BRAINERD, Minn., Aug. 16, 2011 -- Since departing Pacific Raceways outside of Seattle two weeks ago, U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher has been bombarded with the same question over and over again from family and friends.
"They keep wondering when we are going to get over that last hurdle," said the seven-time world champion after losing in three straight final rounds. "Of course, my reply is it will happen -- that it is only a matter of time."
Despite dropping close final-round encounters in Denver, Sonoma, Calif. and Seattle, respectively, Schumacher is enthused by his U.S. Army team's performance as it looks ahead to this weekend's Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals here at Brainerd International Raceway.
"For sure," he said. "We have been running as good as we have all year, which is critical as we get closer to the Countdown to 1 (playoffs). We are going to go up to Brainerd and go after that first win of the season."
Dating back to the 2010 fall Las Vegas race, Schumacher has now gone winless in 15 consecutive events. For Top Fuel's winningest driver, that statistic has not been a burden in any way.
"I know how terrific my race team is," said the Chicago-area resident. "I also know we are going to win our fair share of races this year. Our Army Strong Soldiers always use their determination and intensity to reach goals and objectives and that's what we do every weekend. The results are going to come -- I guarantee you that."
After his final round advancement in Seattle, Schumacher moved up a spot in the standings to fourth-place. He is now 25 points behind Antron Brown in third and 69 points in back of Spencer Massey in second.
"It will be at the expense of my Schumacher Racing teammates, but we definitely want to move into second before the Countdown starts (in Charlotte the middle of next month)," said Schumacher. "At that juncture, the points will be reset and we'll be 30 points in back of the leader (currently Del Worsham). Then, it will be on us to go out and do the job over those final six races."
Schumacher will first have to get through the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals and the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis during Labor Day weekend before thinking playoffs.
"And, we want to continue to perform well in those races," he said. "Needless to say, grabbing a win or two in the process would be great. Hopefully, our past success at both of those tracks will be helpful."
Schumacher has three wins to his credit in Brainerd and has compiled eight victories in Indy, which ties him with Don Garlits for the most Top Fuel U.S. Nationals wins.
"I'm aware there will likely be a lot of attention focused on me as we get closer to the U.S. Nationals, but Brainerd is just as important," he offered. "We need to take it to them once again this weekend."