CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 23, 2018) – It was a day when the National Hot Rod Association’s Top Fuel drivers played a game called Whaddaya Got?
Tony Schumacher produced the fastest 1,000-foot pass in NHRA Top Fuel history to cap a fast opening day of the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Schumacher’s big speed came at the end of the second professional qualifying session. He was clocked at 336.67 mph at the end of a 3.667-second sprint down the strip. Schumacher’s pass marked the third time within a few hours that a national speed record was set in the category. Schumacher was clocked at 334.65 in Q1. Clay Millican increased the record to 335.23 in the second round before Schumacher took the record back.
Jack Beckman was the quickest Funny Car driver after the first day at 3.845 seconds and Alex Laughlin was the quickest in Pro Stock at 6.537.
“This was just a perfect storm,” Schumacher said. “We had the right conditions; the track was good and smooth and was prepped correctly and we’ve got a car with good power.”
At the start of the second professional session, the ambient temperature was 65 degrees, cool by Arizona standards, even in February. The track temperature was 85 degrees. The combination created a zippy track for the nitro cars, even during the first session of the afternoon. Funny Car driver Courtney Force said during the first session, “These conditions are pretty prime right now.”
Millican, who set the current elapsed time record at Pomona two weeks earlier, suspected his speed record would not last long. He said, “I guess at the moment we’re the quickest and the fastest, but that won’t last. There are a lot of good cars (still to run in the session).”
Schumacher retook the record on the final Top Fuel pass of the day. Steve Torrence was second and Millican was third.
Beckman led Funny Car with a 3.845-second pass in the second round. He said he expected more fast passes during the weekend.
“I think we’ll see these conditions on Saturday and I think we’ll race in them on Sunday,” Beckman said. He also quipped, “For you folks that live in Indy, it’s not that cold (in Arizona). But for a California boy, it’s freezing.”
Courtney Force was second after two rounds and Jonnie Lindberg was third.
Laughlin’s 6.537 second pass came in the second round of Pro Stock. Chris McGaha was second and Greg Anderson was third. If he holds on to the top spot, it would be the first top qualifying performance for Laughlin since the Denver race in 2016.
Laughlin said his team made an important adjustment during the day. He said, “I have been hitting the chip (rev limiter) at a low gear and so we raised the shift light a little bit and I for sure made a solid and clean run.”
Defending Top Fuel champion Brittany Force made two passes Friday. They were her first since her scary crash at Pomona two weeks ago. Her car did not make a full pass on either occasion Friday. Her best time was 4.454 seconds.
Force told Fox’s Amands Busik, “It’s what we do. I’ve been out here for six years. I’ve wondered when it would happen.”
The final day of qualifying is Saturday and eliminations will be held Sunday.