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Schumacher, Capps win Nitro classes at Thunder Valley

Jeff Birchfield • Jun 17, 2018 at 6:27 PM

BRISTOL — The Sarge was back in charge and Ron Capps had a repeat performance Sunday at Bristol Dragway.

Tony Schumacher, driver of the Army dragster nicknamed The Sarge, won his record sixth NHRA Fitzgerald USA Thunder Valley Nationals title and extended his Top Fuel record with his 84th career victory, the most ever in the class.

Capps drove his Dodge Charger to the Funny Car win for the second straight year and scored his category-best fifth win overall at Bristol. The pair of Nitro class wins marked the 300th and 301st career wins for car owner Don Schumacher.

Jeg Coughlin Jr. scored his 60th career win in Pro Stock, beating rival Greg Anderson in the final round.

TOP FUEL

Schumacher defeated surprising Mike Salinas in the final round for his first win since Gainesville, Fla., in 2017. Salinas pointed out that Schumacher was the first driver he ever faced in an elimination round. But it was a determined Schumacher who made a clean pass down the track after reaching the 150th final round of his career.

His winning run was 3.946 seconds at 313.58 mph after Salinas broke traction and went 5.251 seconds at 152.18 mph.

"Today was great. The car was good all weekend," said Schumacher, an eight-time NHRA Top Fuel champion. "I was praying to have just enough, and we had just enough a couple of times there. The track was tough, and we talk about being adaptable. When you have smart people around you, they make changes to adapt to the situation. We had to adapt to the racing surface, and make big changes, and it paid off."

FUNNY CAR

Capps' victory was the 59th of his career and the 10th year in a row he has won at least one race. Capps had to beat 16-time champion John Force and defending champion Robert Hight in the first two rounds. He downed J.R. Todd in the semifinals and then Bob Tasca's Ford in the final.

Capps had a winning pass of 4.234 seconds and 296.37 mph to down Tasca at 4.300 and 286.98 mph.

"You just feed off the fans and there's something about this place where the fans here are second to none," Capps said. "This is an oasis. We love coming here, and you can't find a finer facility than this place. I'm so blessed to drive this car. This trophy is going to Don Schumacher on Father's Day. It's well deserved."

PRO STOCK

Coughlin got down the track at 6.709 seconds at 205.10 mph for his second win at Bristol and his third straight weekend with a race win after winning in Pro Stock at Chicago and in Super Comp at Richmond.

"Nothing wrong with a little hat trick, right?" Coughlin said. "We showed our ways racing to the checkers at Chicago and came back here at Bristol. That feels fantastic. This is my home away from home in this Camaro SS. We had a car that was fastest three of the four rounds. We had the lane choice against Greg, and when we rolled out, I was like ‘let's get it to the finish line first.’ "

Anderson reached a milestone for a second straight day as his final-round appearance was the 151st of his career, tying him with Warren Johnson for the Pro Stock record. It came one day after Anderson clinched his 100th career No. 1 qualifying award.

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