TOPEKA — Tony Schumacher celebrated Armed Forces Day with the 64th No. 1 qualifier of his career in the top fuel division Saturday during the NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.
That was especially significant for Schumacher because he drives the U.S. Army dragster.
"Go to my ropes and watch the guys come by," Schumacher said. "I had a World War II veteran who showed up in a wheelchair today just loving life and happy to be here. To meet those guys who did so much for us and hear those great stories, that's what it's about."
The seven-time NHRA champion is seeking his first win this season and would love to get it today.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
"Our car is fantastic," Schumacher said. "It's doing everything we wanted, but so is everybody else. There are a lot of good cars out here. We know we've got a hellacious battle in front of us, but why else would we show up."
Pro Stock points leader Jason Line failed to qualify for today's eliminations on Friday, but he wasted no time moving into the field during Saturday's qualifying sessions.
Line sat in 16th overnight, so he was starting from scratch entering the third session at Heartland Park Topeka. He posted the fastest time of the day and earned the No. 2 seed in 6.648 seconds with a top speed of 206.76 mph.
Mike Edwards, who sits third in points, qualified first after running the quarter-mile in 6.640 on Friday, but that doesn't mean he considers himself the favorite.
"I don't think we made quite as good a run today," said Edwards, who qualified first for the third straight year at Summer Nationals and has 37 career No. 1 qualifiers. "Conditions changed a little bit, and I don't think I kept up with them and (today) is going to be even a little hotter. It's going to be more challenging."
Jack Beckman snagged his first No. 1 qualifier of the season in the Funny Car division, but he knows there is work to be done if he is going to parlay that into championship.
"We're still finessing our hot-track tuneup and Q4 was really the only hot-track that everybody got," Beckman said. "But we've got another good hot rod for Sunday and we seem to rise to the occasion then and starting from the pole position won't hurt our chances."