About the only thing that kept Tony Schumacher's ninth U.S. Nationals victory from being perfect last Sunday was the absence of "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, the man he passed on the victories list to become the Labor Day classic's most successful Top Fuel driver. Garlits, who normally wouldn't miss the event he won eight times, stayed home at Ocala, Fla., with ill wife, Pat, to whom he has been married for 59 years.
Mike Lewis, Don Schumacher Racing's senior vice president, sent Garlits an e-mail following the completion of the rain-delayed race to let him know all the folks at DSR were thinking of him and Pat and had wished they could have been at Indianapolis to share the moment.
Garlits replied the next day by e-mail: "Thank you so much! I was watching on TV, and I felt like I was riding in there with Tony. The car is so beautiful, and you know the old saying; 'If it looks right, it probably is right!’ That is the comment that Connie Swingle made when we rolled the first modern RE [rear-engine] car out of the garage in Seffner [Fla.] in October 1970! That is my comment for the DSR T/F car that Tony drove to victory and a new Indy Top Fuel win record. My sincere congratulations to DSR, Tony's team, and Tony for a superb job of driving. He nailed his competitor to the starting line and never looked back!"
Lewis said Garlits' last U.S. Nationals crown came in 1986 in Swamp Rat XXX, which featured a cockpit canopy, and he said it was appropriate the first modern-era victory with a canopy car in Top Fuel would be Schumacher’s ninth at in Indianapolis.
Swamp Rat XXX is housed in Smithsonian's National Museum of American History as one of only three race cars on display.
For those who like to keep track of such esoteric statistics, Schumacher's ninth Indianapolis triumph came on Sept. 9 -- 9/9.
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