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Track speed marks fall as Route 66 Raceway becomes one of fastest on NHRA circuit

Jul 1, 2013, 6:00 PM EDT

NHRA Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher celebrates after winning Sunday at blazing-fast Route 66 Raceway in suburban Chicago. NHRA Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher celebrates after winning Sunday at blazing-fast Route 66 Raceway in suburban Chicago.

When Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., opened in 1998, it was considered state of the art, the first National Hot Rod Association racetrack with surround, bowl-like seating.

During this past weekend’s record-breaking O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries, the suburban Chicago track became one of the fastest racetracks on the NHRA circuit.

Numerous track speed records were set over the four-day event. Most notable were four Funny Car drivers that covered the 1,000-foot racing surface in under four seconds for the first time in track history: Ron Capps (3.988 seconds at 320.28 mph), along with Bob Tasca III (3.988, 316.97), Jack Beckman (3.983, 319.52) and Del Worsham (3.999, 318.99).

Other notable achievements included:

* 15-time Funny Car champ John Force posted his best Route 66 career time of 4.010 seconds at 316.67 mph.

* Morgan Lucas set a track record for Top Fuel qualifying on Saturday (3.737 seconds at 322.19 mph)

* Steve Edwards set a track record in Pro Stock at 6.542 seconds at 210.64 mph, his 10th No. 1 qualifying position of the season.

Rain was an impediment at times during the weekend, but not an insurmountable obstacle as hometown favorite Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won their respective categories in Sunday’s final eliminations.

Of particular note was Schumacher’s winning finish, the 72nd NHRA event win of his career. Rather than wait to see if the track would have a post-race fireworks display, Schumacher wound up giving an impromptu one of his own.

No sooner did he cross the finish line to win the Top Fuel event, the 8,000-horsepower motor in Schumacher’s dragster exploded in a fiery blast. While neither he nor anyone else was injured, it provided one of those “ooh, aah” moments that put a memorable cap on the event.

“It’s always great to have a hometown win here in Chicago,” said Schumacher of his fourth career win at Route 66, and which also put him back atop the Mello Yello Series Top Fuel season standings.

Schumacher was especially concerned that Millican was so hungry for his first career Top Fuel win.

“When you look back in Top Fuel history, whenever anybody gets their first win, it’s against me,” Schumacher said. “But I told myself today that this is not going to be an ongoing trait. We’re going to stop it right here and now. I don’t care when or if Clay wins a race, but just not today. Not here at my home track.”

The NHRA continues this coming weekend with the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Norwalk, Ohio, from July 4-7.

  1. moezilla - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    With apologies to the Friday fans at Chi Town….so glad the rains came. Saturday night’s qualifying was awesome to watch. I was beginning to think a sub 4 second run was absolutely necessary to even break into the top half of the Funny Car field. And in Top Fuel, I got a kick out of Bob Vandergriff’s interview after his short lived #1 qualifying run….”There’s a lot of good cars left, but, 3.74 is a big number, I think we got it”…..5 seconds later, Morgan Lucas lays down a 3.73….Felt bad for Millican….one of these days….one of these days….

  2. wallio - Jul 2, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    Millican is a multi-time champ in IHRA, no need to feel bad for him. These 3-second passes are a joke though, bring back the 1/4 mile, pretty pretty please?

    • moezilla - Jul 3, 2013 at 11:06 AM

      I know about the IHRA racing that Clay did in the past….if he was content on what he did in IHRA, then why did he move UP to the NHRA? My guess, probably to win one or two Wally’s…As far as the 1/4 mile goes, don’t expect it back too soon….The high end top fuel teams are posting huge numbers in 1000 ft runs, 334 mph? Do you think that the NHRA is going to allow that type of performance on 1/4 mile runs? No way. And judging by the attendance at Route 66, the NHRA and/or the track owners won’t be able to make every strip on the circuit safe enough to run those numbers in the first place…

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