MOHNTON, Pa.- May all of the drag racing fans of Pennsylvania beware. If you blink, you may miss it. Really. Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army dragster are coming back to Maple Grove Raceway and they are ready to go even faster than before. OK,...
MOHNTON, Pa.- May all of the drag racing fans of Pennsylvania beware. If you blink, you may miss it. Really. Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army dragster are coming back to Maple Grove Raceway and they are ready to go even faster than before.
OK, so that is every team's goal each time they are faced with the quarter-mile, right? But not every team is the U.S. Army team. Not every team has gone 333.08 mph. But the Schumacher squad has, and they are ready to improve those numbers when they bring the heat to the 18th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, Sept. 12-15. Gary Scelzi, John Force, Troy Coughlin and Angelle Savoie are the defending winners of the $1.9 million race. It is the 18th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
"I love the Reading race, I always have loved that race," Schumacher said. "We have always done well there, and we have put in some very fast times. Ironically, the car we have now has the roll cage that came off that run. We just put a new front and a new back on it. We are looking forward to bringing the car there."
Schumacher has earned some points during his career. Not only has he won seven national events, most recently winning the biggest drag race of them all for the second time, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, but he claimed the 1999 Top Fuel championship as well. The speed didn't get Schumacher the official record last year because he was unable to back it up within 1 percent as required by NHRA rules. At the same race, Kenny Bernstein claimed the record with a 332.18-mph pass and backed up the speed. Schumacher's speed, however, is still the fastest in history. The lack of a record doesn't take anything away from the feat.
"No, that didn't get us the record, but it is always awesome to come up with the fastest runs," Schumacher said. "I can only imagine how many record runs we have made out of the top 100 fastest passes. I'm sure we have a lot of them and that is pretty cool."
Want to know what else is cool? The perfect conditions at Maple Grove Raceway. Schumacher said the track compliments crew chief Dan Olson's setup.
"Any of the tracks that we run at that are located at or below sea level can all be very fast," Schumacher said. "That fits perfect into Dan's tune-up. He loves working with good air. Our cars always run fast at those tracks. That's why we are looking forward to going back to Reading. We want to try to run even quicker."
Faster than 333? Yep, that's what he said. Schumacher and the Army team have gotten a lot of attention from the speed - from people outside of the racing community as well.
"I know it is possible, I know we can run faster," Schumacher said. "I understand why people think it is so neat. I am in awe of that number and I was the one in the car. I think people are so interested in that record because it is something they can relate to. They know what driving at 65 mph feels like. They know when they are driving 75, they are speeding, and it feels good.
"You have to put it into numbers people understand. If you tell them we are going five G's, they can't relate. But they know that if they are going 100 mph, they are breaking the law and it is a cool number. So when we tell them we go 100 mph in less than one second, everyone can understand it and can relate to that."
Schumacher and the team have already made out their wish list for the environmental conditions during race weekend. They want it to be cool. They want lots of cloud cover. They want high atmospheric pressure to provide more oxygen for the cars. They also want it to be dry.
"If we have that ideal setting, there is no reason why we can not run faster than last year," Schumacher said. "I'm looking forward to being back at that track. Before I got together with the U.S. Army, we were sponsored by Exide Batteries and they used to bring a lot of people to that track.
"We don't have that sponsorship anymore, but we made a lot of good friends and fans around Reading. I always look forward to seeing everyone, especially when I know our car has the ability to really make some good runs on that track."