POMONA, Calif. – Transferring 8,000 horsepower to pavement for 1,000 feet never is an easy task in drag racing.
The seven professional teams at Don Schumacher Racing have the best of everything at its massive, state-of-the-art command center in Brownsburg, Ind., with the best drivers, crew chiefs and technicians.
But not even the DSR braintrust could predict weather and track conditions for the 52nd annual NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., that will have changed more times over four days than gas prices have the past month.
No one is complaining about the weather because precipitation isn’t in the forecast for Auto Club Raceway.
Temperatures in the high 70s and clear skies are unseasonable for this time of year in Southern California. That makes it harder for the powerful Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars to hook to a warm – if not hot – track.
“Whoever is No. 1 now could end up being No. 16 after we make two more qualifying runs on Saturday,” said Phil Shuler, co-crew chief on Spencer Massey’s Prestone/FRAM Top Fueler that sits in the No. 8 position.
The forecast is for highs of 60 degrees on Saturday and about the same for Sunday’s championship eliminations.
While seven-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher produced a second consecutive solid run, he remains No. 2 behind provisional No. 1 Morgan Lucas.
Antron Brown was one of two DSR drivers to improve positions from Thursday afternoon. Brown completed his run in 3.882 seconds (311.70 mph) in the Matco Tools dragster to jump from 16th to ninth.
In the Funny Car class, Matt Hagan improved for the DSR camp in his Aaron’s Dream Machine. Tuned by Tommy DeLago, Hagan clocked a 4.154 (310.91 mph) and moved up one spot to the third qualifying position.
“I’m sure all of the tuners will be licking their chops on Saturday and Sunday,” Brown said. “Cooler temps produce more horsepower. We’ll have to tighten our belts for sure.
“We’ve had two unbelievable runs, but the best part is that by being No. 2 we’ll be in the last pair of cars to run in the last session when the conditions should be the best so far.”
The following are capsules of how DSR performed on Thursday …
Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army dragster
Tony had the fastest speeds in each of the first two sessions, including a best 321.42 mph on Friday.
“Given how hot it got here today, we laid down a real good run,” he said. “We were a little quicker than (Thursday).
Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster
Antron lost traction on his run Thursday but rallied with crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald to jump from 16th to ninth with their run of 3.882 seconds (311.70 mph).
“Despite not making a full pull (Thursday), we were able to get some good data that we applied today,” Brown said. “We needed a clean pass so we could come out Saturday and turn it up even more.”
Thursday started at 5 a.m. for Antron when he was featured throughout the morning show on KTLA (http://www.ktla.com/news/local/alliemackay/) with reporter Allie Mac Kay. Antron, members of his crew and Allie were at the track and enjoyed a breakfast of praline French toast, bacon and eggs prepared by DSR chef Malcolm Clark. Antron used his grandmother’s recipe for making a Louisiana king cake.
Spencer Massey, Prestone/FRAM dragster
Spencer’s team has been consistent, which is just how he and crew chiefs Shuler and Todd Okuhara like it.
The tuning duo turned out a 3.873 at 319.22 mph Thursday.
“We were consistent during testing and that’s exactly how we’ve started here in Pomona,” Massey said.
“It’s exactly what we were looking for. It’s supposed to cool down tomorrow, so we are looking to move up in the field.”
Matt Hagan, Aaron’s Dream Machine Dodge Charger R/T
Matt posted a solid 4.154-second run at 310.91 mph for the reigning NHRA Funny Car championship team. Hagan is qualified third.
“We’ve had two great laps down the racetrack,” he said. “It’s going to get cool and it’s time to pull down the seat belts and hold on.”
Ron Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Ron’s team is making strides but ran into problems for the second straight day.
His Dodge slowed to 4.344 seconds at 242.15 mph after he said the engine dropped a cylinder.
“You have to click it off when that happens in qualifying because it could cause a fire,” he said.
Ron is 14th out of 20 Funny Cars fighting for 16 spots in Sunday’s eliminations.
“We have two runs left and the cooler track will help us with traction and the new clutch discs we’re using.”
Jack Beckman, Valvoline NextGen Dodge Charger R/T
After sitting on the pole Thursday, Jack slowed to a 5.538 at 127.27 mph but is No. 2.
“We were running better early in the run than we were on Thursday,” he said of the performance before losing traction. “The luxury of running so good on Thursday right out of the trailer was that we had a freebie today.”
Johnny Gray, Big O Tires/Service Central Dodge Charger R/T
Johnny lost traction early in the run and smoked the tires but is the No. 4 qualifier based on his Thursday effort.
“We got a little too aggressive,” crew chief Rob Wendland said of the car the team used to advance to the semifinal round in five of last year’s last six races.
“But we have a lot of data on this car from when we ran it in cool weather last year so we’ll be fine this weekend.”
Last two qualifying sessions: 11:30 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. (PT)
The quickest 16 cars in each category after Saturday will advance to single eliminations 11 a.m. Sunday (PT).
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Saturday: 11 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. (ET) / 8-10 PM (PT)
Sunday: 7:30-11:00 p.m. (ET) / 4:30-8 p.m. (PT)