For two years to pass without Tony Schumacher claiming a victory or advancing to a final round at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus, it must seem as if time has stood still for the eight-time Top Fuel winner of the world’s most prestigious drag race.
Schumacher, who dominated the race for a decade in his U.S. Army dragster, says his brief absence from the Indy winner’s circle leads to everyone continually reminding him about one key stat.
“Everybody keeps bringing up that I am tied with 'Big Daddy' [Don Garlits],” Schumacher said. “I don’t look at the records until after I am retired. Who knows, by then, I could have won it 12 times.”
Schumacher and Garlits are tied atop the Top Fuel win list in Indy. Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden holds the record for most victories at the tradition-rich event, nine.
Should Schumacher win this year, he will move past Garlits and jump into a tie with Glidden for most Indy wins in a Pro class. Schumacher says you know you are doing something right anytime you can be mentioned in the same sentence with two of the greatest legends of the sport.
“I am sure when those guys won Indy that many times back then, they thought no one would ever touch those records,” Schumacher said. “I mean, those two guys did some special things in their day. It’s such a tough race to win. If I win it 12 times, I am sure I would think that record is safe, but it probably won’t be. Someone will come along one day and do a little bit better. It’s tough to compare, but one thing is for sure, you have to respect all of those records and what Garlits and Glidden accomplished at the time.”
Schumacher is earning similar respect among his peers for some of the records he has achieved throughout the years. He’ll try to build on that legacy with another strong run at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus, Aug. 29-Sept. 3 at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2HD in more than 10 hours of coverage during Labor Day weekend.
Schumacher, who has earned one win this season, is riding high after a great two-day test session at the track last week and believes that he has more Indy magic up his sleeve.
“The car is running great, and I can’t wait to get there,” Schumacher said. “Everybody talks about the eight wins, but we’ve been in the final there 10 times. I really love that place, and I am glad that it is a track where I have done well over the years. Any driver that has a track like Indy is for us; they can’t wait to get there. I wish we ran at Indy 10 times a year.”
He says it is an event where drivers have to be prepared for the mental and physical challenges of the long week of racing. And it’s a race where everyone is going to bring his or her A-game, to try to become a part of the special history of the race.
“Indy is just brutal,” Schumacher said. “I enjoy the challenge of going back there and trying to win it again even more than all the wins I’ve had there. I like it when you have to rise to the occasion and just get it done. I love that kind of pressure. Indy has that kind of pressure, and it’s what makes it so special.”
With only one win in the past two seasons, Schumacher feels that his team may be flying under the radar while defending winner Brown, Spencer Massey, upstart Steve Torrence, and surging Morgan Lucas have complied multiple wins this season. Schumacher says that despite his rate of success at the Big Go throughout the years, this year, he’s the underdog in Indy. It’s a role he’s looking forward to playing.
“Even though we’ve won at Indy many times, we aren’t the overwhelming favorite going in this year,” Schumacher said. “There are between six and 10 cars in Top Fuel that could win on any given day. It’s really tough to win races out there right now.”
Other Top Fuel racers to watch include Doug Kalitta, who will be driving the Mac Tools dragster, Al-Anabi Racing’s Shawn Langdon and Khalid alBalooshi, Topeka winner David Grubnic, and Top Fuel bubble boys Bob Vandergriff Jr., the 1995 runner-up in Indy, and Clay Millican. Only three points separate Vandergriff and Millican for the final playoff spot in the top 10.
• SCHEDULE: The first of five qualifying sessions is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 31. Two sessions will be held on Saturday, Sept. 1, at 2:30 and 6 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Sept. 2, at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 3.
• TICKETS: For tickets for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or log on to www.NHRATix.com.
• ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise more than 10 hours of coverage of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus. Three hours of qualifying coverage and coverage of the Traxxas Nitro Shootouts will air at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 2. Two additional hours of qualifying coverage and Traxxas Shootout highlights will also air on Sunday, Sept. 2, at 5 p.m. ET. Eliminations for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus will be featured during six hours of coverage on Monday, Sept. 3, starting at noon ET.
• TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUTS: The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus also will feature two Traxxas Nitro Shootouts. The first one will feature eight qualified Top Fuel drivers on Saturday, Sept. 1, with rounds at 4, 7, and 8. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car will be held on Sunday, Sept. 2, for the eight qualified drivers, with rounds at 12:30, 3:30, and 4:30. Winners in each Traxxas Nitro Shootout will earn $100,000.
• LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus also will feature competition in all categories of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where some of the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29, and eliminations will begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 30, and continue through Monday, Sept. 3.
• NHRA PRO MOD SERIES presented by ProCare Rx: NHRA’s popular Pro Mod touring series will make its seventh start of the 10-race 2012 season at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus. The series features some of the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer cars, with an eclectic mix of vintage and late-model body styles, in quarter-mile competition. The first qualifying session will be Friday, Aug. 31, at 4:30 p.m. Qualifying will continue on Saturday, Sept. 1, with sessions at 2 and 5:30 p.m. The final qualifying session will be Sunday, Sept. 2, at 2 p.m. followed by the first round of eliminations at 5 p.m. Eliminations will continue on Monday, Sept. 3, at approximately 2:30 p.m.