News: 'The Sarge' ready for fresh start
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Scott Turner
POMONA, Calif. - Shortly after the curtain came down on the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing season, U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher quickly went in search of a 2012 calendar.
"I needed to immediately find out when the season opener was scheduled," said the seven-time world champion. "After finishing the year without a victory, I wanted to be sure to circle the (O'Reilly Auto Parts) Winter-nationals weekend. That became a clear target for the U.S. Army Top Fuel team."
Despite advancing to seven final rounds, Schumacher posted his first win-less season in 10 years. Needless to say, he will be looking to end that drought this weekend at historic Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.
"You can be sure of that," he said. "We had some great runs throughout last year, but we just didn't get the job done. I guess the magic wasn't on our side and we had no luck at all. I've always contended it takes a lot of talent, terrific people and some luck to win races. Unfortunately, with the latter, we didn't have any.
"We have to put last year out of our minds and move forward. We have to be focused on what's right in front of us, which is an opportunity to start over. My guys are all battle-tested and are fully aware that failure is never an option when you are representing the U.S. Army. We want that world championship trophy back in the U.S. Army camp."
Schumacher's preseason optimism was fueled by a solid, week-long test session at Palm Beach (Fla.) International Raceway last month.
"We tried a bunch of things down there in Florida and all went well," said the Chicago-area resident. "We had a really good car toward the end of last year, but I believe we will be bringing an even better car to Pomona in a few days."
When he rolls up to the starting line for the first qualifying session on Thursday, Schumacher understands the competition will be as good as it has ever been.
"That's for certain," he said. "The Top Fuel class has progressively improved with every season. It's actually fun to race, given all of the great cars. You have to show up and bring your 'A' game every time or you're going home early. I love a good battle and, right now, we have it. I would be proud to be an NHRA fan these days because you are definitely going to get one heck of a race."
Based on past history, Schumacher is counting on a positive result at Auto Club Raceway. He has six wins to his credit there, which ties him with famed driver "Big Daddy" Don Garlits for the most in Top Fuel. Two of those wins came in the Winter-nationals.
"Pomona has been very good to me over the years," he said. "I'm hopeful we can re-capture that winning formula this weekend."