CHICAGO, Ill. (Army News Service, Feb. 20, 2007) - Like many race fans on Sunday, U.S. Army Top Fuel driver, Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher, was intently watching an exciting Daytona 500, which is NASCAR's traditional Nextel Cup Series season opener.

But, unlike many of those same fans, Schumacher's interest in stock racing's Super Bowl included a personal connection in the form of driver Mark Martin, who is one of Schumacher's new U.S. Army NASCAR Racing teammates.

It was Martin who just missed out on collecting his first Daytona 500 victory after being nipped at the finish line by a hard-charging Kevin Harvick.

"I felt so bad for him," said Schumacher as he prepared for this weekend's Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals at Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix. "He's got to be dejected having come so close to capturing NASCAR's crown jewel."

Schumacher can certainly relate to Martin's disappointment. While he's clearly won his fair share of U.S. Nationals, the NHRA's biggest race of the year, there have been occasions when he's come up just short in the finals.

"The U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis is our Super Bowl and everyone wants to win one at some point or another," said Schumacher. "I can remember a couple of years ago when we advanced to the finals against Larry Dixon and got beat. To get that far on race day and then lose, it's hard to accept.

"I'm sure that's what Mark is thinking today. He was maybe a foot or so from getting a huge victory for not only himself but for the entire U.S. Army team. We know as racers that opportunities like that don't come around very often."

When the dust settles in the next couple of days, Schumacher plans to call Martin to offer his moral support.

"I got a chance to get to know Mark at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio last month," added Schumacher. "He's really a great guy.

"Mark has been around the sport quite a while so he definitely knows how to handle the emotional peaks and valleys. He's a prime example of how to be Army Strong. I'm confident that he'll rally his team to make sure they're ready for the race this weekend in California. Perhaps, by the end of Sunday, we can both deliver victories to our Soldiers."

Page last updated Tue February 20th, 2007 at 08:39