News: Schumacher ends winless streak in Bristol
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Scott Turner
BRISTOL, Tenn. — On a weekend when his sponsor, the U.S. Army, was celebrating its 237th birthday, U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher presented the ultimate gift - a Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals winner's trophy at Bristol Dragway here.
In capturing his first win of the season and his first victory since the fall 2010 Las Vegas event, Schumacher also made Father's Day a special occasion for his dad and team owner, Don Schumacher.
"What a day this has been," a jubilant Schumacher said after beating Doug Kalitta in the final. "To be able to win for our Army Strong Soldiers and my dad, while ending a 32-race losing streak, it's really a tremendous feeling. I can't explain how happy I am right now. I almost forgot how heavy these event trophies are - I think I was beginning to lose my trophy muscles."
On the way to career win number 68, Schumacher had to navigate around the likes of Dom Lagana, his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey, Clay Millican and then Kalitta, who he beat at Bristol Dragway in the 2009 final.
"There aren't any freebies in Top Fuel," Schumacher said after grabbing the Top Fuel points lead for the third time in 2012. "We definitely had to earn each and every round win today. We were pushed very hard by all of those guys, which was to be expected. I think NHRA drag racing fans are enjoying a great, competitive show so far this year."
Against Kalitta, Chicago-area resident Schumacher had to be sharp at the starting line. Kalitta posted a quicker 1,000-foot pass (3.802 seconds versus 3.819 seconds), but Schumacher had a better reaction time to the green light (.023 of a second to Kalitta's .065 of a second) and turned on the win light.
"That's the way you have to be when you come up against someone like Doug," Schumacher said. "One little mistake, and it could have been him standing in victory lane. He's a great driver with a great team, so I'm sure he will win his share of races this year."
While Schumacher was getting reacquainted with the winner's circle, his U.S. Army Racing teammate, Antron Brown, was analyzing a loss in the semifinals to Kalitta.
New Jersey native Brown recorded a respectable 3.842-second run at 322.88 mph, but Kalitta was a touch better with a 3.831-second trip at 320.51 mph.
"For sure, it was a tough race to lose," Brown said. "I really was hoping Tony and I could match up in the final for the Army. But it just wasn't our day, I guess. However, I am very happy for Tony - it's been so long since he won a race. I'm sure it's a huge weight off that whole Army team."
Following a pole-winning qualifying performance, Brown took care of Scott Palmer in the opening round and then knocked out Shawn Langdon in a tight second-round battle before coming up a bit short against Kalitta.
"I thought we had a real good racecar today," Brown said. "Clearly, we have nothing to be ashamed of. Coming into Bristol, we were struggling a little, but I think this was a get-well weekend for us. We'll look to take what we learned here and use it to our advantage going forward."
When the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series visits Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill. in two weeks, Brown will have the opportunity to compete in his 250th professional drag race (combining starts in both Pro Stock Motorcycles and Top Fuel).
"I didn't realize I had reached that mark already," Brown said. "It seems like yesterday that I was pulling up to the starting line on a Pro Stock Motorcycle for the first time. Time has passed very quickly, and I feel blessed to be in the position I'm in right now. Hopefully, my 250th start will be a successful one."
Going into round 11 of the 23-race NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, the O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 Nationals on June 28-July 1 at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., following are the top-five in the Top Fuel standings:
1. Tony Schumacher (846 points)
2. Spencer Massey (806 points)
3. Antron Brown (756 points)
4. Steve Torrence (679 points)
5. Morgan Lucas (667 points)