Memphis; Schumacher ready for intense fight

MILLINGTON, Tenn. - Tony Schumacher knows that in order to keep his status of champion in the competitive world of NHRA Top Fuel racing, he's going to have to be ready for one heck of a fight as the series begins the journey toward its final four...

MILLINGTON, Tenn. - Tony Schumacher knows that in order to keep his status of champion in the competitive world of NHRA Top Fuel racing, he's going to have to be ready for one heck of a fight as the series begins the journey toward its final four events.

He knows earning valuable Winston points at each event is crucial. One point gained or lost could be the difference in the championship outcome.

Following the event at Heartland Park Topeka, Schumacher found himself just 49 points behind two-time series champion Gary Scelzi. The two drivers have traded the lead for much of the season, and now less than three rounds of competition provides the separation.

Indeed, every single point at the 13th annual AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil, Oct. 5-8, at Memphis Motorsports Park, could be the determining factor in deciding the Winston champion for the 2000 season. The $1.8 million race is the 20th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

That's why Schumacher - a four-time winner in nine final rounds this year - will place a premium on qualifying as well as eliminations. If he should set a national record for elapsed time, he could earn an extra 20-point bonus.

He has his sights set on earning the NHRA maximum - 138. He feels anything less than that simply won't do. Not in this cut-throat championship battle.

"A point here or there can make or break the season, it's that simple," said Schumacher, the defending Winston Top Fuel champion and driver of the U.S. Army dragster. "You just have to make the most of every opportunity. We knew at the beginning of the season the championship chase was going to go down to the wire. This has been a fun battle with Gary, and now we're ready to finish the deal. I'm sure his team has the same plan. That's what makes this sport a lot of fun."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi