.”
Schumacher claimed the top spot via his track record speed. Championship contender Antron Brown was second with an identical 3.791 at a slower speed of 323.74 in his Matco Tools dragster. Two-time season winner Morgan Lucas was third with a 3.800 at 322.81 in the GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster.
In Funny Car, Wilkerson led the field with a track record time of 4.049 at 307.16 in his Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang. Wilkerson is currently 12th in points and needs a strong showing at the final two regular season events in order to make it into the top 10 and earn a berth into the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
“Obviously, the conditions are pretty stellar out there. Our car was trying to go a 4.12 or 4.13 on the first run, but I just missed it to be truthful,” Wilkerson said. “The track was a little bit better on the second run, we stood on it a little bit harder, and we were lucky enough to get the car to whistle right on through there for low e.t.”
John Force, an 11-time winner at BIR, was second in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang with a 4.067 at 311.85, while his daughter Courtney, the category's most recent winner, was 11th in her Traxxas Mustang with a 4.138 at 310.41. Series points leader Robert Hight, who has yet to win at BIR, qualified 13th in his Auto Club Mustang.
Enders continued her recent momentum in Pro Stock by powering her GK Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt to a leading performance of 6.550 at 210.37. She has earned historic wins at Chicago and Seattle since early July.
“The guys at our shop have been working hard as far as R&D and it is showing up on the scoreboard,” Enders said. “It’s proof that hard work pays off. In the first qualifying run, we went out and got a good baseline and in the second, we swung for the fences.”
Red-hot points leader Allen Johnson was second in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger with a 6.560 at 210.87, while defending event winner and Minnesota native Greg Anderson was fifth in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro with a 6.582 at 210.54.
Arana Sr., who has earned three No. 1 qualifying positions this season in Pro Stock Motorcycle, earned the qualifying lead with a performance of 6.882 at 192.63 on his Lucas Oil Buell.
“I was very surprised that we ran a 6.88 in the first round,” Arana Sr. said. “We knew that it would be fast but we really didn’t think it would be that fast.”
The Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley Davidson duo of Andrew Hines and Eddie Kraweic, who have combined to win all eight races this season in the two-wheel category, were second and fourth respectively. Hector Arana Jr. was third on his Lucas Oil Buell.
Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday's eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
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