Tony Schumacher often buzzes by his friend T.J. Zizzo's shop on his Harley-Davidson and leads the parade with T.J. and his father Tony Zizzo to La Rosa Pizzeria on Milwaukee Avenue in the Chicago suburb of Vernon Hills. Together they talk NHRA drag racing over mouthfuls of the area's signature deep-dish pizza.
After Sunday, the two Top Fuel racers -- Schumacher from Long Grove and Zizzo from Lincolnshire -- will have plenty to gab about. They'll meet each other in the first round of the O'Reilly Route 66 Nationals at nearby Joliet.
A few minutes after Zizzo protected his No. 16 starting position Saturday night, Schumacher used a track-record 3.763-second pass on the Route 66 Raceway 1,000-foot course Saturday night to swipe the No. 1 spot from Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown.
As for going head to head against his longtime friend, Schumacher said ordering his racing results isn't nearly as easy as ordering a Four-Way Special or some cannoli from La Rosa's.
"I wish I didn't have to. One of us has to lose. I wish it didn't have to be that way," Schumacher said. "We're No. 1, and I wish I were No. 1. So you can't get it both ways. Best wishes to him -- great guy, great family."
He said he plans to "go fast" but said without doubt that "that tune-up we had tonight will not be in the car tomorrow morning. It is nine o'clock [Saturday night] and the sun's gone. And we're racing at 11 o'clock [Sunday morning] and the sun's out.
"Fortunately, [crew chief] Mike Green and the Army team has more data than they do. But we proved last year that you can go out and get beat first round," he said. "Probably none of us is going to have data for what we're going to see tomorrow morning. We'll take our best shot at it and have fun. If we get beat, I'll just hang out with some of the Chicago Bears I have coming. They've never been to drag race before."
And if he happens to beat Zizzo, will he buy lunch?
"Actually, he usually buys my lunch more often than I buy his," Schumacher said.
The tug-o-war over the lunch check can wait.
Right now all Schumacher knows is that Green has confidence in how correctly to read this car that's relatively fresh off the DSR in-house chassis line.
Schumacher was unqualified after the first run, thanks to a broken part --"something in the valve train," he said. But he said he and Green and the team were going for it all because "the Army car cannot show up Sunday not qualified at home. That's just not acceptable. So we'll break a few parts -- and we did."
But Green learned from that misstep and Schumacher got in the top 12. He improved to seventh in Saturday's first session. But he said Green assured him that is not where he would stay in the line-up.
Green leaned over to Schumacher in the cockpit and told him, "There's no reason to end up sixth, seventh, or eighth. We're ninth now. We're either going to go to the top two or we're going to stay ninth."
Said Schumacher, "What makes me most comfortable is that he called it. A lot of guys go up there [to the starting line] and say, 'I'm not exactly sure.' When a crew chief starts to get confidence like that [like Green did], watch out."
It was just another hot slice of life with the U.S. Army team.
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