Schumacher and Seattle's Pacific Raceways a powerful match
Thursday, August 02, 2012
by Kelly Wade
Seven-time NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher has a particular fondness for the Pacific Northwest. It may seem unlikely that the Chicago resident would feel at home in such a serene setting so far from the bustle of the Windy City, but there is good reason: He and the Seattle area's Pacific Raceways have a bond that no other current Top Fuel driver can rival.
U.S. Army driver Schumacher, the track record holder for e.t. and speed with a 3.802 posted in 2008 and a 322.19-mph run clocked in 2010, has four times been victorious in seven final rounds at the forested facility, and he has been the No. 1 qualifier twice (2004 and 2008).
Current full-time Top Fuel competitors Brandon Bernstein (2005) and Antron Brown (2009) have each scored single wins in Seattle, driver-turned-crew-chief Del Worsham – now leading the charge on the Alexis DeJoria-piloted Tequila Patron Funny Car – won the Top Fuel title last season, Funny Car's Ron Capps earned the trophy in 1995 behind the wheel of a dragster, and Cory McClenathan – now racing on a limited schedule – was the winner in 1997 and 2010.
The only Top Fuel driver who has won at Pacific Raceways more than Schumacher, the victor in 2004 and 2006-08, is legendary nitro driver Joe Amato, whose scorecard includes five Seattle victories.
"A lot of drivers have a handful of tracks that they're really good at, and for some reason, we just run really well there," said Schumacher, who was one win light away from the Pacific Raceways title in 2005, 2009, and 2011.
"I've won there with several crew chiefs. You look back, and you think, 'Why?' I'd love to bottle that up, take that knowledge, and use it at other tracks. I wish we could pull apart why this track is so good for me because I would love to be able to convert that."
Schumacher isn't one to dwell, but he will surely have the success in Seattle on his mind when he arrives at the racetrack for this weekend's 25th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries.
The 68-time Top Fuel winner will be gunning for gold once again and without the monkey that had latched onto his back in recent times: Schumacher and his U.S. Army team endured a streak of 32 winless national events that finally came to a conclusion at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers in Bristol when the driver known as "the Sarge" defeated Doug Kalitta on a holeshot in the final.
Throughout the stunning trophy-less streak, Schumacher stayed positive and rallied to keep morale of the team high. To the second-generation driver, the win was less of a breakthrough and more of a return to favor with the drag racing gods.
"We never changed," he emphasized. "I want to make sure that's crystal clear. It probably looked like a big deal from the outside, but on the inside, as far as we were concerned, we try to win every race. We didn't try any harder in Bristol; things just fell into place.
"The best example I can give is that for the last five races, we've had an amazing car – but I've lost three of the last five by less than .001-second. How is that possible? You can't question it; it happened. I had years of being on the winning side of that, so you just have to understand that it's cyclical. It goes up, and it goes down. When you come back from a deficit, you're much stronger as a team."
The strength of the team was recently renewed when it learned that the U.S. Army had plans to extend its sponsorship of the Don Schumacher Racing Top Fuel dragster driven by Schumacher through 2013. The U.S. Army has sponsored Schumacher's rail since 2000.
"To hear that, to know that the U.S. Army believes that this is a great program, it really makes us feel good," said Schumacher. "This partnership is so important to us. You know, I've had as good of a career as a man can ask for. We have great support and a great team, and because of that, it's been 12 or 15 years since I showed up at a race thinking I couldn't win. We go to Seattle, and we know we've done well there, but we show up to every race with the same mentality. We go to win."
For tickets for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or log on to NHRATix.com.