Schumacher's thoughts are with Garlits, not breaking their tie for most Pomona event titles but doing his job always a priority
Tony Schumacher has only one goal in mind whenever he goes to a starting line, and that's to win.
But he wishes there were a way he could win four rounds in championship eliminations in the season-opening Circle K NHRA Nationals at Pomona, Calif., to earn the trophy but remain tied with legend "Big Daddy" Don Garlits for most event titles at Pomona with six.
Garlits' wife of 60 years, Pat, died a week ago at age 79 after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's disease. A memorial service was Saturday in Ocala, Fla.
"Just being named with him, man, is as important as beating anybody. He's a hero to all of us and we're thinking of him now."
Schumacher, who has driven Don Schumacher Racing's U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster to an NHRA-record 72 event titles and seven world championships, is content with being tied with Garlits for any NHRA record.
But once, Schumacher straps on his helmet and the safety canopy is lowered and secured on his dragster, his only mission is to win.
"We've got a car that's going down the racetrack, and we needed that but we have to go faster," he said. "We have some new guys on our team and we didn't hire them out of a Cracker Jack box; we handpicked guys who were perfect for their positions.
Schumacher, who qualified 10th, wants Sunday to be the start of improving on last season when the U.S. Army team won three event trophies but its final points position of seventh was its lowest since 2001.
"I want to dominate from the beginning. We had a great car early last year but it was a tough second half of the year. We have to come out strong; that's the type of team we are. Adversity is what makes championships so incredible. You have to get through tough times.
"These are great people we're racing against - very worthy opponents - and the tougher they are to beat the more gratifying it is to beat them."