INDIANAPOLIS - Move over, Big Daddy. Bob Glidden, you're next.
Tony Schumacher won his ninth U.S. Nationals on Sunday, beating Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey in the Top Fuel final of the 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Schumacher moved past "Big Daddy" Don Garlits for the most Top Fuel wins at Indy and tied Pro Stock's Glidden for most victories in drag racing's biggest event.
"It may be sweeter (than the first Indy win)," Schumacher said of his second victory of the season and 69th of his career. "Any more, it's more difficult to win a race, by far, than it has probably ever been. There was a time where we were a tenth ahead of everybody and just needed to not make any mistakes, but the top seven cars are all so close that it's pretty gratifying."
Mike Neff (Funny Car), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners of the final regular-season event in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
Schumacher beat Hillary Will, Morgan Lucas and No. 1 qualifier Shawn Langdon to advance to his 11th final at Indy.
There, he was matched up against Massey, who is tied for the Top Fuel lead with four victories this season. But Schumacher left first and was never headed in his U.S. Army dragster, running 3.806 seconds at 315.34 mph to beat Massey's pass of 3.828 at 319.37 mph.
"To have a chance to win a ninth against my teammate who was running as good if not better and had lane choice made it a perfect moment," Schumacher said. "I didn't feel like I was stellar on the lights, but I left on everybody, (crew chief) Mike Green made the car run fast, and we got the trophy."
Another DSR driver, Antron Brown, secured the top seed in the Countdown to the Championship that begins next weekend in Charlotte, and Bob Vandergriff Jr. edged Clay Millican and Khalid alBalooshi for the final playoff spot in Top Fuel.
Neff raced to his second consecutive win at this event, holding off Tim Wilkerson in a battle of Ford Mustangs. Neff's Castrol GTX Ford raced to a pass of 4.079 seconds at 311.05 mph to beat Wilkerson's 4.152 at 286.13 mph.
"This is the U.S. Nationals, and there's something about it," Neff said. "You know there's a lot more at stake. You try to tell yourself that it's just another race, but it's not. You can't deny that. It's amazing to me how close everything was to what I went through last year. I didn't qualify real well last year but felt like we were pretty close.
"I remember getting up on Monday morning last year just not feeling very good. I was talking to my brother last year, saying, 'I dunno. We're really going to have to pull something out of a hat here to do something today.' We were able to do it both times."
The win was John Force Racing's fifth consecutive victory at the Big Go.
Wilkerson's runner-up finish elevated him to 10th in the Funny Car points standings and locked him in the Countdown. Jeff Arend secured the ninth spot. Defending series champion Matt Hagan missed the playoffs after losing in the semifinals to Neff. Ron Capps earned the top seed in the playoffs in Funny Car.
Connolly won an interesting matchup with GK Motorsports teammate Erica Enders in the Pro Stock final. Enders had won the last two races and three of the last six, with Connolly serving as crew chief with Tommy Utt on her KLR Group Chevrolet.
But Connolly, a past Indy winner, was entered in a second GK Chevy here, and ended up using a reaction time advantage to beat Enders. Connolly's pass of 6.589 at 210.05 mph in his IDG Chevy Cobalt was slower than Enders' run of 6.580 at 210.31 mph, but Connolly had a slight .011-second advantage to win by .002 seconds.
"It was definitely bittersweet in the final, to run Erica," Connolly said after winning his third U.S. Nationals title. "I hope she wins the next six finals, but this was the U.S. Nationals, and there was no laying over. We just somehow, and don't ask me how, we managed to win. We were making pretty ugly runs, and her car was like a bracket car. Our car was not picture perfect by any means, but I'm not giving the trophy back."
Allen Johnson captured the top seed in Pro Stock, and the final three playoff positions were claimed by V Gaines, Larry Morgan and four-time world champ Jeg Coughlin.
Hines earned his first Indy victory by outrunning Hector Arana Sr. in the final round. Hines rode his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a pass of 6.937 at 191.70 mph to take the easy win as Arana's Lucas Oil Buell slowed at mid-track and finished in 7.456 at 157.54 seconds. It was Hines' fourth win of the season and 29th of his career.
"This is really satisfying," Hines said. "Minus one year, I've raced every year on a Harley. And for us to struggle like we've done here, with inconsistency in tuning and riding, and every scenario possible going against us, like last year when my transmission locked up after the first round burnout, to finally get the Indy win and stand in the U.S. Nationals winner's circle is something I can look back on years from now. I had found the winner's circle four times here with the Pro Bike battle, and to actually stand there with the U.S. Nationals trophy means the world to me."
With the win, the Harleys claimed victories in all 10 regular-season events and Eddie Krawiec locked up the top seed for the playoffs. Michael Ray, Shawn Gann and Matt Smith claimed the final three playoff positions in the PSM top 10.
ROUND ONE -- Morgan Lucas, 3.798, 324.75 def. David Grubnic, 3.841, 310.55; Khalid alBalooshi, 3.789, 324.20 def. Bob Vandergriff, 3.815, 325.45; J.R. Todd, 3.834, 313.07 def. Steve Torrence, 3.828, 321.19; Shawn Langdon, 3.996, 270.05 def. Scott Palmer, broke; Antron Brown, 3.797, 324.12 def. T.J. Zizzo, 3.948, 294.56; Spencer Massey, 3.811, 322.88 def. Clay Millican, 3.881, 312.13; Tony Schumacher, 3.817, 319.90 def. Hillary Will, 3.874, 309.91; Brandon Bernstein, 3.809, 316.97 def. Doug Kalitta, 7.167, 111.72; QUARTERFINALS -- Langdon, 3.793, 325.61 def. Bernstein, 3.838, 313.80; Schumacher, 3.818, 321.73 def. Lucas, 4.400, 196.82; Brown, 3.802, 319.90 def. Todd, 8.803, 84.02; Massey, 3.802, 323.58 def. alBalooshi, 3.816, 319.98; SEMIFINALS -- Massey, 3.807, 315.64 def. Brown, 3.829, 313.07; Schumacher, 3.808, 319.52 def. Langdon, 3.801, 317.87; FINAL -- Schumacher, 3.806, 315.34 def. Massey, 3.828, 319.37.
ROUND ONE -- Johnny Gray, Dodge Charger, 4.591, 199.58 def. John Force, Ford Mustang, broke; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.101, 307.44 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 5.699, 156.34; Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.108, 309.20 def. Jon Capps, Charger, 18.209, 38.60; Todd Lesenko, Chevy Impala, 5.243, 126.34 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 5.822, 123.56; Jeff Arend, Toyota Camry, 4.159, 307.16 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.335, 263.87; Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.085, 313.88 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.319, 243.46; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.118, 310.13 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, foul; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.131, 303.84 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.125, 309.06; QUARTERFINALS -- Wilkerson, 4.135, 302.55 def. Arend, 9.253, 75.69; Neff, 4.081, 312.86 def. Lesenko, broke; Gray, 4.128, 306.26 def. C. Force, 4.611, 183.92; Hagan, 4.127, 304.25 def. Hight, 4.137, 301.87; SEMIFINALS -- Wilkerson, 4.145, 295.53 def. Gray, 4.235, 288.21; Neff, 4.131, 310.63 def. Hagan, 9.428, 73.95; FINAL -- Neff, 4.079, 311.05 def. Wilkerson, 4.152, 286.13.
ROUND ONE -- Rodger Brogdon, Chevy Camaro, 6.636, 207.66 def. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Avenger, 6.606, 209.20; Ron Krisher, Pontiac GXP, 6.606, 208.46 def. Warren Johnson, GXP, 6.921, 186.18; Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.598, 208.71 def. Mark Martino, GXP, 6.610, 208.75; V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.574, 209.52 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.586, 210.73; Dave Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 6.610, 209.14 def. Mike Edwards, GXP, 15.918, 47.74; Erica Enders, Cobalt, 6.557, 210.41 def. Kurt Johnson, GXP, 6.707, 207.30; Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.652, 207.56 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 8.674, 109.51; Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.550, 210.47 def. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, 6.633, 207.43; QUARTERFINALS -- Connolly, 6.610, 209.88 def. Krisher, 6.651, 208.39; Nobile, 6.593, 209.46 def. Morgan, 6.687, 207.37; Enders, 6.559, 210.21 def. Brogdon, 6.708, 198.58; Gaines, 6.589, 209.14 def. A. Johnson, 6.558, 210.67; SEMIFINALS -- Connolly, 6.596, 210.14 def. Nobile, foul; Enders, 6.557, 210.41 def. Gaines, 6.576, 209.82; FINAL -- Connolly, 6.589, 210.05 def. Enders, 6.580, 210.31.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
ROUND ONE -- Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.962, 190.54 def. Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.032, 189.07; Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.025, 190.40 def. Michael Ray, Buell, 7.020, 188.44; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.923, 192.91 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.158, 186.43; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.935, 192.44 def. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.028, 188.78; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.926, 191.59 def. Dawn Minturn, Suzuki, 7.069, 186.07; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.904, 192.88 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.037, 190.57; Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.973, 188.25 def. John Hall, Buell, 7.023, 186.51; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.973, 188.78 def. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.245, 166.01; QUARTERFINALS -- Arana Jr, 6.981, 192.25 def. Tonglet, 7.003, 188.10; Hines, 6.900, 193.68 def. Stoffer, foul; Krawiec, 6.907, 194.38 def. Pollacheck, foul; Arana, 6.951, 192.41 def. Gann, 7.015, 190.19; SEMIFINALS -- Arana, 6.997, 190.75 def. Krawiec, foul; Hines, 6.914, 193.10 def. Arana Jr, 6.947, 192.93; FINAL -- Hines, 6.937, 191.70 def. Arana, 7.456, 157.54.