SCHUMACHER MOVING FORWARD WITH MISSION
GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 8, 2011 - U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher has definitely been down this road before and he knows just how to handle it. After absorbing an early round loss in the season opener at Pomona, Calif. two weeks ago, the Chicago-area resident absolutely refuses to remove the smile from his face.
"There's no way I'm down (emotionally) at all," said Schumacher, who heads into this weekend's Tire Kingdom Gatornationals at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway holding sixth-place in the standings. "We may have been eliminated early in Pomona, but we still know we have a very fast hot rod capable of winning a lot of races and, more importantly, another world championship."
Proving Schumacher's "fast hot rod" point is the fact he set the national speed record for 1,000-feet in the opening round of eliminations of the Kragen O'Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals in a win over Troy Buff - 327.03 mph. The previous mark was 325.61 mph, which was set at the 2010 fall Las Vegas race by Schumacher.
"Let's not forget, we also posted a 3.782-second pass against Buff, which was critical," he added. "It proved that we're right there with all of the big boys. We just had a little glitch out in California, that's all. We'll be ready to roll in Gainesville.
"I want to emphasize that every time we're on the track, the U.S. Army team demonstrates the same attributes the Army looks for in its Soldiers - putting the mission first, a never quit attitude and refusal to accept defeat. We will carry that with us throughout the season."
Schumacher will walk into Gainesville Raceway on Friday for the first of four scheduled qualifying sessions as the defending event champion. Last year, he beat his Don Schumacher Racing/U.S. Army Racing teammate, Antron Brown, in the finals and swiped the Top Fuel points lead in the process.
The seven-time world champion has four career "Gators" victories, which ties him with Larry Dixon, Joe Amato and Don Garlits for the most wins in Top Fuel.
"That's some pretty good company," said Schumacher. "Of course, our objective is to leave there on Sunday with a fifth event title and having taken over the points lead once again."
Given the Tire Kingdom Gatornationals is only the second round of the 22-race 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, Schumacher understands there will be many peaks and valleys to deal with over the next eight months.
"Oh man, you can bet on that," he offered. "No one is going to go undefeated and not scored upon. There's a long season in front of us, which includes the Countdown to 1. We're going to have our not so great moments during that time and our fair share of great moments. The idea is to make sure the great ones more than outnumber the not go great ones."