SCHUMACHER LOOKING TO REGAIN WORLD TITLE
POMONA, Calif., February 22, 2011 - For six straight years, while entering a new NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season, U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher always carried a target on his back.
"That's exactly what happens after you take home the big trophy for six consecutive seasons," said the Chicago-area resident. "This year, we're in a little different position."
When Schumacher and the rest of the Top Fuel class take to Auto Club Raceway this weekend for the tradition-rich 51st annual Kragen O'Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals, defending world champion Larry Dixon will now be the driver looking over his shoulder.
"We're all going to have to step it up this year if we're going to chase him down," said Schumacher, who claimed six wins in 2010 and finished second in the points. "I'm really confident my U.S. Army team will be right there the whole year. We had an outstanding pre- season test session, which provides plenty of optimism. Like our Army Strong Soldiers, we've been diligently and intently preparing for the challenges that are in front of us."
Schumacher knows a good performance at the season opener can be a springboard for future success.
"If you win the Winternatonals, it's a great way to get the ball rolling," said Schumacher. "We're definitely looking forward to getting out to California."
In the '10 opener, Schumacher advanced to the semifinals but lost to Dixon, who went on to capture the race. In the fall Pomona event, he lost to his U.S. Army Racing teammate, Antron Brown, in the quarterfinals.
The seven-time world champion is currently tied with Don Garlits for the most Top Fuel wins at Auto Club Raceway - six. Two of those victories came in the Winternationals (2004 and 2008).
"It's been a great track for us over the years," he related. "It's a facility that offers outstanding traction and a smooth surface. That can lend to some record-setting runs if the weather conditions are right."
Schumacher is fully aware of potential record-setting passes at Auto Club Raceway. In the 2006 season finale, he set the national elapsed time record for the quarter-mile in the finals, while clinching his third straight title.
"That was a moment I will never forget," he said. "It's one of those cherished memories you carry with you on a continual basis."
In addition to his on-the-track activities in Pomona this weekend, Schumacher will also be closely following the NHRA's special tribute to legendary racer, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, who had the U.S. Army sponsorship on his Funny Car back in the 1970's.
"He won 24 races and four straight titles with the U.S. Army between 1975 and 1978," said Schumacher. "He certainly helped make the sport what it is today. It's really a perfect way for the NHRA to start its 60th anniversary celebration."