MADISON, Ill. – Eight-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher powered to his first No. 1 qualifier since 2018, breaking the track speed record during Saturday’s ninth annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Pennzoil at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Paul Lee (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the eighth race of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Only one run of qualifying was completed in Top Fuel and Funny Car on Saturday due to weather.
Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle were not able to make a qualifying attempt due to weather. Their eliminations ladders were set by the current points standings in each class, with points leaders Line and Smith getting the top spots.
After multiple rain delays, Schumacher, who returned to Top Fuel action in July after not racing in 2019, went 3.680 seconds at 332.92 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Okuma/Sandvik Coromant dragster, earning his 88th career No. 1 qualifier. Top Fuel’s winningest driver will aim for his 85th victory on Sunday and third at St. Louis, opening eliminations against Kebin Kinsley. Schumacher raced at the first two events when the NHRA returned to action in July, and then committed to the final six races of the season starting at the U.S. Nationals.
“I was just on a dynamite run,” Schumacher said. “I honestly didn’t think it was going to stick, but for all the people who jumped in at the last minute to help me out and get me back out here, I appreciate it. (Crew chief) Mike Green and I have been doing this a long time together. We work well together and understand how each other works, and these guys are having a great time. I’m real happy to be here. I’ve got faith in the guys and that makes a big difference. It’s hard to go down a track that’s 64 degrees. It takes a great crew chief, a great team and some luck. We had it all right there, so it was perfect for us.”
Terry McMillen qualified second after his run of 3.715 seconds at 319.45 mph and Antron Brown was a spot behind in third after going 3.720 seconds at 326.95 mph. Points leader Steve Torrence starts eliminations from sixth after going 3.924 seconds at 327.82 mph.
Paul Lee earned his first No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car thanks to a run of 3.913 seconds at 326.95 mph in his 11,000-horsepower FTI Performance Dodge Charger. The veteran will try to pick up his first win in the class and he’ll open eliminations against Jim Campbell.
Alexis DeJoria, who returned to the class this year after not racing the previous two seasons, took second with a 3.929-second pass at 288.21 mph and Cruz Pedregon qualified third with a run of 3.949 seconds at 329.58 mph. Points leader Jack Beckman ended in the fifth position after his pass of 4.750 seconds at 185.03 mph.
For the first time since the 2000 season, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying was determined by the current points standings. Following the lengthy rain delays, cooler track conditions didn’t allow for either class to make a qualifying run on Saturday.
Line, who entered the weekend with a two-point lead over reigning world champion Erica Enders, picked up his third top qualifier this year and 58th in his career in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro. He will open eliminations against rookie Mason McGaha. Enders will start from the second position and Jeg Coughlin Jr. will be third.
After moving into the points lead with a victory at the most recent race in Gainesville, Matt Smith will begin eliminations from the top spot for the second straight race on his DENSO Auto Parts/Stockseth Racing EBR. It serves as his third No. 1 qualifier this year and 41st in his career. Smith will take on Hector Arana to begin eliminations. Scotty Pollacheck opens race day from the second spot and Andrew Hines is third.
In the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, reigning world champion Stevie Jackson qualified No. 1 thanks to his run of 5.659 seconds at 253.52 mph in his blown Bahrain 1 Racing Camaro on Friday. The pass also set a new track elapse time record. Saturday’s qualifying session was canceled due to inclement weather.
Jackson, who is currently second in points, will face off with Steve Matusek to open eliminations. Brandon Snider qualified second with a 5.660-second pass at 252.00 mph and Khalid alBalooshi took third after going 5.699 seconds at 253.18 mph. Points leader and former world champ Mike Janis will start race day from 11th after going 5.859 seconds at 211.33 mph.