Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Friday Qualifying Report
The U.S. Army Racing trio of Leah Pritchett, Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown are second, fourth and fifth on the provisional ladder, respectively, after the opening two rounds of qualifying Friday for this weekend’s NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series 34th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pennsylvania.
Schumacher began his run to victory in the opening event of the six-race Countdown to the Championships playoffs by taking his U.S. Army Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) down the track during both sessions at the historic venue. The eight-time Top Fuel world champion posted a good lap of 3.806 seconds at 324.94 mph, which put him sixth-best after the first session, and he followed that up with a run of 3.776 seconds at 329.67 mph to jump up two spots heading into Saturday.
“I’m happy,” said Schumacher, the only five-time Dodge NHRA Nationals winner in Top Fuel. “We made two runs down the track today and got the U.S. Army car a little better for the second run. We are expecting the same conditions tomorrow, so it’s another opportunity. We are using a completely different setup. The way the pedal works is completely different and the way I’m driving the car is different. We are just getting used to it and the car seems to really be liking it. I’m excited to start the Countdown at a great track like this where we have experienced so much success. We have locked up championships here in the past. It’s been a great place for us and we’re hoping that continues. It’s up to us now to keep it going. We’ve got to go out and go fast to win this race.”
Brown, winner of the 2015 and 2016 Dodge NHRA Nationals, came out of the box strong aboard the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR. The three-time Top Fuel world champion laid down an impressive pass of 3.779 seconds at 325.37 mph and grabbed a bonus point for qualifying third. In his second run, the team took a big swing at the track, but Brown lost traction almost immediately after overpowering the racing surface. He would coast to the line with a lap of 7.010 seconds at 98.92 mph.
“We are in the top-five and we’ll take it,” said Brown. “We will just keep on pressing from there. We made a really good run to start the day and came back just a little too aggressive in that second one. We just need to back it down a little and we should be fine. I’m stoked about it. We’re going to be alright. Our goal this weekend is just to go rounds. Be consistent. Hopefully we can get to that final and have a chance to win. That first one in the Countdown is big.”
Like her U.S. Army Racing teammates, Pritchett was looking for a fast start to the Dodge NHRA Nationals. The Dodge-backed driver of the Dodge Mopar 1320/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR had her hands full during the opening session when her machine lost grip before halftrack. She had to get out of the throttle and coast to the line with a lap of 6.696 seconds at 100.11 mph. She bounced back in a big way during Friday’s second session blistering down the track with a run of 3.758 seconds at 312.50 mph to move up the second position overall.
The final two qualifying sessions are set for 2 and 5 p.m. EDT Saturday.