NHRA: Tony Schumacher, John Force, Larry Dixon set Bristol track records

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Track records continued to fall Saturday during the final day of qualifying for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway.

Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher set a elapsed time track record for the second straight day on Saturday, fellow Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon set a speed track record (331.04 mph), and John Force also set two Funny Car track marks.

After the track and fans waited out a rain delay, both 8-time world champ Schumacher and 16-time world champ Force qualified No. 1 in their respective categories, along with Erica Enders in Pro Stock.

Final eliminations begin at Noon ET on Sunday at the track located across the street from Bristol Motor Speedway.

Schumacher set a track record for quickest elapsed time during Friday’s qualifying, then re-set that mark one day later on Saturday with a 3.745-second pass (at 326.08 mph) in the early evening.

It was Schumacher’s third No. 1 qualifying mark of the season, his fourth at Bristol and 79th of his career. He will face Troy Buff in the first round of eliminations Sunday.

“That was a great run but it doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Schumacher said in a NHRA media release. The Chicago-area native is seeking his sixth career win at Bristol.

“We’re going to be racing in 90-degree temperatures (Sunday),” Schumacher said. “It’s going to be up to the crew that gets down a difficult track and not just throwing horsepower at it like we just did.”

Doug Kalitta qualified No. 2 (3.750 seconds at 329.50 mph), while Shawn Langdon qualified third (3.767 at 322.42). Spencer Massey qualified fourth while Dixon will start fifth.

In Funny Car, Force set track records for elapsed time (3.978 seconds) and speed (323.43 mph), also under the lights, to claim the No. 1 qualifying spot for the first time this season and in his career at Bristol, and the 153rd No. 1 of his career.

“What’s really good to see is the team grow,” said Force, who will face Terry Haddock in the first round. “Jon Schaffer was groomed as crew chief under Mike Neff for the last four or five years. He didn’t have a clue but earned this shot. We rallied a bunch of kids. This is what I dreamed of doing.”

Two-time and defending world champ Matt Hagan qualified No. 2 (3.996 at 322.04), while Jack Beckman qualified No. 3 (3.966 at 319.60).

In Pro Stock, Enders paced her class with a run of 6.632 seconds at 207.59 mph. She’s looking to repeat last year’s win at Bristol.

“It was definitely a long day,” Enders said. “We went out there and we knew that the air got better and that the racetrack was in the best condition it’s been all weekend. We went after it but still was conservative. My crew chiefs did a great job.”

Greg Anderson qualified No. 2 (6.646 at 206.67) and Chris McGaha qualified No. 3 (6.647 at 206.67).

SUNDAY’S FIRST ROUND PAIRINGS:

Top Fuel: 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.745 seconds, 326.08 mph  vs. 16. Troy Buff, 3.961, 300.86; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.750, 329.50  vs. 15. Terry McMillen, 3.897, 315.86; 3. Shawn Langdon, 3.767, 322.42  vs. 14. Pat Dakin, 3.885, 310.98; 4. Spencer Massey, 3.768, 326.63  vs. 13. Leah Pritchett, 3.861, 319.60; 5. Larry Dixon, 3.769, 331.04  vs. 12. Clay Millican, 3.812, 318.17; 6. Antron Brown, 3.770, 320.66  vs. 11. Richie Crampton, 3.805, 318.47; 7. Dave Connolly, 3.778, 323.81  vs. 10. Steve Torrence, 3.791, 324.75; 8. Brittany Force, 3.787, 316.82  vs. 9. J.R. Todd, 3.790, 318.62. Did Not Qualify: 17. Chris Karamesines, 3.976, 300.53; 18. Cory McClenathan, 3.993, 302.35; 19. Jenna Haddock, 4.232, 219.36.

Funny Car: 1. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.978, 323.43  vs. 16. Terry Haddock, Toyota Solara, 5.156, 159.85; 2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.996, 322.04  vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Solara, 4.521, 263.77; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.996, 319.60  vs. 14. John Hale, Charger, 4.227, 294.31; 4. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.006, 322.58  vs. 13. Chad Head, Camry, 4.121, 303.23; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.025, 314.90  vs. 12. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.109, 307.72; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.027, 318.32  vs. 11. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.070, 306.33; 7. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.046, 316.82  vs. 10. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.052, 305.91; 8. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.048, 317.49  vs. 9. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.049, 318.02. Did Not Qualify: 17. Paul Lee, 6.321, 273.83.

Pro Stock: 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.632, 207.59  vs. 16. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.743, 203.86; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.646, 206.83  vs. 15. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.739, 205.82; 3. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.647, 207.02  vs. 14. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.714, 204.60; 4. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.651, 207.82  vs. 13. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.691, 205.85; 5. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.652, 206.89  vs. 12. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.686, 206.64; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.653, 206.45  vs. 11. Richie Stevens, Dart, 6.685, 206.16; 7. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.654, 207.27  vs. 10. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.666, 205.85; 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.656, 207.30  vs. 9. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.659, 206.35. Did Not Qualify: 17. Alan Prusiensky, 6.771, 203.19; 18. Dave River, 6.835, 202.48.

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Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

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Hunter McElrea bested 18 competitors to win the third annual Road to Indy USF2000 $200,000 Scholarship Shootout on Sunday at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

The two-day contest featured on-track competition in Formula Mazda cars as well as interview sessions and assessment from a panel of judges.

“I can’t believe it,” McElrea said at IndyCar.com. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true.

“They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit.

“I am just so happy. It is still sinking in, but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”

MORE: Michael Carter wins Mazda Road to 24 shootout

The 19-year-old McElrea was born in California, but reared in Australia.

As a result of winning the award, McElrea will compete in the 2019 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

McElrea won the Australian Formula Ford Championship this year on the strength of 13 victories in 21 races.

Early competition resulted in a final field of six drivers that included Jake Craig, Michael Eastwell, Braden Eves, Flinn Lazier and Ross Martin. They competed in a qualification session and 30-minute simulated race. McElrea won that race.

“Today was an incredible day,” said Tom Long, Mazda Motorsports factory driver and one of the judges. “There was so much talent here for the shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult.

“In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200,000 scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”