O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals
Schumacher pockets fourth victory of season
Bristol, Sunday: Tony Schumacher recorded his fourth win of the season here Monday at the rain-delayed O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
The pilot of the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster won a pedaling contest in the finals over Clay Millican and in the process widened his lead over second-place, Brandon Bernstein, in the Top Fuel point standings.
"Like all my victories, this is for all the soldiers fighting for our freedom," said a jubilant Schumacher. "What a great day for the Army team. We worked real hard and achieved the desired results."
The Chicago native put up impressive numbers en route to his 15th career victory. In the first round, he took out Rhonda Hartman-Smith with a 4.482-second run at a blistering 331.04 mph, then, in round two, he posted a 4.477-second pass at 331.36 mph while beating Doug Herbert.
"Those two runs really set the tone for what was to be a huge round against Bernstein in the semifinals," he said.
While both Schumacher and Bernstein banked almost identical 4.50-second passes, Bernstein was too quick off the line and fouled with a red light handing Schumacher the final round entry.
"That was huge getting by Brandon," Schumacher said. "I actually felt bad for him, but we'll certainly take the win light any way we can get it. Those were 20 important points given how close we were entering this race."
After watching a 110-point lead disintegrate to 38 points after the Houston event, Schumacher has battled back to extend his lead to 81 points heading into the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in two weeks.
"We're only a quarter of the way through the season," said the 1999 Top Fuel world champion. "You can't let your guard down for a second with as good as the Top Fuel class is this year. We have to keep moving forward each race and not let our opponents come up for air."
This is the third time in Schumacher's career that he's won four races in a season. He also turned the trick in 2000 and 2003.
Schumacher posts track-record run, retains pole
Bristol, Saturday: Piloting his United States Army Top Fuel dragster, Tony Schumacher held on to the number one qualifying position for Sunday's O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals with a track record pass here today at Bristol Dragway.
Schumacher's 4.523-second run at 327.66 mph was better than Friday's initial track record setting trip of 4.529-second at 324.36 mph. That set up a meeting with 16th-place qualifier, Rhonda Hartman-Smith, in the first round of eliminations beginning at noon ET.
"That run was just outstanding," said the Chicago native. It's a nice way to go into race day. But, we have to remember, that Sunday's another day and we'll have to be ready to go. We have some heavy hitters that we have to go through if we're going to get to winner's circle."
This is the first pole for Schumacher in 2004 and the 10th of his career. He captured the final four poles of the '03 season.
"Qualifying number one is great, but the real prize that everyone wants is up for grabs on Sunday," added Schumacher. Wins mean points and since we're in a heated battle right now, that's the priority."
The 1999 Top Fuel world champion entered the Bristol event with a 38-point lead over Brandon Bernstein in the Top Fuel standings.
"It's still so early in the season, you really can't dwell too much on the points," offered Schumacher. That being said, it's terrific that we're on top and we'd like nothing better than to get back some of the points we lost in Houston two weeks ago when we went out in the second round."
Schumacher takes top spot
Bristol, Friday: Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher swiped the provisional pole in Top Fuel here Friday after the first day of qualifying for the O'Reilly Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals.
The driver of the United States Army Top Fuel dragster powered down the Bristol Dragway quarter-mile in 4.529-seconds at 324.36 mph to land a top the Top Fuel field heading into Saturday's final two qualifying sessions.
"It's definitely nice to end up number one after the first day," said the Chicago native after his track record pass. "But, we have to remember that there are two more runs tomorrow. And, we better be prepared because if the weather ends up like it was today, we'll be challenged."
Schumacher is bidding for his first number one effort of the 2004 season after capturing the last four top spots of the 2003 campaign.
Schumacher looks to regroup
Bristol, pre-race: Wake-up calls are sometimes hard to deal with, but Tony Schumacher was glad his arrived when it did in Houston two weeks ago.
After rolling to three wins in the first four races, the driver of the United States Army Top Fuel dragster was quickly brought back to earth by a second round loss in the O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park.
"That race clearly showed that one can't just assume things will go your way all of the time," said Schumacher as he prepared for this weekend's O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals here at Bristol Dragway. "We had so much success early on, then the balloon just exploded. But, that's the way this sport is."
Schumacher, who heads into Bristol with a 38-point lead over Brandon Bernstein in the Top Fuel point standings, will attempt to regain his winning touch at the modern $18 million facility.
"We had some problems getting down the track in Houston so, quite obviously, that can't happen again this weekend," he said. "Given how the competition will be all year long, no team can afford to have more than a couple of bad weekends and expect to win the championship."
Going into the sixth race on the 23-race NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series schedule, Schumacher has already created a formula for winning his second world title.
"The way I see it, you have to win the rounds you are supposed to, then win at least 50 percent of the ones that are considered toss-ups," he said. "In actuality, in Houston, we won the round we were supposed to, then lost one that could have gone either way. So, I guess, that kind of eased the pain."
The Chicago native has advanced to one final at Bristol (2001) since the NHRA began visiting Thunder Valley to stage national events three years ago.
"I love going down to Bristol," said Schumacher. "The fans are passionate about racing, in general. They're not just NASCAR-oriented. I'm optimistic the Army team will get back on track down there. We need to keep totaling wins for our troops fighting the war on terrorism."
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