Schumacher Pulled Out All Stops
Tony Schumacher extended his massive points lead with his third win in the past four events. He pulled out all the stops to do so with two round-wins based purely on performance, one on a holeshot, and one in a pedalfest.
The Mike Green-tuned U.S. Army dragster ran a 3.733 to enter race day in the top spot and had two more 3.73-second efforts during eliminations. On two occasions, he faced the No. 2 driver in the points standings when he defeated Steve Torrence in the second round and newly-anointed second-ranked driver Doug Kalitta in a thrilling 3.739 to 3.718 holeshot victory that was decided by a .004-second margin. Schumacher’s excellent .038 reaction time was the deciding factor.
That was massive, said Schumacher. I don’t know where the .038 light came from other than that I believe in God; thing is, so does Doug. I don’t have that talent, honestly. He flickered the light, which gave me a second to get ready, and we were gone. Perfect moment. I knew getting in the car that this was the run that could very possibly decide the championship. I’ve had a lot of big moments in my career, and that was top five in absolute, must-have, have-to-win, period. They are worthy adversaries, and they make us rise to the occasion.
Schumacher faced No. 2 qualifier Brittany Force in the final round. Force, who had been to three other finals this year and is still seeking her first win, had run 3.733 in the semifinal round and had lane choice over the Sarge. After getting out of their dragsters during the cleanup following the Funny Car final and strapping back in a few minutes later, both cars shook the tires at approximately the same time. Schumacher was able to recover with all eight handles lit while Force had cylinders out, which made the difference with Schumacher’s 4.440 at 291.13 mph taking the win over Force’s 4.652, 269.94.
The car went out and shook them loose, said Schumacher. As soon as that happened, I was like, ˜Nononono. Typical.’ Luckily, I don’t have a give-up attitude because most people would have gone, ˜Brittany’s going to beat me. That’s the way it goes.’ I got back in it, and I think I had to pedal it twice and finally got it to hook up a little bit. I’ve been working on that for a long time. I used to be able to win pedaling matches when the cars didn’t make as much power. Now they make ungodly power, and it takes more time and more patience to let it settle down. You absolutely have to win those because it could happen in the first round and you can go on to win the next three.
She’s going to beat me. She will. Ultimately, at some point, she’s going to win one of these, but not today. Today, we had to win. We told our guys, ˜If we win the next three races, we’re the champs. There’s nothing they can do about it.’ We started with the first one. We have a good lead. It’s not over by any means, but there’s nobody else in the world that I’d rather be right now.
This is the 77th victory of Schumacher’s career, fourth this season, and fifth in Reading. He has a commanding 138-point lead over second-place Kalitta with two races remaining in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Schumacher has more Mello Yello championships than anybody in Top Fuel history with seven, his most recent being in 2009.
Round 1: def. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.735 to 3.863
Round 2: def. Steve Torrence, 3.752 to 3.767
Semifinals: def. Doug Kalitta, 3.739 to 3.718
Final: def. Brittany Force, 4.440 to 4.652
By Brad Littlefield