Ennis, TX (October 24): Tony Schumacher and Team Exide came to the O'Reilly Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex with the intentions of keeping their lead in the NHRA Winston Championship points chase. They left with more than they bargained...
Ennis, TX (October 24): Tony Schumacher and Team Exide came to the O'Reilly Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex with the intentions of keeping their lead in the NHRA Winston Championship points chase. They left with more than they bargained for by winning the event and setting a new national speed record in the process. Not only did Schumacher keep his points lead but he extended it to 81 points over Joe Amato.
Eliminations began Sunday with No. 2 qualifier Schumacher and Team Exide knowing what they needed to accomplish to keep their points lead. "We plan on going out today and running our own race," said Schumacher, "Dan (Olson-crew chief) knows how to get down this track and we are just going to take it a round at a time."
Team Exide's first round opponent was No. 15 qualifier IHRA champion, Don Lampus. Lampus and Schumacher left together but the race was over quickly as Lampus was forced to lift to keep from blowing over and Schumacher thundered down the track with a 4.659 e.t. at 323.85 mph to take the win and set a new national speed record by backing up his qualifying speed of 326.91 mph.
"It's awesome for this team to set the record," said Schumacher, "it has come from hard work by Dan Olson and the whole crew. The guys really deserve it."
Schumacher was paired with Doug Herbert in the second round. "I'm just going to do my own thing on the line," said Schumacher referring to Herbert's recent history of deep staging against Schumacher, "all I can do is relax and go through my routine."
In defeating Herbert, Schumacher ran a 4.591 e.t. at 319.94 mph to set low e.t. of the round and advance to the semifinals to face Doug Kalitta. Schumacher was also able to start increasing his points lead with a first round loss by Gary Scelzi and a second round loss by Joe Amato.
In reaching the semifinals, Schumacher looked again to have one of the most consistent cars in the field, which is one of the main reasons that the Exide driver holds the Winston Championship points lead. "Dan (Olson) has this car running great today. We are making very few changes between rounds," said Schumacher. "Now it's up to the driver to do his job."
That's exactly what Tony Schumacher did as he took a .012 second starting line advantage to run the all-concrete quarter mile with a 4.598 e.t. at 323.85 mph to advance to his fifth final round appearance of the year.
"I am very happy for the guys on this team," said Schumacher on advancing to the finals, "we have been there before, now its time to take the next step."
Schumacher's final opponent of the event was No. 1 qualifier Scott Kalitta who also ran very consistent e.t.'s all day. As the packed stands of the Texas Motorplex rose to their feet, Schumacher and Kalitta left the line with almost identical reaction times. As they raced down the Ennis, TX track, Schumacher again posted a consistent pass of 4.621 e.t. at 323.39 mph to Kalitta's 5.072 e.t..
As the win light came on in Schumacher's lane, his crew erupted with excitement and the Exide Batteries Top Fuel driver had claimed his first victory in his short NHRA Winston drag racing career. "Dan (Olson) and the guys did a super job today for Exide Batteries and all our sponsors," said Team owner Don Schumacher. "Tony also did a wonderful job driving today. He had good reaction times all day."
"Jeff Burton won the Winston Cup race today for Exide and we are proud to put the Exide dragster into victory lane also. It's a great day for our sponsors."
"This is everything that I have imagined," said Tony Schumacher, "we have worked so hard to get to this point and this team really deserves this win. Not only is this my first win, but a lot of the guys have never had a win before."
This was Schumacher's fifth final round appearance of the year and ninth of his career. By winning the event, Schumacher also earns a guaranteed spot in next years Winston Showdown. Schumacher also moved to fourth in Big Bud Shootout points with his No. 2 qualifying effort.
"Now that we know what it feels like to win," said Schumacher; "it's going to be hard to not to do it every week."