NHRA heads to Bristol with Tony Schumacher aiming for the victory in his U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster as he takes on the challenge of Thunder Valley. Ron Capps has the same aim in Funny Car while Mike Edwards hopes for the win in Pro Stock.
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Many times, success breeds confidence, and in turn, confidence can breed future success. This is definitely the case for Tony Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster, and his affinity for Bristol Dragway as he enters the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers, June 14-16. The seven-time NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world champion has five wins at the facility (2012, 2008-10, 2004) and leads all racers with the most victories at Bristol Dragway.
“We go there feeling successful,” Schumacher said. “We go there with the attitude of success. My guys were disappointed in Englishtown (semifinal loss at the most recent event), and I said, ‘Don’t be disappointed; we are going to go into Bristol and win.’ So we might as well go and rack the points up.”
Schumacher and all the stars of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will be in search of victory at the 10th of 24 events in the 2013 season. Schumacher (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) will be looking to defend their 2012 victories at the event, which will be televised nationally on ESPN2HD.
Schumacher has 71 wins in his storied 369-race career at tracks across the country. Only at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis (nine) and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona and The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (six each) does he have a better record; he also has five wins at Texas Motorplex.
“I think everybody has certain tracks that they are good at,” Schumacher continued. “It is a difficult track since it is a little bit higher altitude. I stay close to the track and show up there well rested. I love Thunder Valley; I love the place, and I go into that race in very good spirits. I remember a time before the stands were there, and people would roll down the hill during the event, back when I drove jet cars there. The fans are second to none.”
Schumacher drives for his father, Don, who was a legendary Funny Car driver and has become one of the most successful team owners in all of motorsports. Don was recently inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and Tony introduced him. On Father’s Day weekend, Tony understands the family bond and relishes the time he spends with his father at the track.
“It is great to go racing with him every weekend. It makes the better that much better, but it makes the worse the worst because it is tough, it is family,” Schumacher continued. “It is a tough sport to get into, and when you have a family that helps pave the way to get in and teaches you the ropes. There are no 600 miles to win races; it is so instant and immediate. You hear about great moments and accomplishments, and it makes it hard not to want to live up to that.”
For Schumacher to record his sixth win at the facility, he will have to top a field of championship contenders, including points leader Shawn Langdon, who became the first driver in the class to pick up three wins this season at the recently completed event in Englishtown. Other standouts include defending world champ Antron Brown, Spencer Massey, Bob Vandergriff and veteran driver Doug Kalitta.
In Funny Car, the most recent event winner and current points leader, Matt Hagan, a cattle rancher from nearby Christiansburg, Va., will be looking for his third event win in 2013 and first victory in Bristol. But it won’t be easy against a host of tough competitors, including the three John Force Racing Ford Mustang drivers; Johnny Gray, who has three wins on his retirement tour; Cruz Pedregon; defending event winner Capps; Del Worsham and defending world champ Jack Beckman.
In Pro Stock, red-hot points leader Edwards, who has won the last four events in Bristol, will try to keep his streak going at this event. He enters the race with three event victories and eight No. 1 qualifying positions this season at the controls of his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro. Local favorite Allen Johnson, the defending Pro Stock world champ who drives the Team Mopar Dodge Avenger, is hoping that this is the year he wins a Wally trophy at Thunder Valley in front of his family and friends after losing the 2012 final in the closest final round in NHRA history. Along with Jeg Coughlin, who is second in points, others to watch in Pro Stock include Erica Enders-Stevens, Shane Gray, Greg Anderson, Jason Line and Vincent Nobile.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers because every ticket is an exclusive pit pass, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds. While visiting the pits, fans won’t want to miss the popular interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway.
The teams in several categories of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense side-by-side competition, and drivers in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series will compete in their fifth event of the season.