NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver Tony Schumacher is riding a wave of momentum from late last year into the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season: the seven-time champion – who missed number eight by seven points to his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Anron Brown – is leading the points standings following the second race of the season, a win at the Arizona Nationals a couple of weeks back.
“I think last season we had a great car at the end of the year,” said Schumacher in a recent NHRA teleconference. “We had a world champ car, got beat on a hole shot with a 40 reaction time, a guy pulls one of those miracles, you get beat. It happens. No different than me pulling a miracle in my Army car pulling one against Doug Kalitta. As gracious as you are when you win them, you have to be classy enough to accept them when you lose them. It's one of those things. Our car was phenomenal, but it's better now. It's better this year. I'm excited, man. We got a great car, a great team. Looking forward to 22 more fantastic races starting at Gainesville, one of my favorite places ever to race.”
The next race on the 2013 schedule is the prestigious NHRA Gatornationals at Auto Plus Raceway at Gainesville, Florida, March 14th through 17th - a race Schumacher has won four times.
“You tend to forget how big our sport is until you get to Gainesville,” said Schumacher. “Pomona is a little light, Phoenix smaller market. Gainesville is so big. As the driver, we wait for an hour to get into the track on Sunday morning, that's how long the lines are. It's one of those things, man. It has the greatest list of people that have won that race. Maybe second to Indy, so many people show up there to try to win it and it makes it difficult. What really stands out the most, the four wins are great, but the last two years I've gotten beat by incredible racers. Morgan Lucas last year runs the race of his career against me. That is what the Army team makes people do. Del Worsham the year before by four-thousandths of a second or we would have had six wins in there.”
Schumacher is part of the very competitive Top Fuel class, which includes his teammates Brown and Spencer Massey, three-time champ Larry Dixon, Al-Anabi Racing drivers Shawn Langdon and Khalid alBalooshi, Morgan Lucas Racing’s Brandon Bernstein and Lucas, Doug Kalitta and David Grubnic of Kalitta Racing and rookies Brittany Force and Leah Pruett. He thinks this year could be the category’s best season yet.
“In the last I'd say two years, you've seen the best racing in Top Fuel history,” said Schumacher. “The races have gone from my one Army car and Alan Johnson dominating 15 races of 22 or 23 we had that year, to winning championships by winning a handful. It's because there's so many good teams. There are so many good cars. There are so many good drivers doing just a great job. If I was a fan and paid money, this is the year you want to do it. I know it's difficult times, but we're still seeing good crowds. I think it's because we've really given them the show that they expect…Everyone is out there with phenomenal cars. We remember as we do our job, this is an entertainment sport. We are entertainers. When there's just one car out there doing it all, dominating, it kind of turns people off. When you show up at a race, there can be 10 different winners, it's pretty exciting.”
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Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.
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