Hometown favorite Tony Schumacher and teammate Whit Bazemore both earned victories Sunday at the sixth annual Lucas Oil NHRA Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway giving Schumacher Racing two victories at the same event for the first time. Kurt Johnson and Angelle Savoie also won their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the 10th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Schumacher, from the Chicago area, drove the U.S. Army dragster down the quarter-mile track in 4.530 seconds at 321.50 mph to hold off defending POWERade champion Larry Dixon who recorded a slower run of 4.615 at 321.42 in the Miller Lite dragster. Schumacher was competing in his first event with new crew chief Alan Johnson. Johnson was hired prior to the event and watched as Schumacher ran a then career-best time of 4.512 to earn the No. 1 qualifying position then drive past Luigi Noveli, Darrelll Russell and John Smith before his final round matchup with Dixon. Johnson was the crew chief for three-time Top Fuel champion Gary Scelzi and had an impressive debut with his new team including three of four eliminations runs in the 4.50-second range including a career-best 4.507 run in the second round. "We haven't ran like that here ever and we should because it is our home track," said the 33-year-old Schumacher. "We bring a new crew chief on, change everything except the cockpit and the chassis, don't even make a test run, and not just qualify No. 1 but run a 4.60 on the very first pass. Then I win the first three rounds and have to meet Dixon in the final. I mean he has won most of the final rounds he has been in because he has a pretty dominant car." Prior to Sunday's victory, Schumacher had five first round losses and a DNQ (did not qualify) in the first nine events and was10th in the standings. The 1999 Top Fuel champion had not been to a final round since the Las Vegas race of October 2002. "You have been hearing about Dixon, (Doug) Kalitta, and (Brandon) Bernstein all year because we haven't proven ourselves yet and we have been struggling," said Schumacher. "Now, I guarantee we are going to be in that pack. And it is not going to be because something happened, it's because we brought on Alan Johnson. You are going to start seeing and hearing more about our team and you should because we are going to earn it. You don't hear about teams that lose in the first round, there's no reason for it. Just because we have a great sponsor on the car, that's not enough to earn the right to talk about us. You have to go out there and dominate. That wasn't just a win today, that was almost abuse." Dixon, in his seventh final round of the season, has now advanced to the finals at 21 of the past 33 events dating back to the 2002 season-opener at Pomona, Calif. Dixon's finish extended his lead in the POWERade standings to 230 points over Doug Kalitta, who fouled at the starting line in the first round. Bazemore used a better reaction time at the Christmas Tree to win for the second time this season in his Matco Tools Dodge Stratus. The Dodge made it to the end of the track in 4.872 at 319.67 at 319.67, holding off the quicker Skoal Racing Chevy Camaro of Tommy Johnson Jr., which recorded numbers of 4.839 at 316.97. Gary Scelzi, Bazemore's teammate, established a national record for speed when he hit 328.06 in his Oakley Dodge Stratus in his first round win. It is the first time Dodge has held the Funny Car speed record since 1992, adding to an already impressive event for Schumacher Racing. "This is our team's home race and it was a tremendous effort by everyone," said Bazemore. "Three straight finals and two wins says a lot about our team and our organization. From (team owner) Don (Schumacher) all the way down, it's just an unbelievable effort. (Crew chief) Lee Beard and (assistant crew chief) Dan Olson to Gary and his crew chief Mike Neff, to go out and set the speed record, it was a tremendous effort by everybody involved." "It's very fortunate that I brought in such a great group of people," said D. Schumacher. "Alan Johnson is the smartest guy in this sport and the guy closest to him is Lee Beard. Lee has done an outstanding job and we are going out to win a championship in this Dodge and Alan and Tony and I aren't giving up. We are going to chase these other guys down for that Top Fuel championship." Bazemore trimmed Tony Pedregon's lead in the POWERade standings to 36 points following Pedregon's loss in the second round. Despite Pedregon's category-leading five event wins in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, Bazemore has used consistency to remain near the top of the standings. "This year and a lot of last year it seems you can only beat (Pedregon's) team when they beat themselves," said Bazemore, a three-time winner at Route 66 Raceway. "This year has been tough, we have beat them, not that often, but we have beat them when they made a mistake. No one else has really been able to get the job done. They are a very, very good team and have performance that quite honestly we don't quite have right now, but we are very close. Whenever they stumble it is very important for us to take the ball and run with it and today was a perfect example. For them to go out in the second round today was a surprise, but it was good. It was a beautiful thing." Johnson moved back into the POWERade points lead by winning in Pro Stock for the fourth time this season and the 27th time of his career. Johnson's ACDelco Cavalier covered the distance in 6.791 at 203.40 to hold off rival and fellow Chevy driver Jeg Coughlin and his run of 6.833 at 201.91 in his Jeg's Mail Order Cavalier. Johnson took advantage of former points leader Greg Anderson's mishap prior to the semifinals. Anderson's Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am experienced mechanical problems on the starting line and was unable to make the pass. Johnson now has a two-point lead in the standings over Anderson. Warren Johnson, who failed to qualify, is in third place, 204 points behind his son Kurt. "You can't think about the points right now," said Johnson. "Greg and I are buddies and you just try and do your best job out there and let the points fall where they do. I had a great day though." Johnson qualified in the No. 15 spot and was worried about being bumped from the field in the final round of qualifying, much like Alan Johnson who was the No. 1 qualifier after the first day of qualifying but was unable to remain among the top 16. "We didn't shine in qualifying and we were lucky to get in," said Johnson. "I ran just good enough to get in, then I changed engines and we ran well. We got the combination right. We learned a lot this weekend which we can use the rest of the year. The competition is so tough out here, this is just a brutal sport." Savoie moved into the points lead when she scored her 31st career victory and her third of the season defeating Reggie Showers in the Pro Stock Bike final. Savoie rode her Team 23 Suzuki through the clocks in 7.123 at 187.16 to outrun Showers who posted a pass of 7.238 at 184.30 atop his PDI/DampRid Suzuki. It was an emotional final round for Savoie. Showers, a double amputee, is a close friend and his crew chief is George Bryce, who tuned Savoie's bike for seven years including the three championship seasons. "That was like the most emotional win, probably worse than my first one," said Savoie, who has been to the last three final rounds at Route 66 Raceway. "I had to race Reggie, and George, and I had to race (former teammate) Fred Collis earlier who is riding my bike from last year. The whole weekend has been unbelievable. Today I was just happy I was thankful to get past each round. At the end of the track I felt so emotionally torn because Reggie happens to be my favorite Pro Stock Bike rider and I didn't want to be the one to deny him his first win. I always said when he gets that first win I hope it is against me so I will be down at the end of the track when he wins. Savoie passed Geno Scali in the standings and now has a 10-point lead heading into the next race for the two-wheel category. "This is going to be the toughest year ever," said Savoie. "I am going to have to scratch and fight and dig my way to the championship if we win it. If we don't there will be nothing to be embarrassed by because the competition this year is unbelievable." The next NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event is the 39th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals, June 12-15, at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Ohio.
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