Eight championships and 86 national event wins don't fade from memory quickly, and the competition is certainly not wondering what's wrong with Tony Schumacher. Although he hasn't yet nabbed a trophy in the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, Top Fuel's most winning driver in history is confident in his team and relaxed in the knowledge that their time will come.
Schumacher, a back-to-back winner at the 2014 and 2015 NHRA New England Nationals, has a great opportunity this weekend to extend his record at the historic facility. After a strong test session, the driver who is tied with Steve Torrence as the most winning Top Fuel driver in Epping is aiming for his first win since Seattle last year.
"This track always has and always will remind me of smalltown racing, like we all grew up doing," said Schumacher. "But it's tough because the conditions go dramatic, and we'll see that this weekend. Real hot and real cold; you just never know, and you have to be pretty well-rounded to go out and win these races. Seldom do you make four good runs to win a race [here]. It's always a little bit ugly on raceday, and that's cool because it's rewarding for a driver and for a team."
Schumacher entered the season flying the colors of SCAG Power Equipment on the side of his JCM Racing Top Fuel dragster, and two weekends ago in Chicago, he saw SCAG counterpart Tim Wilkerson earn the trophy in Funny Car. The race did not bring the desired results for Schumacher and the Top Fuel side of the team, though, and he posted a fifth consecutive first-round loss. Unsatisfied, the team buckled down to eradicate whatever bug had come over their racecar and tested at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park between Chicago and Epping.
"We've been without success for a little while. But we've been working real hard, and we tested hard at Indy," said Schumacher, who explained that the results from the test were favorable, but what happens on a national-event-ready racing surface is yet to be seen.
"We're getting through our problem area, and now that we have some knowledge of what we need to do, we just need to go out and make runs on a prepared track. But the puzzle pieces are falling into place, and SCAG is the most incredible sponsor; the love of the sport that they've brought in is just insane. We will show them championships, and we will show them wins. It sucks to not have gone out and won right away, but I have an answer to that now. Our time is coming."
With trophies bulging from the shelves, one might ponder how a winless streak, no matter how brief, would sit with a driver such as Schumacher. But he sees that remaining calm is the only way to go. Schumacher has been through dry spells before, ones that were much longer and left him well-prepared to weather a storm.
"During those times, you just have to get through it; you have to keep going," he said. "You have to have patience. And it's okay – I get to wake up every day and drive a racecar. For a couple years, I didn't. Sometimes, it takes things like that to put things into perspective for you.
"I love this team and the energy they have. Adversity is a funny thing, because there are teams that just can't handle it and keep firing people and changing stuff. But it's like, wait a minute, you're all great guys – we'll get it. There will come a point where we're winning races, and there is not a team out there hoping we get it figured out. They know what we've done before."