ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - Earning an NHRA POWERade Top Fuel championship is a difficult task. Repeating as champion, however, is proving to be even more difficult for the 1999 Top Fuel champion, Tony Schumacher. Since winning the championship, the ...
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - Earning an NHRA POWERade Top Fuel championship is a difficult task. Repeating as champion, however, is proving to be even more difficult for the 1999 Top Fuel champion, Tony Schumacher.
Since winning the championship, the driver of the U.S. Army dragster has finished second, eighth and third, respectively, in the Top Fuel POWERade standings. The team had high expectations coming into the 2003 season, but has fallen short of their goals so far.
In the first seven events of the season, Schumacher lost in the second round at the opener, followed by a semifinal loss at Phoenix, failed to win a round in four consecutive events and posted a second round loss in the most recent event. The Army team is convinced that will change soon.
Schumacher will be aiming to end the losing streak when the U.S. Army pulls up to the line during the 34th annual K&N Filters NHRA SuperNationals presented by Pep Boys at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, May 17-18. Kenny Bernstein, Gary Densham, Greg Anderson and Antron Brown are the defending winners in their respective categories for the $2.1 million race, the eighth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
"As bas as losing in the first round at four straight races has been, it is just another step in overcoming adversity," Schumacher said. "This team is sticking through this. You have to stick through the really bad times to make the good times so great. We've done some major clutch adjustments and fuel system adjustments. I know this team is capable of pulling out of this. We are too good to perform like we have been."
In 2002, the Schumacher squad's longest losing streak was three consecutive first round losses at each of the West Coast Swing races (Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif.). They followed that by a semifinal appearance at Brainerd, Minn., and a win at Indianapolis. Schumacher is looking forward to similar results soon.
"This affects everyone on our team because it is such a bummer. Our team is full of people who are way too good to let this continue," Schumacher said. "We have a high quality group of people who don't make mistakes. We just have to keep everyone motivated. We have a lot of back-to-back races coming up and I think that will be a great thing for this team. We need to be at the race track and we need to keep making passes."
During the offseason Wes Cerny was brought on board as the crew chief of the U.S. Army car. He replaced Dan Olson, who was moved into the role of assistant crew chief to all four Don Schumacher-owned teams. While Cerny isn't pleased with the slump, he is certain it won't last long.
"We have made lots of positive steps and it is just unfortunate that we have not shown those positive steps on Sunday," Cerny said. "It is primarily a clutch issue and the whole team is working very hard to make sure we figure this out. The whole team is on the same page, we are all working in the same direction and we are confident that we are going to make it turn around."
Tony Schumacher is not only looking forward to making an appearance in winner's circle, but he is hoping it will be at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
"Englishtown is a great race track," Schumacher said. "It is the biggest East Coast race that we have and it is a great place to compete. We are going to visit West Point on the way to the event and I know that visiting the soldiers will just get us more fired up to win."