Both Tony Schumacher and John Force, who won their respective classes in the 19th annual Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals at the Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway on Sunday, had luck on their side.
But for Force, who powered his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to his 89th career win, his ninth in 13 years at CBIR, his eighth national win and his second consecutive win this season, he had some help.
Veteran actress Ann Margret told him in victory circle before the final eliminations on Sunday morning "don't break a leg." In theatrical terms "don't break a leg" means good luck.
Force got lucky in a semifinal win against Dale Worsham.
John Force Funny Car crew members Dean Antonelli (left) and Steve Warwick reacted after John Force drove his Top Fuel Funny car 309.34 mph in 4.935 seconds down the quarter-mile to win the Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway Sunday. (Dispatch Photo by Steve Kohls)
If not for a better reaction time, .487 to .517, he would not have won. Worsham, 30, clicked off an elapsed time of 4.939 to the 51-year old Force's 4.953. It was Force's third best reaction time this season.
"I was happy just because I left on time against the kid ," Force said.
He said that his crew gave him coffee and cupcakes to prepare him for Worsham.
"You sugar up," Force said. "You get up against these young kids it's painful to lose in a holeshot. Some days you get them some days you don't. If you push you car toward the edge to get a good light you could red light."
Team Castrol GTX Ford Mustang NHRA Funny Car pilot John Force waved to the crowd in the Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway on Sunday after he won his 89th career Funny Car final at the Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals. (Dispatch Photo by Clint Wood)
Force said that his crew chief Austin Coil told him "he was back on his game."
"No, that car had so much clutch in it, it was dragging me staging," Force said. "So when you hit the throttle the clutch doesn't have to go and lock up and move you, it's already moving."
Force said he did not know until he radioed a crew member that he won the semifinal.
In the final, he posted his second-best reaction time, .480, but really didn't need it. WWF's Jim Epler lost traction at the start.
John Force powered his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car down the quarter-mile during finals action at the Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. Force won with a pass of 309.34 mph in 4.935 seconds. (Dispatch Photo by Clint Wood)
"She was trucking really good," Force said. "It ran real good, 309 (309.34 mph). I told Coil it got out of the groove. (My crew) gave me a good hot rod. They gave me confidence."
Epler said he couldn't hold his car when he was staging and it kept rolling for some unknown reason.
The nine CBIR wins also are the most at any track for Force, who pilots the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
"You've got the air here and Austin Coil likes to make horsepower," he said. "We struggled with the 90 percent rule. As good as we run, we couldn't get her down there too far because it was running out of motor."
For Force, similar to his semifinal win over Worsham, he clicked off 4.9s to win every round. He took out Tommy Johnson, Jr., in the first round, 4.954 to 4.986, and Bob Gilbertson in the quarterfinals, 4.953 to 6.752.
Schumacher, the defending Winston points champion and the No. 1 qualifier for the first time in his career, was "awesome" in his Exide Batteries rocket, except for his semifinal win against Andrew Cowin.
It was a tire-smoking affair which was won in a pedaling match. Schumacher won with a 6.086 to Cowin's 6.126.
Both racers started to smoke their tires (lose traction) at the same time.
""Ive been doing this a long time," Schumacher said. "I've had some experience but five thousandths of a second that's not a big comfort zone. He did a great job."
In the final, Schumacher edged Doug Kalitta with a run of 4.585 seconds at 318.69 mph. From the starting line, he led by one thousandth of a second, .522 to .523.
Schumacher said by the 60-foot mark, his car's front tires were up and it "was trucking."
"It left just awesome," he said, "It had (the tires) up there ... I knew when we got past 60 feet that this thing was going to run."
He said that by this time, he was a little worried about a bump in the lane.
"It went through that bump and nothing happened," he said. "And then probably stupidly I started looking out the side ... going 'I got this thing.' Believe it or not you start doing that. That win light is one of the prettiest things a driver worships."
Schumacher's win was his first at CBIR, his third this season and his fourth career win. He started racing the Exide Batteries Top Fueler at the 1999 U.S. Nationals.
He defeated Chris Karamesines in the first round, and Kenny Bernstein in the quarterfinals.
"I really didn't feel that I was all on my game today," Schumacher said. "My reaction times Continued from Page 1A
weren't great but I just had a dynamite race car. When that happens you don't want to make a mistake. I may have overdone it and spent a little time making sure (the Christmas tree) was yellow. I'm a human being and I didn't want to give it away."
Kalitta, who has two national event wins this season, defeated Jim Cavalieri in the first round, Larry Dixon in the second and Bob Vandergriff, Jr., in the semifinals.
It also was the last time that Schumacher will race the Exide Batteries car. He will drive for an unnamed sponsor, who signed for 3 1/2 years, at the next national event, the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis from Aug. 30 until Sept. 4. His teammate, Melanie Troxel, will drive the Exide Batteries car, starting at Indianapolis.
"It will be the first time I have to get out of the car and get into something different in my life," Schumacher said. "It's been a good car. It went out and gave me my first win, gave me a world championship."
-- Force increased his points lead over Jerry Toliver by 160. Toliver, who did not qualify at the last national event, lost in the first round.
"Win or lose I try to stay the same and motivate my guys," Force said. " I just want to get 10 (his 10th Winston Points Championship)."
-- No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps, who established a track elapsed
time mark of 4.862 seconds in the second round of qualifying on Saturday, lost to Epler in the quarterfinals. Both engaged in a tire-smoking battle won by Epler when the engine in the U.S. Tobacco Co. Camaro expired in a fireball.
-- Schumacher is only 24 points behind Winston points leader Gary Scelzi. He was in about the same predicament last year after leaving Brainerd, 30 points behind then-points leader Mike Dunn.
-- Schumacher's current car will be repainted in the new sponsor's colors. His car, which reached 327 mph last season, will be Troxel's. His car which reached 330 mph last season will the pair's spare car.
-- David Wells won the Federal Mogul Dragster final by five-one hundredths of a second with a pass of 5.512, 254.8 mph compared to No. 1 qualifier's Mark Hentges. Wells set the elapsed time record, 5.476, in the first round.
-- No. 1 qualifier Cy Chesterman, who won the NHRA Federal Mogul Drag Racing Series Division 5 event at CBIR in June, won the Federal Mogul Funny Car final when Sam Blue of Red Wing had a foul start.
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