Seven-time Top Fuel world champ Tony Schumacher couldn’t be more excited that the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series is heading to his home track, Route 66 Raceway, for the 15th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries. After ending a 32-race winless streak with a victory at the most recent event in Bristol, Schumacher is ready to show the hometown crowd what NHRA Drag Racing is all about.
“Heading to Joliet for the next race — I couldn’t ask for a better situation,” Schumacher said. “Having just gotten that first win of the year and retaken the points lead, that’s what you want to bring with you to your home track. I can’t wait to race in front of my family and friends. It will be hectic but very enjoyable.”
Schumacher not only went 32 straight races without a win, but he also went 0-11 in final-round appearances, another career first for the driver who has claimed 68 Top Fuel victories. Earning that win came at a perfect time for the U.S. Army team because not only was it Father’s Day weekend and the event before the NHRA headed to Schumacher’s home track, but it also was the U.S. Army’s 237th birthday.
“It feels great to finally get a win that a lot of people were pretty much anticipating,” Schumacher said. “We had been running well all season long, so we all felt it was only a matter of time. With that said, I won’t deny the fact that it’s sort of a weight off our shoulders. It was also awesome to win Bristol on the U.S. Army’s 237th birthday weekend. We always want to win for our Army Strong soldiers given what they do for us every day. But to be able to deliver them a birthday gift in the form of an event trophy was definitely something very special.”
Schumacher will look to tie legend Kenny Bernstein for the most wins at Route 66 Raceway and start another kind of streak, a winning streak.
“I hope we can reverse our old streak and start building a winning streak,” Schumacher said. “But you can’t take anything for granted in this sport. We just have to go to Joliet with the same kind of focus and determination that we’ve had all year and give it our best shot. Hopefully, that effort will produce another win.”
Del Worsham (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet are the 2011winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2HD.
Competition in Top Fuel this season is closer than it has been in years. Six different drivers have won in 10 races, including Schumacher’s Don Schumacher Racing teammates Spencer Massey and Antron Brown, Kalitta Motorsports driver David Grubnic, GEICO dragster pilot Morgan Lucas, and Capco Contractors driver Steve Torrence, who claimed his first victory of his Top Fuel career and followed with another win two races later. The top 10 points battle is in constant motion, and although Doug Kalitta, Brandon Bernstein, and Clay Millican haven’t earned wins this season, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be fighting to be in the winner’s circle Sunday afternoon at Route 66 Raceway.
Funny Car isn’t much different when it comes to tough competition, with six winners having emerged as well this season in the 7,000-horsepower class. Veteran Ron Capps is chipping away at the points lead held by Robert Hight thanks to two wins and an impressive six final-round appearances in a row. Hight’s teammates — Neff, John Force, and rookie Courtney Force — as well as Jack Beckman, Johnny Gray, Cruz Pedregon, Bob Tasca III, and Jeff Arend are in the top 10, but a lot of players are sitting outside the top 10 who have the potential to knock these drivers out as the Countdown to the Championship gets closer, including reigning Funny Car world champ Matt Hagan, hot-track-racing specialist Tim Wilkerson, and rookie Alexis DeJoria, who earned her first final-round appearance in Bristol.
Mike Edwards won the Pro Stock final in Bristol by beating Allen Johnson by mere inches, proving that competition in the factory hot rod category is as exciting as can be. Four-time world champ Anderson leads the points standings, and his Summit Racing teammate Jason Line is right behind in second place. However, Edwards and Johnson are creeping up in consistent performance to compete with the dominant duo. Erica Enders will return to Chicago, where she earned a runner-up finish last season, still in hot pursuit of a history-making first Pro Stock victory. Vincent Nobile, Ronnie Humphrey, Rodger Brogdon, Shane Gray, and Ron Krisher will look to improve their positions in the top 10 points standings.
Pro Stock Motorcycle returns to action at Route 66 Raceway, and the class is looking for its first non-Harley winner of the season. Points leader Eddie Krawiec and his teammate, Andrew Hines, have been dominant and had luck on their side in a few final rounds, leaving the other teams eager to take out the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson duo.
* SCHEDULE: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 7 p.m. on Friday, June 29, and 4 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 30. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 1.
* TICKETS: For tickets for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries, please call Route 66 Raceway, 888-629-RACE (7223), or log on to www.route66raceway.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 30, and three hours of eliminations coverage at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 1.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries also will feature competition in eight categories in 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 9 a.m. on June 29. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 9 a.m. on June 30 and continue through July 1.