There may still be five races left in the NHRA Full Throttle Series season, but at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex, Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher is counting every chance at earning points like it's his last.
"We came into this race 19 points ahead of Shawn (Langdon), with Spencer (Massey) in between us," Schumacher said. "Those points are going to make a difference. When we started the Countdown, we didn't have the points, and then they added them. We were all like, 'Is it going to matter?' But we won championships by two points – they all matter.
"Even the first run, I was a little disappointed we didn't get anything. You start to add that stuff up. It's not like I can drive harder or try more, but it's nice to get 'em."
Schumacher wasn't alone in the scoreboard watching, as the other provisional No. 1 qualifiers on Friday -- Courtney Force in Funny Car, Allen Johnson inPro Stock and Hector Arana Sr. in Pro Stock Motorcycle – were all playing the numbers game.
Schumacher, the current points leader in the Top Fuel standings, rebounded from a mediocre pass in the early afternoon to throw down a 3.829 second lap at 320.13 mph when the track cooled in later in the afternoon.
"That was a great run. I've always said we're a good high-pressure team," Schumacher said. "How do you get any more high-pressure than that? Friday night is what's going to set the field. It's going to be 90 today, 90 tomorrow and 90 on Sunday. You're not going to run fast during the day.
"That's the run. If you can't make that run happen, maybe you can win the race, but those are the points that are going to add up, and they'll make rounds."
For Force, the number weighing on her mind is 100,000, more specifically, $100,000. Her 4.081 second lap at 308.21 mph in the Traxxas Ford Mustang will make her the early favorite when the rain-delayed Traxxas Shootout resumes on Saturday afternoon with the Funny Cars getting their chance to win $100 grand.
"We were excited to get here to Texas because our car runs well in the heat," she said. "We got the No. 1 after the first session and when we saw the times go into the 4.0s, we were ready to go after it again.
"We wanted to stay in the top half of the field, so we could focus on the Traxxas Shootout tomorrow."
Force is the No. 8 qualifier for the shootout and will face Ron Capps in the first round.
Johnson and the Mopar Dodge Avenger were low ET in both qualifying rounds with his best lap being a 6.568 at 211.43 mph.
"Our game plan now is consistency," Johnson said. "We've done that so far. We're trying to collect all those little points that add up."
For his efforts, Johnson earned six precious qualifying points.
Arana and the Lucas Oil Buell threw down a 6.898 second pass at 195.11 mph and held off his son, Hector Arana Jr., who ran a 6.899 at 193.63 mph.
"We picked up the pace a little bit. I'm pleased," Arana said. "The track has been great. I think we can get even more aggressive tomorrow. I believe that we have to take the opportunity now and see if we can come up with a win and grab some points."
Qualifying resumes at 11 a.m. CDT Saturday at Texas Motorplex.