Sourced from www.nhra.com
Anderson collects milestone 50th win; Force, Schumacher, Smith also score
Greg Anderson recorded his landmark 50th Pro Stock victory Sunday to highlight a spectacular day of drag racing at the 20th annual Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals. Anderson became just the sixth professional and the 10th driver in history to win 50 NHRA races. He also is the second quickest to the mark, winning No. 50 in his 189th career start. Legend Bob Glidden won 50 times in his first 139 races.
Anderson shared Infineon Raceway's winner's circle with an emotional John Force, who defended fallen teammate Eric Medlen's Funny Car win here one year ago. Top Fuel ace Tony Schumacher dropped Bob Vandergriff to 0-10 lifetime in final rounds, which set a dubious record for futility. Pro Stock Motorcycle winner Matt Smith padded his lead with his third win of the season, this one over first-time finalist Eddie Krawiec.
Schumacher may have started his own career with an 0-8 mark in final rounds before scoring his first win, but he showed the hapless Vandergriff little mercy in Sunday's Top Fuel final, powering his U.S. Army dragster past Vandergriff's UPS rail to win with a 4.534 at 329.42 mph ahead of Vandy's 4.597 at 305.84 mph.
It was obvious that Schumacher had the car to beat as he ran low elapsed time of every round -- running a 4.542, a 4.537, and a 4.558 -- before lowering the boom in the final with the quickest and fastest pass of the entire weekend. Despite his inauspicious start, he is now 39-29 in the money round.
"Bob gave us a great race," Schumacher said. "He was next to us the whole way, we knew he would be, and we had to be prepared for that. He's been to 10 finals so he knows what he's doing and he'll win his before he's done, trust me. I told him he'll have his day and I believe that.
"When Alan [Johnson, crew chief] gets onto a tune-up he's so tough to beat. He saw what everyone else was doing early when we saw all those cars smoke their tires and he made the call that he thought was best and it worked. The car's getting better and stronger every round and every race.
"This is a great way to cap this stretch of races. I haven't seen my kids for a few weeks and this trophy makes it feel a little more worthwhile."
By moving into second place Schumacher, along with Brandon Bernstein, Larry Dixon, and J.R. Todd, managed to clinch a spot in the Countdown to the Champion field Sunday, leaving just three open slots in the Top Fuel category.
While the crowd roared its approval, Force immediately dedicated his win to Medlen, who lost his life earlier this year in a testing accident. He also presented the winner's trophy to Medlen's father, John, who serves as a roving crew chief for his three remaining teams.
Final-round opponent Del Worsham put up a valiant fight, running a 4.851 at 314.68 mph in his Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Chevrolet Impala SS against Force, which was Worsham's best pass of the day, but Force's Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang was just a little bit quicker, earning the win with a 4.831 at 320.58 mph.
"We had a team meeting this morning and I said that between me, Ashley, and Robert [Hight], one of us had to win this race for Eric," Force said. "I remember how happy he was when he won here last year because he's from this area. He had that goofy smile and was eating ice cream and just having a blast. We wanted to win and dedicate it to Eric.
"We had that turnaround a few races back and the car's been magic ever since. I should have been to four finals in a row except I red-lighted in Denver, otherwise I would have. I apologized to Eric and made my peace in my head. I didn't hear voices. I'm not [Don] Garlits. It's just like Eric said it was okay and we got back to racing."
After a terrible start to the year, Force has now been to three finals in the last four races, winning twice. His final-round record is now 124-74. Worsham's last win came 43 races ago at the 2005 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. His runner-up finish did lift him to ninth place in the points, 85 behind Jim Head.
Robert Hight joined Ron Capps in the Countdown to the Championship group. They are the only two Funny Car racers to qualify so far.
The Pro Stock final was a wire-to-wire job as Anderson left first on teammate Jason Line (.046 to .050) and slowly crept away to take the stripe with a 6.657 at 207.72 mph over Line's 6.688 at 204.08 mph run in his identical Summit Racing Pontiac GTO.
Anderson improved to 7-0 in final rounds this year and cushioned his lead in the POWERade points to 170 over Jeg Coughlin, who had closed the gap to 84 points a few races back. Anderson is now 50-21 lifetime, while Line slips to 1-3 on the year and 13-15 for his career.
"We haven't been up to par lately but it appears the slump is over," Anderson said. "Momentum is a big part of this thing and so is luck. I had a great car today but I wasn't driving particularly well. The good Lord was looking out for me. When I won that 49th race things were going really easy, maybe too easy for us. It wasn't that long ago (June 24th in Englishtown, N.J.) but it seems like forever.
"It's quite an accomplishment (to reach 50 wins). I don't know how to explain it. It's fitting that we had a struggle between 49 and 50. Fifty should be tough to get. It should be hard. We were cruising right along but then we got slapped in the face this summer. It's a real reminder to never get too cocky."
The Pro Stock section of the Countdown to the Championship is more than halfway full after Line and Allen Johnson made the grade to join Anderson, Jeg Coughlin, and Dave Connolly in the field.
Smith wasn't on many people's mind at the start of the day after qualifying mid-pack in the No. 9 slot. But he scored a mild upset over Chris Rivas in Round 1, then took out surprise quarterfinalist Shawn Gann, who got a win over low qualifier Angelle Sampey when she crossed the centerline just after the launch, before beating Peggy Llewellyn to reach his seventh final of the first nine races.
Although he was a slight underdog in the final, Smith responded with a slightly quicker light and then managed to hold off Kraweic to win by a tenth of a second to win with a 6.992 at 189.10 mph on his Torco Buell to Kraweic's 7.090 at 190.16 mph on his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod.
"Dad [former Pro Stock driver Rickie Smith] won his first race here and I was in that picture so it's special to come back and win one for myself," Smith said. "This ended up being our day I guess. It's mind-blowing the season we're having. Dang, I love POWERade and I love the NHRA, but I sure wish they didn't have this Countdown deal because if they didn't we'd be looking real good right about now.
"We're lucky to win. We've been fighting major tire shake in first and second gear all weekend. That's why we were off in qualifying. I just could not get it fixed. I got on the phone with Dad trying to figure it out and we still never fixed the problem. Like I said, we got lucky and now I'm sitting here with the Wally."
Smith got some company in the Countdown to the Championship field when Sampey earned enough points to secure a position in the top eight. Kraweic's runner-up result moved him into 10th place in the standings, 29 markers behind the final Countdown spot.
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