SCHUMACHER FILLED WITH MIXED EMOTIONS ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., June 9 - With the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series moving to Raceway Park here this weekend for the United Association SuperNationals, U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony "The Sarge" ...
SCHUMACHER FILLED WITH MIXED EMOTIONS
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., June 9 - With the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series moving to Raceway Park here this weekend for the United Association SuperNationals, U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher is not sure how he'll react when he first arrives at the historic facility located in the central part of the Garden State.
"For sure, it's going to be tough for everyone in the NHRA family," said the six- time world champion. "It's hard to believe, but it's already been a year since we lost (Funny Car driver) Scott Kalitta."
It was at Raceway Park last year when Kalitta was killed in a Saturday qualifying crash. In response to the incident, the NHRA changed the race distance for the Funny Car and Top Fuel classes from the traditional quarter-mile to the 1,000-foot mark.
"And, we're still going to 1,000 feet," added Schumacher. "As far as I'm concerned, that's fine. I still believe we needed to make the change for safety reasons. I certainly don't think the show has been impacted in any way. In fact, we're still seeing some great side-by-side racing."
Schumacher clearly recalls what was a very somber race day following the news about Kalitta's passing. While he went on to claim his first career win in Englishtown, he was definitely not in a celebratory mood.
"Under normal circumstances, we would've enjoyed the victory, but that was not the time and place for such a thing," he added. "We lost a member of our extended family and remembering him was of greater importance. That's why I made it a point to give the event trophy to the Kalitta Motorsports team.
"Like our Army Strong Soldiers, we've all had to exhibit a great deal of personal courage to get through these last 12 months. Somehow, as a family, we've managed to move forward. That's what life is all about."
Schumacher heads for New Jersey holding second-place in the standings after recording a rare first round loss last Sunday at Route 66 Raceway outside of Chicago. He had gone 35 straight races without an opening round loss.
"We're over that race," he said. "We started looking ahead to this weekend first thing Monday morning. We're intent on defending our event title and handing the U.S. Army a nice present for its 234th birthday."