Bristol: Series round 12 preview

SCHUMACHER WILL TRY TO KEEP BRISTOL STREAK ALIVE AS HE SEEKS EIGHTH FULL THROTTLE SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE BRISTOL, Tenn. -- For seven-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher, the challenge never gets old. And the challenges...

SCHUMACHER WILL TRY TO KEEP BRISTOL STREAK ALIVE AS HE SEEKS EIGHTH FULL THROTTLE SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- For seven-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher, the challenge never gets old.

And the challenges come in many forms for the 40-year-old Chicago driver.

His much-publicized rivalry with Larry Dixon that is really developing on the track this season -- the two have met head-to-head seven times in 11 races with Dixon holding a 4-3 advantage -- and the challenge from a host of talented teams with veteran drivers keeps "The Sarge" constantly cranking at full steam.

There's also the looming challenge of trying to keep his current championship streak alive. It stands at six in a row. During his historic run of dominance in his U.S. Army dragster since winning his first crown in 2004, Schumacher has won championships with last-second Hail Mary runs, powerful runaway performances and with different crew chiefs. Quite frankly, when it comes to 7,000-horsepower racing, he's done it all.

As he heads to Bristol Dragway to try and win the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals for the third time in a row, and fourth time overall, Schumacher now is focusing on securing a top three position in the Top Fuel point standings and preparing himself and his team for another championship playoff run in the Countdown to 1 and trying to keep the championship streak alive.

Del Worsham (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) join Schumacher as defending race winners at the famed dragstrip that sits nestled in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee. The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event takes place June 18-20 and will be televised by ESPN2 HD.

"I say it all the time," Schumacher said. "It's not the trophy; it's getting up Sunday morning and knowing you're going to have to dig real deep to get it. I enjoy those big moments, where you have to really pull something off."

With season victories at Gainesville, St. Louis and Topeka, Schumacher is firmly positioned in second place in the Top Fuel standings, establishing his U.S. Army team as a top championship contender. Although not as overwhelmingly dominant as his incredible 2008 campaign, or as vengeful as his 2009 prove the skeptics wrong tour, he is still racing like he's on a mission.

"We're right in the thick of it," Schumacher said. "We just need to find a little more consistency. If we can do that, I am confident that we'll be right there at the end."

Until then, his goal is to win more races and add to his category leading total of 64. He'll continue to battle each week with the crop of talented veterans looking to knock him off the perch that he's held for much of a decade.

Schumacher knows that arch-rival and two-time world champ Dixon, who has led the point standings for most of the season in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster, is just one of his toughest challengers. Veterans Cory McClenathan in the FRAM dragster, Doug Kalitta in the Kalitta Air dragster, Antron Brown in the Matco Tools dragster and Brandon Bernstein in the Copart/Lucas Oil dragster are just a few of the other drivers who are hungry to win.

"When you're the champ and you have a great race car, people are going to come after you," Schumacher said. "They're going to take every bit of energy they have and try to beat you, and I appreciate that because it means you're doing something right."

In Funny Car, 14-time world champ and two-time Bristol Dragway winner John Force has returned to championship form in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang. He is currently in second place chasing his 15th series crown against his talented daughter Ashley Force Hood, son-in-law and points leader Robert Hight and a host of tough challengers and rivals, including two other past Bristol winners --Worsham and Ron Capps.

Edwards continues to have the car to beat in Pro Stock competition. The defending world champ has dominated the class with seven wins and nine No. 1 qualifying positions in the season's first 11 races. His biggest challengers include past world champs Jeg Coughlin and Greg Anderson and local favorite Allen Johnson, who drives the Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. The father-son tandem of Shane and Johnny Gray have also come on of late and each is currently inside the Top 10 entering Bristol.

* SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5 and 7:30 p.m. on June 18 and 12:30 and 3 p.m. on June 19. Final eliminations begin at noon on Sunday, June 20.

* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. For tickets call Bristol Dragway at (423) 989-6900 or visit www.bristoldragway.com.

* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 7 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, June 19. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute race preview show, at 3:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 20. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage beginning at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 20.

* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals also will feature competition in seven categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 10:15 a.m. on June 10 and eliminations begin at 10:15 a.m. on June 12.

* GET SCREENED AMERICA PRO MOD SERIES: NHRA's newest touring series will make its sixth start of the 10-race season at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. The series features some of the world's fastest and most unique doorslammer cars, with an eclectic mix of vintage and late-model body styles, in quarter-mile competition.

-source: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Ashley Force , Brandon Bernstein , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray , Robert Hight , Mike Edwards