Park Ridge, IL (March 12, 2000): One year ago, Tony Schumacher and the Exide Batteries team were given a wake-up call at the Mac Tools Gatornationals as they were handed a first-round loss after starting the season with two semifinal appearances.
Park Ridge, IL (March 12, 2000): One year ago, Tony Schumacher and the Exide Batteries team were given a wake-up call at the Mac Tools Gatornationals as they were handed a first-round loss after starting the season with two semifinal appearances. This year, they head to the Gainesville, Florida race with two final-round finishes in the first two races; the NHRA Winston Championship points lead and one win at the most recent race.
"We started the season strong and we were all devastated going out first round last year," said Schumacher, "it made this team stronger though in the end. We didn't want to see that again."
Despite setting an event record mph of 325.77 on that pass, they were still headed to the trailer to pack up and go home as they were defeated by Doug Kalitta.
"We were still a pretty new team and it made a big impact on how we approached the rest of the season."
In fact, the Team Exide dragster would go on to finish the 1999 NHRA Winston Championship season with only three first-round losses, the fewest of any team. Coming off their first victory of the 2000 season, the Dan Olson-led team knows that they are the targets this year and the hunter seems to be Gary Scelzi; 1997 and 1998 NHRA Winston Champion and driver of the Team Winston dragster.
"Gary's (Scelzi) made it clear that he wants the championship back," said Schumacher, "but we are not prepared to give it up so easily. We've raced twice and we each have a win. It's going to be brutal."
Schumacher and Company knows there is a long road ahead of them as they defend their title, but they also have a solid year under there belt as a team and have a new race car that has been flawless at the first two races of the year.
"We have taken every chance to test our new equipment," Schumacher commented, "Dan's got a great handle on things. We are going to win races this year."
When asked about rules changes and his record setting speeds from last season, Schumacher added, "Our tune-up is not that different from last year. We really won't see much effect from the 90% nitro rule until we hit places like Denver, where you need more fuel to make up for the altitude."
Team owner Don Schumacher couldn't be happier with his team's start to the season. "The guys have really worked hard to take this program to the next level. It's a great way for us to welcome aboard some of our new sponsors; Matco Tools, Gates Rubber and Federal-Mogul."
"We don't want there to be any doubt what this team is here to do; win races," added the elder Schumacher.
Qualifying for the 31st Annual Mac Tools Gatornationals is scheduled for noon and 4pm on Friday, March 17 and Saturday, March 18. Final Eliminations are scheduled for Sunday, March 19 at 11am.