Schumacher Eyes Past With Season Opener Looming
February 5, 2007
POMONA, Calif. (Army News Service, Feb. 5) - A new NHRA POWERade drag racing season may be right around the corner, but U.S. Army Top Fuel driver, Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher, is still definitely living in the past.
With the Carquest Auto Parts Winternationals on tap this weekend at Auto Club Raceway, one will have to forgive Schumacher if he wants to take a stroll down memory lane one last time.
It was at the 2006 season finale when Schumacher completed the biggest comeback in NHRA history by capturing the Auto Club of Southern California Finals with a record-setting 4.428-second quarter-mile blast. He clinched his third straight world championship in the process.
"If I said I've stopped thinking about what happened that day, I would be lying," said Schumacher as he prepped for the '07 opener. "You can't forget about history. What the U.S. Army team did last year was incredible."
To get to the moment of truth last November, Schumacher and his team had to erase what was once a 336-point deficit almost halfway through the year.
"Listen, that wasn't an easy task by any means," he added. "But, I felt that if there was ever a team that could get over such a hurdle, it would be my team. When we got that first win at St. Louis the end of June, I felt confident we could get on a roll."
Entering his 12th professional season, Schumacher knows times are changing. Not only is the competition getting tougher and tougher, but now he will have to contend with the NHRA's new Countdown to the Championship.
"As for the competition, there are no easy draws anymore," he offered. "The amount of talent in the Top Fuel class these days is mind-boggling. You have the three-car Kalitta team, Brandon Bernstein, Larry Dixon, Cory McClenathan and J.R. Todd just to name a few guys. Any number of teams and drivers can win races and, ultimately, the championship. That's why you have to be on your game every weekend.
"And this year, in particular, you better be on your game right from the start. With the new championship format, you have to be in the top eight after the Reading (Pa.) race or else you'll be relegated to playing the spoiler role.
"This new chase will be exciting for sure. I'll be interested to see how it all shakes out. As a team, you clearly want to be running your best towards the end of the year. In recent years, we've typically run well later in the season. I hope that trend continues this time around."
Should Schumacher rise up and win a fourth straight crown, he will enter the Top Fuel record books as the only driver to turn that trick.
"I know the record is hanging out there, but I'm not overly concerned with it," he said. "My goal is simply to win another world championship for the U.S. Army and all of our Soldiers around the world. We race for the brave men and women who are fighting for our freedom on a daily basis. They're all my heroes."