NHRA in Joliet: Party time in Top Fuel division
By Jeff Vorva For Sun-Times Media June 30, 2012 11:02PM
Courtney Force sits in her car during qualifying runs for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet. | Michael DiNovo~For the Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 30, 2012 1:43AM
For some drivers, the NHRA’s Top Fuel division could be renamed the Party Mix division.
Champions of Top Fuel and other divisions in the 15th O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Route 66 Nationals will be crowned Sunday at the Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, and through the first 10 races in the circuit this year there have been six different champions. It’s been wide open all year.
“This is like a big party mix, you know what I mean?” said Antron Brown, who qualified second for Sunday’s finals after four rounds. “You have a little cheese. You have a little bit of pretzels. You have a cheese puff. You have a little bit of everything. And when it comes to the countdown, you have so many teams who can win. Whoever has it together on any given race … it’s anybody’s race right now.”
Through the first 10 races this year, Spencer Massey has three victories but is hardly dominating the field. He entered this weekend’s event second in the standings. Morgan Lucas and Steve Torrence have recorded two victories each, while Brown, David Grubnic and points leader Tony Schumacher have one victory each.
There are seven more races on the circuit before the Top Fuel switches to its Countdown to the Championship races.
Schumacher, of Long Grove, is a three-time Route 66 champion and pulled out the top seed after his final qualifying run, a track record 3.673 seconds Saturday night. He will take on No. 16 qualifier T.J. Zizzo, of Lincolnshire, in the first round.
“One of us is going to have to lose,” Schumacher said. “We live close to each other. We go out to lunch. I just wish it didn’t have to be that way. But I’m No. 1. ... You can’t have it both ways.”
Schumacher said he will have members of the Bears as his guests at the track Sunday but wouldn’t say which players.
“I would hate to have everyone out there with their autograph books,” Schumacher said. “It’s cool. I’m a big Chicago Bears fan. There will be some people here who have never been to a drag race. So you can go through the Bears lineup and figure out who has been here and eliminate them.”
Crete’s Luigi Novelli held the 16th and final spot after Saturday’s first qualifying round and was knocked out in the second round.
In the Funny Car division, John Force stayed No. 1 for Sunday’s finals.
Beecher’s Dale Creasy Jr. entered Saturday’s action ninth but fell to 13th after the first qualifying session and hung on to finish 15th, just making the finals field.
Last year’s Route 66 champion, Mike Neff, was out of the 16-car finals field after the first qualifying round but used a 4.134 run in the second round to qualify ninth.
In the Pro Stock division, Allen Johnson kept his No. 1 seed for the finals, but two local drivers didn’t fare as well.
Manhattan’s Steve Spiess and Palos Hills’ Kevin Lawrence opened Saturday at 19th and 20th, respectively, in the Pro Stock division. Lawrence jumped up two spots to 18th after the first qualifying run and Spiess fell to 20th. After the final run, they remained 18th and 20th, respectively, and missed the cut.
Hector Arana is the top seed in the Pro Stock Motorcycle division. His son, Hector Arana Jr., is seeded third.
In the Sportsman races, Tinley Park’s Brian Reimer stayed alive in the Super Comp division after winning in the second elimination round.
Wilmington’s Ryan Bolin won his first elimination round race in the Super Gas division but fell in the second round. Dwight’s Bill Worby lost in the second elimination race of the Super Stock division.