Tony Schumacher powered his U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster to the top spot during qualifying at the Virginia NHRA Nationals, earning his 87th career No. 1 qualifier and a major leg up on the Richmond competition by getting a bye run on race day.
The pole was the third of the season for Schumacher, and his fourth at Virginia Motorsports Park. His No. 1 qualifying 3.777-second at 327.51-mph Q2 run reset the track’s Top Fuel speed record. Schumacher also owns the track’s E.T. record, a 3.771 that earned him the pole in 2008.
After starting from the top spot in 2008, Schumacher was able to turn on four win lights and park his Army Racing dragster in the winner’s circle. He hopes history will repeat itself on Sunday when he seeks to end a frustrating 30-race winless streak with a second Virginia Nationals Top Fuel title. With fifteen dragsters on the property, Schumacher has given himself a large advantage going into race day by having a bye run in round one of eliminations.
“I think the most important part is we don’t race at night – generally speaking, we race when it’s hot and the sun’s out – so Friday night runs are just throw-downs for No. 1 qualifying runs,” said the eight-time Top Fuel world champion. “When you’ve got a 15-car field like we have here this weekend, that’s an important run. It allows you to go out tomorrow morning and run hard and not have to worry about anybody next to you. Just run hard and go for lane choice, push the track, see what it can do, find the limits.”
Following his bye run, Schumacher will face the winner of the Richie Crampton/Dom Lagana matchup en route to his bid for a semifinal spot. Schumacher has nothing but the utmost confidence in his Army Racing team and believes their strong qualifying performance has them primed for a long and successful race day.
“Our first run today (Q3) I think was probably just as impressive as our run last night. We smoked the tires, but we were dead-on a 77 run until we did. We could’ve backed it down a little bit and run a 79, an 80 flat, but we wanted to push it and see what the track would give us. Mike (Neff, crew chief) came up and told me we were going to push it, we were going to run hard early and see what it will do. It did exactly what he put in that car, so we’re getting there. We’ll put those four qualifying runs to good use tomorrow and we’ll learn a lot more. We’ll go out there and race the racetrack, try to set a good first-round run and find out what the track will take because it’s going to be hot. What we want is a good, hot, sunny day all day rather than the conditions changing all over the place. I really like this green (No. 1 qualifier) hat but it’s been a while since we’ve seen a yellow (event winner’s) hat.”
The Competition: Bye
Q1: 4.039 E.T. at 245.99 MPH
Q2: 3.777 E.T. at 327.51* MPH (Three bonus points for quickest run of the session)
Q3: 4.863 E.T. at 148.56 MPH
Q4: 3.828 E.T. at 324.59 MPH (Two bonus points for second quickest run of the session)