The rest of the Top Fuel class might not like to hear what Tony Schumacher is saying again.
No, they're not concerned about talk of his new canopy. Instead, what they might feel uncomfortable hearing is his familiar speech about loving the pressure and wanting to be the go-to guy when the stress level soars.
He said it again Friday at the Texas Motorplex after staking the U.S. Army Dragster to the provisional No. 1 Top Fuel qualifying position for the National Hot Rod Association's AAA Texas Fall Nationals at Ennis, near Dallas.
"Larry Bird said it best: 'In the closing seconds of the game, I always wanted to have the ball in my hands for the last shot and not anybody else in the world.' When it comes down to it, I want that shot," Schumacher said. "At that moment when you have to win, we've proven that we can do it."
He's talking high-pressure situations and last-minute, do-or-die circumstances. He's back in the points lead, although he knows Spencer Massey and Shawn Langdon and Antron Brown and Doug Kalitta and Morgan Lucas and Brandon Bernstein and Steve Torrence -- everybody in the class who's in the Countdown -- is coming after him. And he likes it. The pressure doesn't faze him.
While the thermometer rose, Schumacher and Mike Green kept their cool. And Schumacher produced a 3.829-second elapsed time at 320.13 mph on the 1,000-foot course.
"We've said we're a good high-pressure team. How do you get any more high pressure than that?" Schumacher said. "Friday night's going to set the field. It's going to be 90 today, 90 tomorrow, and 90 on Sunday. You're not going to run fast during the day. That's the run [Friday night's]."
And he said he's counting points -- somebody's counting points -- and they all add up.
"We won a championship by two points [over Larry Dixon in 2009]. They all matter," he said of each marker. "The first round I was a little disappointed that we didn't get any. But it's not like I can drive harder or try more."
He said Friday night is the time to shine and "if you can't make that happen, maybe you can win the race -- don't get me wrong -- but those are the points that are going to add up and make rounds. So it does matter. We pay attention to it, and I actually think it's pretty exciting."
Schumacher had the lone 3.82-second elapsed time as he supplanted early leader Khalid Al Balooshi. Doug Kalitta was second Friday with a 3.836-second E.T. (at the class' fastest speed, 322.34), and part-time Vandergriff Racing partner J.R. Todd was third with the only other 3.83 (3.839, 317.34).
"We're No. 1. I don't care who's 2, 3, or 4," Schumacher said. "But I do know my teammates are 6 and 10 and they're on the other side of the ladder. It can change tomorrow, but that's where it is right now. They're good cars. They beat me more often than anybody. So I’d prefer to have them later on in the rounds and have someone else deal with 'em first.
"We want to go out and dominate and leave nothing on the table," the seven0time champion and two-time winner this season said. "Somebody has to put 'em out. If some other team can't get it done, beat 'em, I want to be the guy to do it."
Schumacher is looking for his fourth No. 1 start of the year and 71st overall.
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