SCHUMACHER HUNGRY TO INCREASE HIS LEGEND AT LEGENDARY RACE
POMONA, Calif. - With seven Top Fuel world championship trophies on his mantle, including the last six in a row, some might think it's a chore for Tony Schumacher to pump himself up for yet another season, another title run, to try and keep his dominating streak going.
But Schumacher says he doesn't have those problems. He's a racer, pure and simple. He says he was ready to race the next weekend after last year's finals. It's been a long winter for the Chicago-based speedster.
So as his U.S. Army team rolls to the starting line for the first time in the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season at the 50th annual Kragen O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 11-14 at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Schumacher, arguably the greatest Top Fuel driver in NHRA history with 61 career victories, will be itching to get the season started like never before.
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD.
As an A-plus student of the sport of drag racing, Schumacher knows the importance of this milestone event and all the legends that have come before him. To know that his name is now mentioned alongside Don Garlits, Kenny Bernstein and Don Prudhomme, to name a few, as one of the greats, gives Schumacher even more motivation to succeed.
"It all starts at the Winternationals," said Schumacher, who won NHRA's prestigious season-opening event in 2004 and 2008. "The biggest names that have ever won championships in racing and just races in general started right there. So that's the place. The history of racing comes from California. To go out and perform at that race from the first get^^go, man, you just can't beat it. It was an amazing thing to be able to accomplish."
Schumacher's Winternationals titles came during some amazing championship runs during the last decade. He claimed world championship titles in 2006 and 2007 in dramatic fashion during the closing moments of the season. In 2008 he had one of the most dominating runs ever, ultimately capturing the prestigious DRIVER OF THE YEAR title for all of motorsports. However his title last year - a two-point thriller over rival Larry Dixon - may be his most satisfying of all. He won the title with a new crew chief and new teammates, defeating former tuner Alan Johnson and most of his former crew.
"It was an amazing year last year to be able do what we did," Schumacher said. "To be able to go out there after losing Alan Johnson and my whole Army team and beat them by two points, which is what everyone in the world showed up to watch."
Schumacher expects another tough battle with Dixon and the Al-Anabi Racing team. However, many other drivers will be in the championship hunt as well, including Antron Brown, who swept the Western Swing last season in his Matco Tools dragster, veteran Cory McClenathan in the FRAM Tough Guard dragster, a reenergized Brandon Bernstein in the Copart dragster, and Morgan Lucas, who won three times last year in the GEICO Powersports dragster.
"We're giving them the best show I've ever seen," Schumacher said of the competition in NHRA Top Fuel. "It is brutal right now, the hardest thing I've ever been a part of. Best show I've ever been a part of."
Schumacher still gets a chuckle at all of those prognosticators who predicted his downfall last year. And he knows there may be a few who still think last year was a fluke. No matter, he plans to keep his expectations in check and focus on the task at hand, just like he's done for the last six championship-winning seasons.
"I never expected to win six championships in a row," Schumacher said. "And I don't expect to go on and win every championship from here on out. The competition's too tough. We're going to show up, qualify the best and run the best we can each round. At the end of the season we'll know where it falls."