U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher had an incredible 2012 season that brought him to within seven points of earning another world championship trophy. During the brand-new 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, the seven-time world champion is ready to go back to work with his U.S. Army team as they pursue another title.
Riding the momentum from a runner-up finish at the season-opening event in Pomona last weekend and three victories at Firebird Int'l Raceway, Schumacher is eager to return to the NHRA Arizona Nationals, Feb. 22-24. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), and Jason Line (Pro Stock) are the defending event champions at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised on ESPN2HD.
“We ran 330 mph for the first time there [Phoenix], and we’ve won there a lot,” Schumacher said. “We perform good there for the U.S. Army. I really enjoy going there. For one reason, it’s early in the year, and the weather is wonderful and better in February than where I live near Chicago, where it’s 10 degrees. The fans are phenomenal and have always been really good to us in Phoenix.”
Last season, Schumacher was runner-up at the event to his teammate, reigning world champion Antron Brown. Schumacher says the new season presents more opportunities to bring his A game and take advantage of more big moments.
“I’m ready to do it all over again and win another championship,” Schumacher said. “We’ve had so many blessed moments. Those moments are a gift, and that’s what anyone dreams about who has ever been on the starting line. That is the lesson that we learned again last year and we’ll be able to build from and can expect to have much better days this coming season.”
From ending a winless drought in Bristol that dated back to the 2010 season to a record-setting victory at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Schumacher’s scorecard filled up fast last season, and he’s confident that his resilient U.S. Army team can again push deep into the 2013 season.
“Our U.S. Army team exemplified the mental, emotional, and physical strength like no other down the stretch, just like our U.S. Army soldiers do every day of the year,” Schumacher said. “So, as we head into this season, what you do the year before in every way, shape, and form is going to guide you through what the next year holds.”
To earn another victory at FIR, Schumacher will need to be lean and mean to outrun a host of talented drivers, including defending world champ Brown; national speed record holder Spencer Massey; Al-Anabi Racing’s Shawn Langdon, the current points leader who won the season-opening O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries last weekend; former FIR winners Doug Kalitta and Brandon Bernstein; and Top Fuel rookie Brittany Force.
In Funny Car, defending event champion Hight will lead a field of tough competitors, including reigning world champion Jack Beckman, who has won three times at FIR; teammate John Force, who is an eight-time event winner at FIR; and sophomore sensation Courtney Force, the current points leader who won at the Winternationals. Others to watch include veteran drivers Ron Capps and Del Worsham, who is back behind the wheel after a one-year retirement from driving in 2012.
Defending Pro Stock world champion Allen Johnson will try to continue last season’s pace and rebound from a slow start in Pomona, and new Team Mopar driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. is eager to build on his runner-up finish from last weekend. Greg Anderson, Line, Mike Edwards, Erica Enders-Stevens, and points leader and Pomona winner Vincent Nobile are all past FIR winners and fan favorites in the 200-mph factory hot rod category.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful motorsports attraction on the planet. While visiting the pits, fans will also want to check out the interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway.
Fans also will want to take advantage of the popular Championship Sunday Track Walk, which is free to all Sunday ticket holders. This popular event gives fans the opportunity to walk down the legendary dragstrip alongside some of the NHRA’s biggest stars.
• SCHEDULE: NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 and 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22, and continue on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24.
• TICKETS: For tickets for the NHRA Arizona Nationals, log on to www.firebirdraceway.com or call the FIR ticket office, 602-268-0200.
• TELEVISION: On Sunday, Feb. 24, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 1 a.m. ET and three hours and 30 minutes of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. ET.