ENNIS, Texas - J.R. Todd beat Tony Schumacher in the Top Fuel final Sunday, one of an unprecedented four final-round losses for reigning NHRA POWERade Series champions in the NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex.
In Top Fuel, Todd brought back the same gesture he used at the top end of the track in 2006, when he beat the five-time U.S. Army-backed world champion three times before team changes yielded a dry spell that stretched a year and a half.
"This one almost feels like a first event win," Todd said. "The way this year has gone, I almost thought it would never turn around. Every race we'd be gaining ground in qualifying and I'd think 'this is going to be it. Finally.'
"And then we'd go out there and struggle first round on race day. Or if we'd get past first round, we'd never get past second round. Finally we got out of second round today and I thought, 'Uh oh, we've got some momentum going now.' "
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Todd earned the first victory for the two-car Lucas Oil team on a hole-shot, turning in a 0.068-second reaction time at the starting line to Schumacher's 0.084. He drove his Lucas Oil Octane Booster dragster to a 3.912 at 309.84 to a quicker and faster Schumacher, who piloted his U.S. Army dragster to a 3.910 at 310.63.
"If there was one guy I'd want to beat out here every day, it'd be him because he's the toughest guy out here, and if you beat him, you've accomplished something at the end of the day," Todd said.
In Funny Car, Tim Wilkerson dealt Tony Pedregon his first loss of the year in five final rounds when he drove his Levi Ray & Shoup Chevy Impala SS to a 4.172 at 297.55 to Pedregon's 4.206 at 295.98 in his Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS. Wilkerson beat Bob Tasca and John Force to get there.
"Beating John Force and then beating Tony Pedregon, both champions, right? To be a champion you got to beat the champions, and that's our goal," Wilkerson said. "That's what we came out to do this year. We're not gonna back down from that goal."
In Pro Stock, Greg Stanfield earned a shocking victory over Jeg Coughlin Jr. to keep himself in contention for the world title. Stanfield and Coughlin were tied at the gate with twin 0.015 reaction times, but Stanfield ran the defending NHRA POWERade Series world champion down to reach the finish line first in 6.678 at 206.35.
Stanfield hoped to win the event in honor of Greg Hill, co-owner of his Attitude Apparel Pontiac GXP team, and Hill's granddaughter, who died after a car accident in Las Vegas before the race. Stanfield became the fourth driver in NHRA history to win event titles in five categories.
"He's been through so much," Stanfield said. "This whole team's been through so much. We had a lot of engine failures on the Western Swing and we really haven't been able to get our team back to full steam. I felt like coming into this race we were probably 70 percent where we needed to be, as far as equipment. We've struggled and struggled and hopefully it's a turn around."
Chris Rivas stunned Matt Smith, the defending NHRA POWERade Series Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion, in the final round to earn his second event win of the year. Rivas drove his G-Squared/Drag Specialties Buell to a 7.024 at 183.97.
"There's still a few little hiccup things that happened," Rivas said. "That's why I keep giving God the glory, because my lights today were ridiculous. You can't win Pro Stock usually with a 0.176 light, and 0.117 and a 0.091 in the final."