Tony Schumacher sets NHRA Top Fuel No. 1 qualifying record

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One day after setting a career best low elapsed time mark, Tony Schumacher recorded a NHRA Top Fuel record by earning his 77th No. 1 qualifying position Saturday in advance of Sunday’s final eliminations of the CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals in suburban Phoenix.

Schumacher, who won his eighth NHRA Top Fuel championship last season, earned the No. 1 spot in his category, while fellow 2014 champs Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) were top qualifiers in their respective classes.

Schumacher on Friday set a career-quick run of 3.722 seconds at 325.61 mph. He had two other runs in the 3.7-second range on Saturday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz.

“It is great that we went down the track on all four runs and got every point except one,” Schumacher said in an NHRA media release. “It is more impressive that the run was my career-best.

“The car is making good, quality runs down the track and it is being consistent. If we can continue to do that we’ve got a good chance of going out and winning some races.”

Schumacher will start Sunday’s eliminations facing Jenna Haddock, a rematch from last season’s race in when Haddock beat Schumacher in her first career start.

“We’ll go out there and do our job, not try to smoke the tires in the first round like we did in Denver,” Schumacher said. “That was an exciting win when she beat me in Denver – I just don’t want her to get used to it.”

In Funny Car, Hagan overtook Courtney Force, who earned the provisional pole in Friday’s qualifying. Hagan recorded a track record elapsed time Saturday with a run of 3.978 seconds (at 320.28 mph).

Hagan, who is also Schumacher’s teammate, is looking to make it two wins in a row, having won the season opener in Pomona, Calif., two weeks ago.

“It speaks volumes of why we are a championship team,” said Hagan, who will face Jeff Diehl in Sunday’s first round. “That thing was just really digging and posted some great numbers.

“This team continues to grow and we are really coming together and have great chemistry. I am very excited what this year has to hold for us and I think we are going to win a lot of races this season.”

In Pro Stock, Enders-Stevens earned her second No. 1 qualifier position of the season and 14th of her career, as no driver on Saturday could beat her best effort on Friday of 6.545 (at 211.20 mph).

Enders, who won this race last season, faces Joey Grose in the first round Sunday.

“It’s just a great start to the year … a better start to the year than we had in 2014,” Enders-Stevens said. “It would definitely be great to win early in the year. It, obviously, doesn’t determine where you end up, but it certainly helps boost confidence and morale.”

SUNDAY’S FIRST ROUND PAIRINGS

Top Fuel: 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.722 seconds, 325.69 mph  vs. 16. Jenna Haddock, 4.015, 295.59; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.733, 329.02  vs. 15. Clay Millican, 3.924, 311.34; 3. Richie Crampton, 3.739, 324.51  vs. 14. Troy Buff, 3.905, 306.81; 4. J.R. Todd, 3.753, 323.97  vs. 13. Terry McMillen, 3.844, 310.27; 5. Antron Brown, 3.753, 318.69  vs. 12. Dave Connolly, 3.804, 321.58; 6. Shawn Langdon, 3.755, 319.37  vs. 11. Leah Pritchett, 3.794, 317.72; 7. Steve Torrence, 3.760, 325.85 vs. 10. Brittany Force, 3.792, 323.81; 8. Larry Dixon, 3.778, 324.05  vs. 9. Spencer Massey, 3.791, 321.81.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Steven Chrisman, 4.410, 218.90.

Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.978, 320.28  vs. 16. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.866, 264.96; 2. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.996, 321.58  vs. 15. Shane Westerfield, Charger, 4.558, 273.22; 3. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.997, 319.98  vs. 14. John Hale, Charger, 4.194, 307.23; 4. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.000, 313.58  vs. 13. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.060, 310.13; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.003, 315.27  vs. 12. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.047, 309.63; 6. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.020, 316.30  vs. 11. Chad Head, Camry, 4.043, 309.13; 7. John Force, Camaro, 4.025, 315.05  vs. 10. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.038, 318.47; 8. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.032, 306.60  vs. 9. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.034, 314.39.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Haddock, 5.082, 181.84.

Pro Stock: 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.545, 211.26  vs. 16. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.689, 207.05; 2. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.545, 211.63  vs. 15. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, 6.643, 208.91; 3. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.548, 211.20  vs. 14. Matt Hartford, Pontiac GXP, 6.632, 209.14; 4. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.551, 211.36  vs. 13. Jimmy Alund, GXP, 6.626, 209.69; 5. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.559, 210.54  vs. 12. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.620, 209.95; 6. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.562, 211.59  vs. 11. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.586, 210.87; 7. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.565, 211.46 vs. 10. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.578, 210.34; 8. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.569, 211.89  vs. 9. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.578, 210.67.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Jeff Isbell, 6.718, 205.98.

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Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”