Just when everyone began to think the Al-Anabi/Toyota team was going to start a major run for the NHRA Top Fuel championship, Don Schumacher Racing's Antron Brown and Spencer Massey once again took center stage, at both Dallas and St. Louis.
But Tony Schumacher, "the other DSR" driver, cautioned, "Not so fast" Sunday following the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Madison, Ill.'s Gateway Motorsports Park.
"I always say God has a plan," the U.S. Army Dragster driver said. "And maybe His plan for this year is for it to come down to one run for the championship."
Aah, but that would be ideal for seven-time champion Schumacher, who more than once has earned the crown in do-or-die high drama at the NHRA Finals at Pomona, Calif. And he said it could happen again.
He's 83 points behind leader Antron Brown and 62 behind second-ranked Spencer Massey as the tour moves to Reading, Pa., and Maple Grove Raceway for this weekend's Auto-Plus Nationals. Both Brown and Massey are his DSR colleagues.
"We've been there before. We're good. We've got more than one million Army Strong Soldiers behind us, and there is no other team I would want to go with into these final three races," Schumacher said.
"There are 12 rounds left for us in the season, and we have to win everything we can," the four-time winner at Maple Grove said. "It's going to be a huge challenge. Because every time we race, we seem to bring out the best in our competition. We brought it onto ourselves by winning that many championships and races. Our only hope is that my teammates don't get too far ahead of us."
Even his father and boss, Don Schumacher, said, "Antron and Spencer have started to pull away from the group." Only 21 points separate them.
After all-DSR match-ups in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car final rounds Sunday at Gateway, announcer Bob Frey said to Don Schumacher that the irony of the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes Sunday is that "the only ones who can beat your cars are . . . your cars."
But Schumacher laughed. And as he sat alongside Brown for winning interviews, he said, "Those other cars, those other dragsters that were running [3.]78, 79, and 77 [namely Brandon Bernstein, Steve Torrence, Dave Grubnic, Shawn Langdon, and Doug Kalitta], they can all beat us any day, any run. We've just been fortunate and blessed with the people we've put together that they make the right calls at the right times. That's brought us to this level."
Likewise he named "the Forces, the Pedregons and [drivers] right on down the line" as rivals capable of upsetting his championship cart.
Said Don Schumacher: "There is a lot of racing in these next three races. Nobody's got a freebie. Nobody's walking into the championship. There's a tremendous amount of tough, tough cars out there. And any of 'em can take any of the cars out at any time.
"Jack [Beckman] doesn't have an easy go. Ron [Capps] doesn't have an easy go. My Funny Cars don't have an easy go. My dragsters don't have an easy go. It's war out there," he said. "And we have three more battles to fight."
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