Schumacher extends Thunder Valley reign

Dave Ongie • May 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Tony Schumacher arrived at Bristol Dragway this weekend as a man on a mission.

Mission accomplished.

“The Sarge” beat Doug Kalitta by two-hundredths of a second in the Top Fuel division final Sunday, defending his NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals title — taking back the points lead from Antron Brown in the process.

“It was just a great run,” Schumacher said. “Kalitta in the finals — I can’t stress how great it is to race against him. We have so much history, it’s just awesome — he’s a true champion.”

Schumacher never trailed against Kalitta, who lost by a nose in the final after winning his first- round contest against Doug Herbert by a scant two-thousandths of a second.

Kalitta then upended top qualifier Cory McClenathan in the quarterfinals and No. 5 Shawn Langdon in the semis before running into the buzzsaw better known as the U.S. Army team in the finals.

Schumacher came up with an elapsed time of 3.857 seconds to edge Kalitta.

“The team’s working well and they’re loving life,” Schumacher said. “I’m not sure there’s a guy on the team that would rather be anywhere else in the whole wide world right now. We’re having a blast.”

Schumacher got past Terry Haddock in the first round despite engine trouble near the finish.

“In the first round, we blew up pretty good,” Schumacher said. “I was pretty nervous going into the second round.”

Morgan Lucas red-lighted in the quarterfinals to hand Schumacher the win, but Schumacher put together a strong run anyway, giving him confidence enough to beat Brandon Bernstein in the semis.

Bernstein bested Brown in the quarterfinals, allowing Schumacher to leave Bristol with a 45- point lead in the standings.

In Funny Car, Del Worsham saved his best run for last to win his second straight race.

Worsham backed up his win in St. Louis with a 4.075 E.T. in Sunday’s final against Tony Pedregon, the best pass of the weekend by a Funny Car. After battling track temperatures north of 120 degrees Saturday, an overcast day Sunday left the track temperature at an ideal 82 degrees and Worsham took full advantage.

“Yesterday we ran on a very hot track,” he said. “When I saw the forecast and saw that it was going to cool down, it kind of played into our hands with our setup right now.”

Pedregon entered the day as the No. 13 qualifier, but he came up with a 4.143-second pass in the semifinals to knock off top-seeded Ashley Force Hood. In the finals, Pedregon improved on his semifinal time, but it wasn’t enough to hang with the Alan Johnson Racing horsepower that Worsham’s crew chief, Aaron Brooks, put under the hood of his Toyota.

“Aaron Brooks and Alan Johnson, that was their win that time,” Worsham said. “We had to put a new engine in it and they told me it was going to run a 4.08. A 4.07 is pretty darn close.”

Worsham closed in on points leader Ron Capps, who bowed out to Pedregon in the quarterfinals. Capps now holds a 57-point lead over Worsham.

Top qualifier Mike Edwards shook off his recent string of shaky Sunday performances by beating Greg Anderson in the finals of the Pro Stock division.

Edwards laid down a 6.633-second pass in the finals — the lowest elapsed time of the weekend in the division — to outpace Anderson.

“I don’t know what to say,” Edwards said. “I can’t believe we ran this good — it seems like we just got better every run. Eight runs and we were the fastest car every time down the track.”

Edwards came up with a perfect reaction time in the quarterfinals and beat Kurt Johnson with a 6.639-second pass. The quick start had to be on Jason Line’s mind when he turned on the red line against Edwards in the semifinals in an attempt to beat him off the starting line.

Edwards now sits third in the Pro Stock points standings behind leader Jeg Coughlin and second- place Line. Coughlin had another solid weekend, advancing through to the semifinals before falling to Anderson.

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