Tony Schumacher has the hot track temperatures at Firebird International Raceway figured out.
The driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster captured his second consecutive top qualifying spot in the NHRA Powerade Series on Saturday with a track-record pass of 4.474 seconds at 326.24 mph in the first session.
"I’ll be very happy (today) if I wake up and the sun is out," said Schumacher, who was the Top Fuel season champion in 2004. "To make two 4.40s in the heat when nobody else is doing it, that is definitely giving the U.S. Army team confidence."
Track temperatures were in the low 90s most of the day at Firebird, which is west of Chandler. Schumacher also posted a pass of 4.486 at 327.74 mph in the day’s second session. It was Schumacher’s 13th career top qualifying run and first at Firebird. Schumacher has two career victories (2000, 2002) at Firebird.
"It is amazing how good we run when it is hot," Schumacher said. "There is a lot to be said for that."
In Funny Car, Tony Pedregon’s track-record run of 4.703 at 325.06 mph from Friday night held up and he earned his second career No. 1 seed at Firebird and second consecutive in the series.
"The track was almost as good as it was last night," said Pedregon, who earned his 30th career top qualifying spot. "The dragsters ran better, so it told us there was a pretty good racetrack out there."
Pedregon made quarter-mile runs Saturday of 5.881 at 161.11 mph and 4.830 at 292.52 mph.
The same scenario played out in Pro Stock as Richie Stevens Jr.’s track-record pass of 6.735 at 205.35 mph from Friday night held up for the pole.
This is Stevens’ first pole since 1999 at Topeka (Kansas) and second career pole.
Erica Enders became just the fourth woman in NHRA history to qualify for the 16-car Pro Stock field with a pass of 6.789 at 203.40 mph in the day’s first session.
"We went to Pomona (Calif.) expecting to qualify and we were disappointed that we didn’t get it done," said Enders, 21. "But it’s great that we are in the field in just our second attempt. I couldn’t be happier about it, but now it’s time to focus on racing in the elimination rounds."
Enders captured the No. 16 spot and will face Stevens Jr. in the first round. Enders and Stevens Jr. used to face off in the Junior Dragster ranks and are the first two to graduate to Pro Stock.
Enders was subject of a Disney Channel movie ‘Right on Track’ in 2003 that has been tabbed the most successful original film ever for the channel. Beverly Mitchell, who stars on the TV show Seventh Heaven, played Enders.
Legendary driver and owner Don "The Snake" Prudhomme hopes to become the third driver/ owner in NHRA history to claim 100 career wins. Prudhomme would join John Force and Warren Johnson.
"Anytime anybody is able to achieve that many national event wins and world championships it is a lot and 100 is good round number," said Prudhomme, who has 49 wins as a Top Fuel (14) and Funny Car (35) driver and 50 as an owner. "It gets harder and harder as you climb the ladder. The more you win the harder it is to win."
Prudhomme owns the Skoal Funny Car driven by Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Miller Lite Top Fuel car driven by Larry Dixon.
"I hope I give him 101 and I am watching Tommy give him 100," said Dixon, who qualified seventh. "That’s what I am hoping, and we are four runs away from making that happen."
Prudhomme never won a national event at Firebird but has two owner victories.
Kragen Nationals What: Second event of the 2005 NHRA Powerade Series season
When: Today Where: Firebird International Raceway, 20000 Maricopa Road, Chandler
TV: Final eliminations, 5-8 p.m. today (ESPN2, tape delay)
$15 to $85, which include pit passes
Info: (602) 268-0200, www.firebirdraceway.com
Today — Gates open, 8 a.m. Final eliminations for Pro Stock, Funny Car and Top Fuel begin at 11 a.m.