"The Sarge" eliminated in second round
Memphis, Sunday: Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher lost in the second round of eliminations here Sunday in the 14th annual NHRA AutoZone Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park.
The driver of the United States Army Top Fuel dragster beat Andrew Cowin in the first round, but couldn't quite get past number one qualifier, Larry Dixon, in round two.
"It was good to get the weight off of our shoulders by getting past that first round, but we just came up short against Dixon," said the Park Ridge, Ill. native. "It was a good effort all the way around today and at least we have something to build on for the coming weeks."
Schumacher, who was the number one qualifier in Memphis last year, gained a measure of revenge by disposing of Cowin to start the day's proceedings. Cowin had beaten him in the first round of the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis two weeks ago.
"I didn't really look at it as a grudge race, but it did feel good to take out someone in the first round who has done it to us in the past," added Schumacher. "It wasn't real pretty - I had to pedal it to get the win. But, a win is a win as the old saying goes."
Against Dixon, whom he had beaten once in three meetings this season, Schumacher just came up short at the finish line. Dixon posted a 4.711-second pass versus Schumacher's 4.739 run.
"That was a good race," offered the 1999 Top Fuel champion. "He beat me at the starting line. We had a .503 reaction time compared to his .481. That was the difference."
Schumacher came into the Memphis event eighth in the Top Fuel points chase and will likely stay there heading into next week's race at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., his hometown track.
"The points aren't an issue right now," he related. "We just need to get our business in order by season's end so we can charge into 2002 the right way.
"Needless to say, I'm looking forward to next week. We'll be able to race in front of the hometown fans, but, more importantly, I'll be able to spend some quality time with my wife and, hopefully, by then, my just born baby."
"The Sarge" to start eighth
Memphis, Saturday: After two more qualifying passes here Saturday, Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher settled for the eighth starting spot for tomorrow's 14th annual AutoZone Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park.
The driver of the United States Army-sponsored Top Fuel dragster will take on ninth-place qualifier Andrew Cowin in the first round of eliminations, which are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. CDT. Cowin handed Schumacher a first round loss in the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis two weeks ago.
"We really didn't want to start that far down, but we can still get the job done out of that slot," said the 1999 Top Fuel champ. "Cowin will be tough right off the bat, but we just need to focus and we can go some rounds."
Like many of his counterparts, Schumacher used Saturday's two sessions to work on a race day tune up. Experiencing what will likely be Sunday's weather conditions -- hot and humid -- he posted a 4.802 e.t. in the second run of the day.
"That really wasn't too bad," he added. "But, we will need to step it up to keep advancing. Most of the top guys have been fairly consistent throughout the weekend."
"The Sarge" sits in seventh
Memphis, Friday: Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher claimed the seventh starting position here Friday after the first day of qualifying for the 14th annual AutoZone Nationals.
Driving his familiar black and gold United States Army Top Fuel dragster, Schumacher toured the Memphis Motorsports Park quarter-mile strip in 4.707 seconds - the best of his two passes - to muscle his way into the upper half of the Top Fuel field entering Saturday qualifying.
"We're okay," proclaimed Schumacher. "Going from point A to point B during that first pass was particularly pleasing since our previous run here last year was not real nice."
It was at Memphis Motorsports Park last year that Schumacher endured one of the more spectacular crashes of the racing season, which sidelined the Park Ridge, Ill. native for two races.
"I really haven't dwelled on it at all, but I have been getting reminded of the crash a lot since I hit town," added Schumacher. "I guess it left quite the impression on people."
In Memphis, Schumacher and his Army team will be looking to break out of a slump that has left them winless since the 2000 U.S. Nationals. The last final round registered was at Bristol in April.
Schumacher to bring heavy heart to Memphis
Memphis, pre-race: Like everyone associated with this weekend's NHRA AutoZone Nationals here at Memphis Motorsports Park, Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher will be carrying one heavy heart aboard his United States Army Top Fuel dragster.
"No question about it," he said. "What occurred last week in New York and Washington, D.C. was a horrible tragedy. I think it will be imbedded in our minds forever."
Despite the emotions, the 1999 Top Fuel champ will be attempting to follow President George W. Bush's request of trying to move on with business and life as the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series returns to action after two weeks off.
"Honestly, it will be tough getting back in the race car, but we have to get back to some sort of normalcy," added Schumacher. "I agree with the President's logic. We can't let our way of life be altered because of terrorists. That's exactly what those guys wanted. We're too united for that."
As if the national tragedy of last week wasn't enough, Schumacher will have to stare down a track this weekend that dealt him a near-fatal crash last year.
During a qualifying run, Schumacher's Army dragster veered out of control and violently crashed. The Park Ridge, Ill., native suffered numerous injuries forcing him to miss two races.
"Oh, I haven't forgotten that crash," he related. "But, I don't dwell on it. The real disappointment that I took away from that incident was the fact it ended any hopes of us repeating as Top Fuel champions.
"It's a whole new season, though, and I'm looking forward to going back to Memphis. I like the track. We've managed to put up some good numbers down there."
In fact, Schumacher was the number one qualifier last year with a 4.552-second pass at 318.17 mph. He also qualified second in 1999, losing in round two of eliminations.
"With only six races left in the season, we want to experience some kind of success before it's all said and done," he offered. "It's been a rough year (he enters Memphis eighth in the Top Fuel points). Having something positive happen in Memphis would be a good morale booster."
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