TOPEKA — Robert Hight won his third Funny Car title this month, Tony Schumacher finally took a Top Fuel race at Heartland Park Topeka and Mike Edwards built on his hefty points lead in the Pro Stock class, but a "pretty scary" crash dominated the final day of O'Reilly Auto Parts Summer Nationals on Sunday.
Jim Head's Funny Car had just taken the lead on Jeff Arend in the semifinals when the supercharger in his Toyota exploded, and the car caught fire running down the track. The body of the car separated from the chassis and went airborne, with some pieces sailing over the fence in front of the grandstands, but no fans were injured.
Head, 61, emerged from what was left of his car, but gave a thumbs up, indicating he was uninjured, except for some sore toes on his right foot.
"It was pretty scary," Head, a 30-year veteran, said later. "My face mask got all burned up, but not a burn on me. It's a real testament to these race cars."
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Arend later raced Hight in the final, with Hight making it a May to remember by sweeping all three Funny Car races this month with a victory. It was his first title at Heartland Park.
"This is the stuff you dream about," said Hight, who won three races all season when he won the Funny Car championship in 2009. "To win three in a row ... to qualify No. 1, to win from the pole, that's tough to do."
Hight's Ford Mustang was the dominant Funny Car from the time he unloaded. He set track records in Friday night's qualifying with a low elapsed time of 4.095 at 308.21 mph and shattered those marks on Sunday. Hight had a first-round bye, and in making a solo run, made a pass in 4.074 at 310.70 mph.
"We've had good luck in qualifying here before but never got the job done," he said. "Sometimes you look at No. 1 qualifiers in Funny Car, and they don't ever win. But the way my car is running now, I've got a lot of confidence.
"To go down the track as convincingly as we did all weekend long ... but it's also about the team. There are eight other guys on that team who are putting that thing together perfectly, every single run."
Hight defeated Del Worsham and defending Heartland Park champion Ron Capps before beating Arend in the final elimination by .046 seconds. He moved from third to second in points, just 49 behind his boss, John Force, who was eliminated in the second round.
Hight and Capps had to wait about 30 minutes for their round while the track was cleaned following Head's crash.
In the Top Fuel class, Schumacher, the seven-time NHRA champion — including the last six in a row — conquered one of the few remaining obstacles of his career by defeating Don Schumacher Racing teammate Cory McClenathan by .005 seconds — or 2 feet.
Schumacher extended his Top Fuel career record to 64 wins, but it was his first at Heartland Park, leaving Atlanta Dragway as the only NHRA track at which he's yet to win in his 14-year career.
Schumacher eliminated Shawn Langdon by .003 seconds in the quarterfinals and defending Heartland Park champion and Top Fuel points leader Larry Dixon in the semifinals.
Schumacher was even happier for his sponsor than himself, because it was the 100th NHRA win for the U.S. Army; 60 by him and 40 by four others, including the legendary Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, who had 24 Funny Car wins.
Schumacher won the race on a holeshot — quicker reaction time — because McClenathan's elapsed time (3.864) and mph (312.35) was better than Schumacher's (3.875, 310.27).
Schumacher's confrontation with Dixon was their third straight elimination against each other and fifth of the season, including last week's semifinals at Atlanta won by Dixon, the 2002 and 2003 Top Fuel champion.
"People ask for that, we all ask for that," said Schumacher, who is 3-2 against Dixon this season. "They're a great team. That trophy will sit on the shelf proudly. You had to go through him to get it. I'm sure the ones that sit on his shelf and shine a little bit more are the ones he had to go through us."
In the Pro Stock class, Mike Edwards, runner-up in Topeka last season, avenged that loss by beating Allen Johnson on a holeshot.
Edwards, the defending Pro Stock series champion, won for the fifth time in six finals this season and extended his points lead to a staggering 267 points.
"This race is so special because my mom and dad were here this weekend," said Edwards, a native of Tulsa, Okla. "They've never been to a race where I've won. They only get to a couple a year, it's usually this one and maybe Dallas every once in a while. It's one I'll never forget."