"The Sarge" returns to defend title at Firebird

Park Ridge, Ill. (Feb. 14): No matter how many races or championships Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher wins, his 330.23 mph blast down the Firebird International Raceway quarter-mile in 1999 will be one of the most memorable moments of his career.

Park Ridge, Ill. (Feb. 14): No matter how many races or championships Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher wins, his 330.23 mph blast down the Firebird International Raceway quarter-mile in 1999 will be one of the most memorable moments of his career. Schumacher returns this weekend to the World's fastest quarter-mile for the 17th Annual CheckerSchuck's Cragen Nationals, Feb. 15-18.

In that instance, Schumacher became the fastest driver in the history of the sport and the only driver to ever eclipse the 330-mph barrier. Schumacher also went on to capture the 1999 Winston Top Fuel title in one of the closest points chases ever.

"No matter where we go, I always get asked about the 330-mph run and how it felt to go that fast," said Schumacher, "Firebird will always be a special place for me because of that pass."

In 2000, Schumacher continued his assault of the Phoenix area track by marching to his first victory in only the second race of the season and the second of his Top Fuel career, as he attempted to defend his 1999 Championship title.

"This is one of those tracks where Dan (Olson; Army Top Fue l crew chief) and the guys really know what the track will hold for our tune-up," said Schumacher, "when I get in the car at Firebird, I hold on and better be ready for a ride."

"The combination of the weather, altitude and track conditions make this one of the most exciting places for a driver to race. The fans also see some fantastic side-by-side racing."

Most Top Fuel teams use Firebird International Raceway as their pre-season test site. This year, because of their success, the U.S. Army Top Fuel team used Firebird as their only test site.

"We tested exclusively at Firebird," said Schumacher, and had such good results that we stayed for five extra days and skipped the Tucson test session. We had some great incremental times and found out some new things about our car. "

"We plan on making some noise this weekend. After struggling in Pomona last week, this whole U.S. Army team feels like we have something to prove."

Qualifying for Top Fuel is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Feb. 1 6 and Feb.17. Final eliminations are scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Feb. 18.

ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying on Feb. 17. ESPN/ESPN2 will televise final eliminations on Feb. 18. Check local listings for times.

-MDellille

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Series NHRA