A regular season filled with struggles changed almost overnight for Tony Schumacher. The Top Fuel legend and eight-time world champ enjoyed a sizeable turnaround to open the Countdown to the Championship, advancing to the semifinals last weekend to kick off the playoffs.
He moved up to ninth in the points standings heading to this weekend’s Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, determined to make another significant jump at a track that has served him well over the years in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.
Schumacher has won the Charlotte fall race twice and is excited for another big weekend at "the Bellagio of dragstrips." Last weekend was Schumacher’s best performance in his 11,000-horsepower SCAG Power Equipment/JCM Racing dragster in three months, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time as the 86-time event winner has his sights set on a big playoff push.
“I love Charlotte,” Schumacher said. “We’re getting down to cutthroat time with just five races left in the season. Right now, we’ve got to make moves, but our SCAG dragster performed so great last weekend in Reading. I’ve been saying all year long, we’re going to get it figured out. It’s not a matter of if but when. We have a lot of confidence going into this weekend, and we all feel really good about these last few races of the year.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), and Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) claimed victories in 2022 at the fall race at zMAX Dragway. This year’s race will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including eliminations coverage at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 24. It is the second of six playoff races and the 17th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA season, and Schumacher and his team may be rounding into form at the perfect time.
After a rough start to the season, Schumacher appeared to hit his stride, advancing to the final round of the Epping event, which took place in Bristol in early June. But the team again struggled to find its rhythm, posting only one round over the next eight events heading into the Countdown to the Championship.
That left Schumacher an uncharacteristic 12th in points to open the playoffs, but he enjoyed a swift and significant turnaround at Maple Grove Raceway. He qualified ninth, displaying strong consistency and qualifying, winning a pair of rounds before weather pushed the finish to Monday.
He fell in the semifinals to four-time world champion Steve Torrence, but Schumacher was thrilled with the improvements, also knowing his team is capable of winning in Charlotte. Of course, making up ground isn’t easy in the loaded Top Fuel ranks, where fans at zMAX Dragway will see the likes of points leader Torrence, Reading winner Doug Kalitta, standout Justin Ashley, reigning world champion Brittany Force, Leah Pruett, Charlotte spring race winner Austin Prock, and Antron Brown. But a determined Schumacher is confident his team can continue to make things happen this weekend.
“We were 139 points out [of first] coming into [Maple Grove], and we worked our way closer,” Schumacher said. “We’re a long way from a championship, but we’re still alive. We’ve pulled off miracles before, and the fact that the car came so far [last weekend], it’s huge. We have five races left to go. Let’s get ourselves into the top five and fight for this thing.”
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 6 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 22, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 1 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 24. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 9:30 a.m. ET on Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday, and then eliminations on FS1 at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday.
To purchase tickets to the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, please visit www.zmaxdragway.com or call 800-455-FANS (3267).