Schumacher edges Fuller for season title

One year ago, Tony Schumacher set a national record and won the Top Fuel title on his final pass in the season finale to earn his third consecutive NHRA season championship.

Schumacher pulled off another last-pass victory Sunday in Pomona, Calif., to win another event title and season championship.

This time, he beat Bob Vandergriff with a run of 4.486 seconds at 328.30 mph.

Schumacher edged Las Vegas resident Rod Fuller for the season championship.

Fuller started the Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals first in points but smoked his tires almost immediately after leaving the starting line in the first round. The loss forced him to wait around for six hours to learn if he would become the first Nevadan to win an NHRA national championship.

He lost it by 19 points. A first-round win would have given him 20.

His hopes remained as challengers began to fall: Larry Dixon in the second round and Brandon Bernstein to Schumacher in the semifinals.

Fuller’s dream was postponed when Schumacher beat Vandergriff for the title with the quickest run of the four-day event to earn the $500,000 championship bonus.

“Schumacher was the one I was most worried about,” Fuller said in a telephone interview after Schumacher became the first driver to win four straight Top Fuel championships.

“But I’m not hanging my head,” said Fuller, who will undergo knee surgery in Las Vegas on Friday.

Fuller fell victim to the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series’ new Countdown to the Championship format, which reset series points twice over the last six events.

Under the old system, Fuller would have clinched the championship on Oct. 28 when he won the title at the NHRA event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He started this weekend’s event with a 52-point lead over Dixon and a 77-point edge over Schumacher.

“Hey, I’d have won it in any of the past 54 years,” said Fuller, who drives for David Powers Motorsports.

“Last weekend I dropped some tears of elation after winning in my new hometown, and a week later I’ve dropped a few tears of disappointment.”

The Countdown also cost another team with links to Southern Nevada a championship.

Greg Anderson, who drives a Pro Stock car for Las Vegan Ken Black, was upset in the first round to open the door for Jeg Coughlin, who would have been eliminated from contention about a month ago under the old points system.

Coughlin prevailed in the Countdown to win his third Pro Stock championship by advancing to the semifinals and winning in the finals.

Tony Pedregon won his second Funny Car season title when each of the other contenders lost in the first round.

In the Funny Car final, Robert Hight beat Phil Burkart when Burkart’s car lost traction 200 feet out.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, whoever won the final round also would win the championship, and Matt Smith defeated Chip Ellis for the title.

Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at jwolf@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0247.

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