Tony Schumacher Focuses On The Championship Run

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That’s the word eight-time NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world champion Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher uses to define his outlook on the six-race Countdown to the Championship that he and his U.S. Army Racing teammate Antron Brown embark on Friday at the 10th annual Carolina NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, North Carolina.

“There is only one trophy,” said Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army Racing Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR). “One team will end the year as the Top Fuel champion. Everyone else has to go home without a trophy. We have a six-race run to the championship and this U.S. Army team is capable of being the one that wins it. It’s all about going out and winning it starting this weekend in Charlotte.”

Schumacher, the all-time winningest driver in Top Fuel history with 83 career triumphs, began three of his previous four championship runs by opening the Countdown with a victory and he, along with his nine-man U.S. Army Racing team led by crew chief Mike Green, know the importance of a fast start in a title push. “The Sarge” returns to Charlotte, where he finished runner-up earlier this season during the Four-Wide Nationals, focused on the mission of chasing a ninth world championship. He’ll begin from the fourth position in the standings, trailing leader Steve Torrence by 40 points, and history shows that a strong beginning to the Countdown has been paramount in the eventual champion’s run to the title.
The U.S. Army Racing team started the 2017 campaign extremely consistently, reaching four finals in the first seven events, including the event title in Gainesville, Florida that made Schumacher the winningest driver in Gatornationals history with his fifth triumph in the prestigious event. The team continued working on a championship formula during June, July and into August looking to close the regular season with momentum at the U.S. Nationals and on into the playoffs. Despite leaving Indianapolis without a trophy, Schumacher raced to the final of the $100,000 Traxxas Shootout and reached the semifinals of the U.S. Nationals, and their performance did provide Green and company a notebook full of data to add to what they worked on throughout the season. With the level of competition the Top Fuel class, Schumacher and Green are well aware that adapting to whatever situation they find themselves in over the course of the Countdown is a key component. Posting a six-event win-loss record in the neighborhood of the 15-3 mark they delivered en route to the 2014 title is a must if they have any hope of being the one hoisting the championship hardware again this year.

Brown, the reigning and three-time Top Fuel world champion, has established a championship blueprint in the Countdown the previous two seasons with victories in the opening event at Charlotte. The driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR has been at or near the top of the standings all season, scoring four wins and reaching six other finals during the 18-event regular season. Brown and his team, led by co-crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswold, have been extremely tough the past two seasons in “winning time.” In 2015, Brown won his first 14 Countdown elimination rounds on his way to a 19-3 record and second Top Fuel world title. Last season, he was 12-1 in the first four events and earned a second consecutive title by going 16-3 in the Countdown.

The 10th annual Carolina NHRA Nationals will be showcased on FS1. The network will air highlights from qualifying Friday night at 6 p.m. EDT and highlights from Saturday will air Sunday at 2 a.m. FS1 will provide three hours of live coverage of Sunday eliminations beginning at 2:30 p.m.

 

COUNTDOWN NOTES – SCHUMACHER
• Schumacher won the first Countdown race, the 2007 U.S. Nationals, and finished that season by winning the final event of the season to clinch his fifth Top Fuel championship and become the first Top Fuel driver to win four consecutive titles.
• In 2008, Schumacher won four of the six Countdown events and reached a fifth final to post a 16-2 record in the final six events.
• In all four of his championships earned during the Countdown era, Schumacher has won at least one of the six events. In 2008, he won four, three in 2014, two in 2007 and one in 2009. His victory in Reading, Pennsylvania in 2014 is his most recent Countdown triumph.

• In the first 10 Countdowns, Schumacher has reached at least one final in nine. The 2013 Countdown was the only season he didn’t reach a final. Last year, he advanced to the St. Louis final in the second Countdown event.
• Schumacher has a career record of 104-45 in the Countdown, including 12 wins in 21 career final-round appearances.
COUNTDOWN NOTES – BROWN

• Brown has won at least one Countdown event in eight consecutive seasons.

• In each of the previous two Countdowns, he has won three of the six events.
• Brown has amassed a Countdown win-loss record of 35-6 during his last two championship runs.
• Brown is a previous winner at all six tracks hosting a Countdown event this season. He has four wins at St. Louis, two wins each at Charlotte, Dallas and Pomona, and single wins at Reading and Las Vegas.
• Brown has a career record of 100-38 in the Countdown, including 14 wins in 20 career final-round appearances.

 

COUNTDOWN NOTES – ZMAX DRAGWAY

• Schumacher and Brown met in the first Countdown final at zMAX in 2008 with Schumacher scoring the win to break his tie with Joe Amato and becoming the winningest driver in Top Fuel with 53 wins.

• In six of the nine seasons that zMAX has hosted a Countdown event, the winner of that event has gone on to claim the Top Fuel championship. (Schumacher in 2008 and 2014, Brown in 2015 and 2016, Larry Dixon in 2010, and Del Worsham in 2011).

• The U.S. Army Racing tandem of Schumacher and Brown have won the previous three Countdown events at zMAX.

 

TONY “THE SARGE” SCHUMACHER, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
 

How important is coming out strong in the Countdown?

“The first race in Charlotte is extremely important. I don’t even think it matters where you are in the rankings heading into the Countdown. We’ve seen the championship won from the 10th spot. It’s all about what you do when you show up there. You have to show up ultra-prepared with the best equipment, the best parts and pieces you can. And you better show up with a wicked attitude because you have got to win that race. We’ve done it and that is what earns a championship – the quick start – showing everyone we are here for serious reasons. We are here to win a championship. Charlotte is a great place to start it off.”

You’ve been racing Top Fuel cars a long time and have had incredible success throughout your career. Does winning ever get old?

“Losing gets old, quickly. And it’s because I have been around people capable of winning. And winning makes losing suck. It makes it so that you do not want to be part of it. You have to understand the difference. A lot of people say it’s OK to lose. It’s not OK. It’s acceptable because it happens. It happens because there are awesome teams out there trying to beat us. And they are going to beat us. Look, we have won 83 races and earned 800 round wins, but I’ve lost hundreds of them, also. And I’m here to tell you, there is a difference.

ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
 

The Countdown begins with events in Charlotte, Reading and St. Louis. You’ve proven the importance of a fast start the past couple of years with success at those three tracks. Does that give you added confidence to start this year’s Countdown?

“We like our chances. We are never going to give up. We are never going to quit. We’ve got six races for a championship and we are right in the thick of things. And we are going to raise the bar. And that’s what it’s time to do right now. We are very eager and hungry to go to Charlotte right now. Trust me. The tracks are just going to get better. The conditions are going to get better. And we have a car that can run in any condition – hot, cool, it doesn’t matter. We are going into the Countdown as the number-two seed and start 30 points behind Steve (Torrence). We are not done yet. This Matco Tools/U.S. Army team is going to dig hard. We know what happened the past few years at those first tracks doesn’t guarantee us anything, but our game plan is to continue to work on things and get better with every run, one at time.”

 

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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