Tony Schumacher has won the last six NHRA Top Fuel championships, and despite starting the Las Vegas Nationals third in points, he is headed to the final race of the year with a chance to win another season title.
Schumacher won the event title Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to move into second place, in front of Don Schumacher Racing teammate Cory McClenathan, 85 points behind leader Larry Dixon.
Dixon was upset in the second round when he was slowed by an engine problem, but he’s confident his lead will hold through the season finale in Pomona, Calif., in two weeks.
"The worst-case scenario is that we’ll have over a four-round lead over Tony, so we can win the championship by winning in the first round at Pomona," said Dixon, who has won 12 of 21 event titles this year.
"Going to Pomona up 80 points … I’d take that every day of my life."
Each NHRA round win is worth 20 points, meaning a first-round win by Dixon or a loss by Schumacher in the first of four elimination rounds would give Dixon his third championship and first for Al-Anabi Racing.
Schumacher, however, mounted major rallies at Pomona to win championships in 2006 and 2007.
"I’m looking forward to Pomona," he said. "It is kind of out of my hands. We have to go out and set the national record and win the race. (Dixon) has to lose early.
"But, hey, we’re in it. We haven’t been written off. We are a long way off, but we have a shot. This kind of thing is our specialty."
■ PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE — Louis Tonglet defeated Matt Smith for the title and moved within 34 points of championship leader Andrew Hines.
Just making the finals was an accomplishment for Smith, who slid his bike into the safety sand trap Saturday after his brakes failed during qualifying.
■ SPORTSMAN — Other title winners: Brad Personett, Elkhart, Ind., in Pro Modified; Jim Whitely, Grand Junction, Colo., in Top Alcohol Dragster; Mickey Ferro, Stamford, Conn., in Top Alcohol Funny Car; David Rampy, Piedmont, Ala., in Competition; Tony Mandella, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., in Super Stock; Slate Cummings, Hammond, La., in Stock; and Steve Williams, Loma Linda, Calif., in Super Gas.
■ LOCALS — Boulder City’s Duane Shields was eliminated in the first round of Top Alcohol Dragster, and Las Vegan Justin Lamb lost in the third round of Super Stock.
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0247.