Baytown, TX (April 16, 2000): After bowing out earlier than expected in Las Vegas a week ago, Tony Schumacher and Team Exide went to their fourth final round in five races as they finished second in the O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway ...
Baytown, TX (April 16, 2000): After bowing out earlier than expected in Las Vegas a week ago, Tony Schumacher and Team Exide went to their fourth final round in five races as they finished second in the O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park.
Schumacher opened the day against David Grubnic in the Montana Express dragster. Schumacher piloted his Exide dragster to victory with a 4.619 et at 315.34 mph, bettering his best qualifying pass by .04 seconds.
"Dan (Olson - Crew Chief) and the guys worked real hard to find us some extra power for eliminations," commented Schumacher as he packed his parachute for the second round.
"That was our quickest et under the new rules for Top Fuel this year."
In the second round, Schumacher faced Mike Smith who upset No. 3 qualifier Cory McClenathan. Schumacher had to pedal the car and caught it quick enough to keep traction and ran 4.638 seconds at 314.02 mph to defeat Smith's 4.699 et. With Smith's slight starting line advantage, Schumacher's margin of victory was only .011 seconds.
"I didn't see him next to me and was really surprised when I hit the 'chutes and he was right there."
That run set up a meeting for Schumacher with Doug Kalitta, who defeated Schumacher earlier this year in the finals at the Gatornationals. Schumacher had lane choice and this time slowed to a 4.708 et at 311.85 mph, but still managed to put the Team Exide driver in his fourth final round in the first five races of the 2000 season.
Losing lane choice to Larry Dixon, Schumacher was forced to run in the left lane, which he knew would be tougher to run. Schumacher's dragster started to smoke the tires and as he pedaled it, he lifted the front wheels. He kept his foot in it and the car came back to ground. He still ran a 4.761 et at 309.98 mph, but it was not good enough to catch Dixon's 4.665.
Schumacher finished second for the third time this year, but was still able to stretch his Winston Championship points lead to 66 points over Gary Scelzi who was defeated in the first round. "We went rounds last year and it got us a championship and we are using the same strategy this year," said Schumacher after returning to his pit.
"It would have been nice to win this one since we were second a year ago, but to leave with a bigger points lead than we came here with is more than we could ask for."
Team Exide and the NHRA Tour take a week off for Easter and head to Richmond, Virginia April 27-30 for the Virginia Nationals.