Earlier this season Tony Schumacher couldn’t win a race.
At the biggest event on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series no one could stop him.
In one fell swoop at the rain-delayed NHRA Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Schumacher beat teammate Spencer Massey, eclipsed the Top Fuel most-win mark for the event and pulled into a tie for the most Indy wins.
Schumacher scored victory No. 69 in 3.806 seconds at 315.34 miles per hour and in doing so, scored an unprecedented ninth Top Fuel victory at the final event in the regular season. He pulled away from a tie with “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and into a tie with Bob Glidden for the most Indy victories.
“This might be sweeter than the first,” said Schumacher, who won his first Indy race in 2000. “Right now I’d say it’s more difficult than it’s ever been to win a race. There was a time when we were a tenth of second ahead of everybody; when it was me and Alan Johnson. We just had to stay away from making mistakes. Now we are all tied. The top seven cars are so close and it’s fantastic. How gratifying. And then to get a chance to win a nine, against my teammate and they are qualified better and running as good, if not better and they have lane choice. A perfect moment. Just a perfect moment.”
Schumacher had to drive his way to the final round in facing some tough drivers along the way. He opened with victories over Hillary Will, then Brainerd winner Morgan Lucas before getting the best of No. 1 qualifier Shawn Langdon in the semis.
Facing a known leaver in the final, Schumacher knew he had better be on his game if he hoped to win. Instead of focusing on his starting line leave he focused instead on just relaxing.
“I sure didn’t want to lose it,” Schumacher said. “I tend to stage shallow. Today I told Mike I wasn’t going to stage shallow. I wasn’t going to stage deep. I was just going to make one move all day. Lane choice or not, and I gave it up a few times but we had .035 lights. It’s not that hard to have a good light if you relax. It’s when you go in thin, you leave 40-percent on the guy and the other sixty percent, someone leaves on me. I have a better sixty-foot most of the time. Today, I was ‘forget it … I want to win Indy.
“Forget the stats, I am just going to roll in and do what everyone else does. That’s just how it is. We went out and won Indy doing it. It’s not a bad way to win. Lane choice at some places will help you win. When lane choice is important, you have to go in shallow. Here the lanes seemed to be fine. We did what we had to do, go out and try to win.
“I didn’t feel like my lights were stellar but I left on him. My goal was to leave on everybody. I did that and Mike made the car run fast. Here we are with the trophy.”
Schumacher understands the historic Indy trophy has a place in today’s record books. He dares not discount the importance of Garlits’ era when the schedules had less than half the number of races and the drivers were more than hired guns.
“What that man did was so different,” said Schumacher. “We just drive the cars. It’s a different world now. Those guys built their cars, drove their trucks and trailers, innovated the sport and went out and won Indy eight times.”
Schumacher said when he tied Garlitsl Garlits was there to cheer him on, a gesture he says, was inspiring. This time Garlits was back home with his wife Pat who is ill.
“Where he should be,” Schumacher said. “I appreciate the fact he was behind my car and clapping when we won No. 8. He’s a great guy who has done so much for the sport. I really don’t want to feel like I am taking anything away from him. He had a great record in a different time period. He accomplished so much and one day, people are going to pass me too.”
With Indy behind him, Schumacher now focuses on the Countdown, which begins this coming Friday in Charlotte, NC.
“We have six races now and we are starting in third, we need to win races,” Schumacher said. “If we want to be the Full Throttle champion this year, we need to continue on from what we did today and go to Charlotte and get a good start on it.”
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