NHRA’s annual duel in the desert has been a Southwest fixture since 1985, when it joined the tour in a late fall slot. Since 1990, it’s been the second stop on the tour’s westward march and a place for teams to redeem mistakes made at the opener. 








fc_winnerDSB_8715.JPGFormer NHRA POWERade Series Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon set a national elapsed time record en route to his 33rd career victory Sunday to highlight a record-setting weekend at Firebird International Raceway.

Rod Fuller and Kurt Johnson also scored victories at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals presented by Castrol, the second of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.

Pedregon's opening-round run of 4.701 seconds certified his 4.659-second qualifying time within the required 1 percent, making it an official NHRA record worth 20 bonus points in the POWERade standings. He then defeated Robert Hight in the final round to add the race trophy to his collection.

"This weekend was just a little reminder that when conditions are good and with the way (NHRA) prepares the tracks these days that just about any place can hold a national record," said Pedregon, who became the first Funny Car driver to set a national performance elapsed time record at the quarter-mile track near Phoenix.  "Anytime youtf_winnerDSB_8769.JPG can qualify well, set a national record, and win the race with the two quickest cars in the class going at it in the final, I'd say it's a great weekend. The fans sure got their money's worth."

Pedregon's memorable weekend in the Q-Racing Chevy Monte Carlo helped him move up to second place, just six points behind Hight, who took over the top spot from Pomona winner Gary Scelzi with his second straight runner-up finish.

Fuller raced to his second straight Top Fuel victory at this event, once again defeating Melanie Troxel in a rematch of last year's final round. He powered his Valvoline/David Powers Homes dragster to a 4.490-second run at 327.19 mph to claim his fourth career victory and take the series points lead for the first time in his career.

"I got to the final and we're in the same lane as last year against Melanie again and I was thinking how much I love Arizona," Fuller said. "Then I thought about the streak and you know streaks are gonna end at some point. But in the end it all worked out for us. I feel really blessed and lucky, especially when they told me we were in the points lead. I've never had that before."

ps_winnerDSB_8701.JPGJohnson claimed his 36th Pro Stock victory by driving his ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt to a performance of 6.694 seconds at 206.67 mph. Runner-up Jason Line's Summit Racing Pontiac GTO was quicker with a 6.676 at 207.85 mph, but he came up one hundredth of a second short at the finish line due to Johnson's quicker reaction time at the start.

The victory extends Johnson's NHRA streak of winning at least one race per year to 13 seasons.

"It's a relief," said Johnson, a three-time winner at this event. "If nothing happens for the rest of the year I can say I won Phoenix and remember I enjoyed a cold beer afterwards. Some times you work just as hard as always but you don't get the wins. It's a tough class."

Johnson's win catapulted him up to third in point standings. Line moved into the series lead, 1 point in front of teammate Greg Anderson.

The NHRA POWERade Series Countdown to the Championship continues with the 38th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals, March 15-18 at historic Gainesville Raceway in Florida.





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schumacherDSA_5148.JPGFour-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher raced to his 37th career No. 1 qualifying position Saturday after covering Firebird International Raceway's quarter-mile dragstrip in a track record time of 4.430 seconds -- the fourth quickest run in NHRA history.

Robert Hight and Jason Line also earned No. 1 qualifying honors at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals presented by Castrol, the second of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship. Sunday's eliminations start at 11 a.m. (MT), with television coverage on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. (ET).

Saturday's drama came in the form of last-ditch qualifying efforts by John Force and Doug Kalitta. With their class-leading qualifying streaks hanging in the balance, both drivers managed to make the starting lineups in their respective categories during the final session. Force powered his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang to a 4.818 and Kalitta posted a 4.547 in his Mac Tools dragster. Force has now qualified for 394 consecutive events, while Kalitta has reached 162 straight race days.

hightDSA_5271.JPG Force's son-in-law Hight has yet to back up his 4.636 at 327.74 mph from Friday evening to make it an official NHRA national record for his Auto Club Ford Mustang, but it's still the quickest run ever recorded in the Funny Car class and earned him his 16th career top qualifier award.

Force's daughter Ashley will start sixth after clocking a career-best 4.730-second run in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.

"John [Force] was really pumped up before that round," Hight said. "He needs to quit waiting until the final session to qualify. We're all running a new clutch combo that Jimmy (Prock, crew chief) and I tested extensively in the off-season. John just started using it this weekend and he was complaining it was hard to hold the clutch pedal in. I told him Ashley didn't have any trouble with it. He'll be fine. It just takes getting used to."

Tony Pedregon, who also has a shot at the national record if he can back up his 4.659-second run, is second overall in his Q Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo. 

DSA_5015.jpg Schumacher didn't improve on his track-record 4.430 at 328.22 mph from Friday, but his 4.457 in Saturday's final session, the hottest round of the weekend, proved his U.S. Army dragster is ready for the anticipated race-day conditions.

"I like to say that you don't win championships in qualifying, you win them on race days," Schumacher said. "But last year I won the championship by 16 points so technically, we won the title with the extra points we earned in qualifying. That proves that qualifying well does pay off."

In Pro Stock, Line used the optimum conditions to post his best pass of the weekend, a track-record performance of 6.635 at 209.33 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO, to claim his 12th career No. 1 qualifying award.

"As racers, no matter how good your car is running, you always want more out of it," Line said. "That's what drives you and pushes you to be better. I guess it's the way we're wired. But I am happy with what we've done here so far, for sure."

First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway, the second of 23 events in the  NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.  Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday.

Top Fuel --
1. Tony Schumacher, 4.430 seconds, 329.34 mph  vs. 16. Doug Herbert, 4.594, 309.06; 2. Rod Fuller, 4.471, 331.61  vs. 15. David Grubnic, 4.589, 322.42; 3. Clay Millican, 4.479, 317.05  vs. 14. Doug Foley, 4.560, 326.16; 4. Brandon Bernstein, 4.494, 330.31  vs. 13. Doug Kalitta, 4.547, 327.90; 5. Melanie Troxel, 4.495, 331.12  vs. 12. Morgan Lucas, 4.539, 326.32; 6. Whit Bazemore, 4.507, 327.19  vs. 11. Hillary Will, 4.535, 327.98; 7. J.R. Todd, 4.510, 323.43  vs. 10. Bob Vandergriff, 4.523, 329.58; 8. Larry Dixon, 4.511, 323.19  vs. 9. Cory McClenathan, 4.516, 327.51.

Funny Car --
1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.636, 327.74  vs. 16. Jeff Arend, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.864, 307.16; 2. Tony Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.659, 324.44  vs. 15. Scott Kalitta, Toyota Solara, 4.847, 323.43; 3. Gary Scelzi, Dodge Charger, 4.697, 330.15  vs. 14. Gary Densham, Monte Carlo, 4.841, 316.08; 4. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.699, 330.07  vs. 13. John Force, Mustang, 4.818, 297.88; 5. Mike Ashley, Charger, 4.727, 326.48 vs. 12. Tim Wilkerson, Monte Carlo, 4.810, 314.09; 6. Ashley Force, Mustang, 4.730, 323.43  vs. 11. Bob Gilbertson, Dodge Stratus, 4.797, 300.20; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Chevy Impala, 4.733, 330.88  vs. 10. Jim Head, Solara, 4.762, 325.61; 8. Eric Medlen, Mustang, 4.740, 321.81  vs. 9. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.748, 323.04.

Pro Stock --
1. Jason Line, Pontiac GTO, 6.635, 209.33  vs. 16. Max
Naylor, Dodge Stratus, 6.690, 206.86; 2. Richie Stevens, Stratus, 6.640, 207.53  vs. 15. V. Gaines, Stratus, 6.688, 207.05; 3. Erica Enders, Stratus, 6.648, 207.02  vs. 14. Roger Brogdon, Stratus, 6.684, 208.07; 4. Greg Anderson, GTO, 6.650, 209.49  vs. 13. Tom Martino, GTO, 6.680, 207.53; 5. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.652, 208.14  vs. 12. Jim Yates, GTO, 6.673, 207.02; 6. Greg Stanfield, GTO, 6.658, 207.82  vs. 11. Mike Edwards, GTO, 6.670, 207.34; 7. Kurt Johnson, Chevy Cobalt, 6.658, 207.75  vs. 10. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.667, 207.50; 8. Kenny Koretsky, Cobalt, 6.659, 207.66  vs. 9. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 6.660, 207.78.

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Robert Hight raced to the quickest Funny Car run in NHRA history Friday at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix.

Hight's performance of 4.636 seconds at 327.74 mph in his Auto Club Ford Mustang overshadowed Top Fuel leader Tony Schumacher's track record time of 4.430 seconds, the fourth-quickest run ever in that category.

friday_lowq_02.jpg Defending Funny Car race winner Tommy Johnson Jr.'s top speed of 330.88n mph in his Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo also was a track record. In Pro Stock, defending series champ Jason Line paced his category.

Twelve days after running the quickest pass in Funny Car history – a 4.646 at 326.95 mph at the season-opening Winternationals in Southern California -- Hight lowered that mark by a hundredth of a second.

"The numbers on that E.T. slip are just unbelievable," said Hight, who can certify the performance as a national record if he clocks another run within 1 percent during the rest of the weekend. "I never thought a Funny Car would run times like this one does. It's all on [crew chief] Jimmy Prock and this Auto Club race team. They're giving me a fantastic car."

Tony Pedregon was second best with a 4.659 at 324.44 mph in his Q Racing Monte Carlo, while newcomer Ashley Force used a career-best 4.730 at 319.82 mph to place her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang fifth, 10 spots ahead of her 14-time champ father John Force (5.507 at 232.99 mph.)

friday_notebook4.jpgAfter watching the Funny Car category post quick numbers, the heavy hitters in Top Fuel made it to the starting line. Four-time and current series champ Schumacher didn't disappoint, zipping to a 4.430 at 328.22 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to easily pace the field.

"Alan [Johnson, crew chief] was watching all the big numbers going up in front of us and he came back and said, 'Well let's get in the [clutch timer] box, we don't want to embarrass ourselves,'" Schumacher said. "I reached down and grabbed the belts and pulled them even tighter. We all know what he's capable of."

Valvoline/David Powers Homes-sponsored pro "Hot Rod" Fuller led after the first session with a 4.471 at 331.61 mph, but his dragster lost traction in the second round and slipped to second place. Melanie Troxel, a finalist here one year ago, is third with the only other 4.4-scond pass of the day, a 4.495 at 331.12 mph in her Vietnam Veterans/POW-MIA dragster.

In Pro Stock, Line took advantage of the exceptionally cool temperatures to post a track-record performance of 6.642 at 208.84 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO.

"It's going to be fast all weekend here with this cooler weather," Line said. "As everyone in the class gets used to the track the entire field will pick up. We have some left and I'm sure everyone else does also. It sure makes it fun."

Qualifying continues Saturday at noon and 2:30 p.m.


Results Friday after qualifying for the 23rd annual Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals presented by Castrol at Firebird International Raceway, second of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.  Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.

Top Fuel -- 1. Tony Schumacher, 4.430 seconds, 328.22 mph; 2. Rod Fuller, 4.471, 331.61; 3. Melanie Troxel, 4.495, 331.12; 4. J.R. Todd, 4.510, 323.43; 5. Brandon Bernstein, 4.512, 328.30; 6. Bob Vandergriff, 4.523, 329.58; 7. Hillary Will, 4.546, 323.89; 8. Morgan Lucas, 4.555, 325.92; 9. Doug Foley, 4.560, 326.16; 10. Larry Dixon, 4.583, 314.53; 11. Doug Herbert, 4.594, 309.06; 12. Clay Millican, 4.603, 317.05; 13. Joe Hartley, 4.605, 330.88; 14. Doug Kalitta, 4.995, 201.97; 15. Mike Strasburg, 8.716, 96.51; 16. Alan Bradshaw, 9.883, 79.54.

Funny Car -- 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.636, 327.74; 2. Tony Pedregon, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.659, 324.44; 3. Gary Scelzi, Dodge Charger, 4.697, 330.07; 4. Mike Ashley, Charger, 4.727, 326.48; 5. Ashley Force, Mustang, 4.730, 319.82; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Chevy Impala, 4.733, 330.88; 7. Eric Medlen, Mustang, 4.740, 321.81; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.748, 323.04; 9. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.750, 321.12; 10. Tim Wilkerson, Monte Carlo, 4.810, 314.09; 11. Jim Head, Toyota Solara, 4.878, 257.58; 12. Jeff Arend, Monte Carlo, 4.954, 295.08; 13. Cruz Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 5.110, 218.87; 14. Del Worsham, Monte Carlo, 5.296, 222.58; 15. John Force, Mustang, 5.507, 232.99; 16. Tony Bartone, Monte Carlo, 5.804, 165.13.

Pro Stock -- 1. Jason Line, Pontiac GTO, 6.642, 208.84; 2. Richie Stevens, Dodge Stratus, 6.658, 207.53; 3. Kenny Koretsky, Chevy Cobalt, 6.659, 207.59; 4. Greg Anderson, GTO, 6.667, 208.39; 5. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 6.672, 207.59; 6. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.672, 207.50; 7. Tom Martino, GTO, 6.680, 206.89; 8. Roger Brogdon, Stratus, 6.684, 207.46; 9. Jim Yates, GTO, 6.686, 207.02; 10. Max Naylor, Stratus, 6.690, 206.67; 11. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.695, 207.21; 12. Erica Enders, Stratus, 6.697, 206.20; 13. V. Gaines, Stratus, 6.700, 206.92; 14. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.705, 207.18; 15. Mike Edwards, GTO, 6.707, 205.85; 16. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.709, 206.04.

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WHAT: 23rd  annual Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals presented by
Castrol, the second of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series
Countdown to the Championship. Professional competitors in three
categories earn points leading to 2007 NHRA POWERade Series world
championships.  Sportsman competitors in five categories earn points
leading to 2007 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series world championships.

WHERE: Firebird International Raceway, Chandler, Ariz. Track is located
off Interstate 10 from the north at exit 162A (Maricopa). From the
south, take exit 162 (Maricopa). Follow the signs.

WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Feb. 23-35

PURSE: Cash and contingency awards of more than $1.5 million

FRIDAY, Feb. 23 - Sportsman qualifying begins at 8 a.m.

SATURDAY, Feb. 24  - Sportsman eliminations begin at 7:30 a.m.

SUNDAY, Feb. 25  - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FINAL ELIMINATIONS begin at 11 a.m.

Sunday, Feb. 25, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will telecast one hour of qualifying
highlights at Midnight (ET).
Sunday, Feb. 25, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will telecast NHRA Race Day at 11
a.m. (ET)
Sunday, Feb. 25, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will telecast three hours of final
eliminations at 7 p.m. (ET).

Friday, Feb. 23, 10-10:30 p.m.  (ET) - Galaxy 10R / Transponder 23K
(downlink freq: 12160, MHz vertical) analog
Saturday, Feb. 24, 10-10:30 p.m.  (ET) - Galaxy 10R / Transponder 23K
(downlink freq: 12160, MHz vertical) analog
Sunday, Feb. 25, 10:30-11 p.m. (ET) - Galaxy 10R / Transponder 23K
(downlink freq: 12160, MHz vertical) analog

2006 WINNERS: Rod Fuller, Top Fuel; Tommy Johnson, Jr., Funny Car; and
Warren Johnson, Pro Stock.

Top Fuel - 4.459 seconds by Ton Schumacher Feb. 2006; 333.74 mph by
Brandon Bernstein, Feb. 2005.
Funny Car - 4.703 sec. by Tony Pedregon, Feb. 2005; 329.99 mph by Robert
Hight, Feb. 2005.
Pro Stock - 6.671 sec. by Greg Anderson, Feb. 2006; 207.08 mph by Warren
Johnson, Feb. 2006.

Top Fuel - 4.428 seconds (Nov. '06, Pomona, Calif.) and 336.15 mph (May
'05, Columbus, Ohio) by Tony Schumacher.
Funny Car - 4.662 seconds and 333.66 mph (Nov. '06, Pomona, Calif.) by
Jack Beckman.
Pro Stock - 6.558 seconds and 209.75 mph (Oct. '06, Richmond, Va.) by
Jason Line.

TICKETS: For tickets call Firebird International Raceway, (602)
268-0200. Tickets also are available at ticketforce.com.

GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $31; Junior (6-12
years), $15. Saturday: Adult, $43, Junior (6-12 years), $15. Sunday:
Adult, $47, Junior (6-12 years), $15. Child (5 years-under), admitted
free with paying adult in general admission and pit access areas each

RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $41-55; Junior (6-12
years), $25; Child (5 years-under), $20.  Saturday: Adult, $53-75;
Junior (6-12 years), $25; Child (5 years and under), $25.  Sunday:
Adult, $57-85; Junior (6-12 years), $27; Child (5 years and under), $22.