DINWIDDIE, Va. - Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon and Pro Stock pilot Dave Connolly won Sunday at the Virginia NHRA Nationals to go from afterthoughts to challengers in the race for the NHRA POWERade Series championships.
The other winner at the fourth of six races in the NHRA Playoff, the Countdown to 1, was Top Fuel ace Tony Schumacher. He has 14 victories this season.
Pedregon, the 1992 POWERade Series world champion, beat first-place Tim Wilkerson in the semifinals and second-place Jack Beckman in the final. Pedregon ran a 4.113 at 296.44 to Beckman's 7.503 at 88.14 en route to his first win in more than two years.
With the win, Pedregon climbed all the way from sixth to third place, passing Ashley Force, Robert Hight and Tony Pedregon and closed within 69 points of Wilkerson after entering the weekend 115 points out of first.
"We're in the hunt," Pedregon said. "We just need to do our thing and then have to hope that Wilkerson goes out (early)."
With two races left, Las Vegas (Oct. 30-Nov. 2) and Pomona (Nov. 13-16), Wilkerson leads Beckman by 51, Cruz Pedregon by 69, Tony Pedregon by 91, and Hight by 92.
In Top Fuel, Schumacher's 3.811 at 316.08 was just good enough to get around Hillary Will's 3.847 at 307.09. Schumacher's 14th trip to the winner's circle this season and 55th of his career pulled him within arm's length of Greg Anderson's NHRA POWERade Series records for round wins (76) and race wins (15). With two races left, Schumacher is at 71 round wins and 14 race wins.
"There's still records out there and I don't want to leave any of them open because I don't think there will ever be another team like this," Schumacher said.
Schumacher eliminated all but Hillary Will (212 points back) from championship contention and all he'll have to do at Las Vegas to clinch his fifth straight and sixth overall POWERade Series world championship is qualify.
In Pro Stock, Connolly defended his Virginia NHRA Nationals race win with a 6.574 at 209.33 to Jeg Coughlin's 6.611 at 208.86. The win vaulted Connolly within 77 points of Cagnazzi Racing teammate Coughlin and within three of second-place Kurt Johnson.