When Alan Johnson walked away from his role as Tony Schumacher's crew chief, Schumacher vowed that he always would cherish their time as collaborators, always would be civil to Johnson and his new team, and always would respect Johnson's genius that led him to five consecutive Top Fuel championships. But that doesn't mean Schumacher and Johnson can't have a natural rivalry, a desire to beat each other convincingly.
Sometimes that rivalry might extend to off-track matters. Schumacher said Friday evening he thinks that's what is happening regarding the controversial cockpit canopy.
After Schumacher claimed the provisional No. 1 qualifying position, Competition Plus' Bobby Bennett remarked to him that both his U.S. Army Dragster team and Johnson's Al-Anabi/Toyota Dragster team are coming alive at the right time of the season.
"We are," Schumacher said. Then he launched into a conversation about Johnson's team and the canopy.
"I love how Alan's got our windshield on now. Cool," Schumacher said. "I was the one that walked over and said, 'You guys really still racing with, basically, a billboard in front of the driver? Doesn't that seem kind of stupid?' And Brian laughed a little bit and he goes, 'Yeah, man. We need to put that on.' And the next week they had it on. I'm not taking credit for it. Alan's more than smart enough to know that. But when you see a car performing well, look at it and do what it does.
"It's funny," Schumacher said, "after leaving my dad [the "Don" of seven-team Don Schumacher Racing], I'll bet you Alan does not want to put the canopy on or give credit in any way, shape, or form to my dad for being part of that.
"But eventually he's going to want it. Eventually he's going to see something," the points leader said. "And we all know that the safety aspect of that is unsurpassed. There's nothing to this day safer. When people start getting over their little 'I don't want to do it because he did it,' they're going to put it on because it is flat the safest car out there -- and it's bad-ass-looking."
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