TOPEKA, Kan. — Tony Schumacher extended his NHRA record for Top Fuel No. 1 qualifiers to 64 when he paced the field Saturday at the 23rd annual NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.
The other No. 1 qualifiers at the seventh of 22 races in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season were Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock).
Schumacher, who also pulled to within two of NHRA Legend Kenny Bernstein for fifth place on NHRA’s all-time No. 1 qualifier’s list (all classes), set the pace (3.798 at a track record 324.12 mph) in the U.S. Army dragster on Friday and it held up Saturday.
“Just a few years ago, my crew chief Alan (Johnson) left and everyone in this room wrote me off. I was told ‘we’re never going to win, much less win a championship’,” Schumacher said. “Qualifying No. 1 means my guy (Mike Green) did better than his guy at this particular moment, at this race.”
Beckman, who’s currently second behind Mike Neff in the Funny Car standings, also set the pace during Friday night’s optimal conditions with track records for both time and speed (4.054 at 313.66) in his Aaron’s Dodge Charger.
“This is typical Summer schedule night session where you get one run that is not at all representative of Sunday,” Beckman said. “It’s still awesome to have bragging rights to do that and the fact that we get more points certainly doesn’t hurt.”
The reward for Beckman, as he seeks to win his second straight race and third overall this season, is a difficult first-round matchup with sixth-place Jeff Arend and the DHL team.
“I leaned in his car before he made (his final qualifying) run and I said you need to get your you-know-what together so we don’t race first round … he didn’t listen. That’s not our fault,” Beckman joked.
Nothing changed in Pro Stock either as Edwards, from nearby Broken Arrow, Okla., earned his third straight No. 1 at Heartland Park Topeka with a Friday night pass of 6.640-second pass at 207.05 mph in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac.
“We didn’t make as good of a run (Saturday) … conditions changed (and Sunday)’s going to be event hotter,” Edwards said. “(Sunday) is going to be even more challenging. It’s going to be whoever can adapt to that starting line. You know, it always comes down to who can leave first.”