‘The Sarge’ ready to do battle for 8th NHRA Top Fuel title

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With three races remaining between him and a potential record eighth NHRA Top Fuel championship, Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher is preparing for a heck of a battle.

As the NHRA tour heads to Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa., for this weekend’s NHRA Nationals, Schumacher leads the Top Fuel standings by 57 points over defending series champ Shawn Langdon and holds an 80-point edge over third-ranked and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown, who won the title in 2012.

The crew-cut Schumacher, who has been sponsored by the U.S. Army for the past 15 seasons, has won two of the first three races (Charlotte and Dallas) in the six-race Countdown to the Championship, while Brown, also sponsored by the Army, won the other race this past weekend near St. Louis.

While Schumacher is looking for his eighth Top Fuel championship, it’s also important to note that it has been five years since he won his seventh.

It’s also noteworthy that Schumacher is hoping to win at Reading, if for the mere fact he hasn’t won there since 2008. He also won there three straight times from 2003 through 2005, has been the No. 1 qualifier there six times and also set a career-best elapsed time of 3.736 second there in 2012.

“We wanted to be running our best at the end of the season when the championship was going to be decided,” Schumacher said in a team media release. “There were some rough spots along the way, but this team stayed the course and it’s paying off now.

“We have a lot of work still to do, but we’ve prepared for this moment. It’s just about going out there and trying to execute the plan. We have the opportunity we were hoping for. I know it’s been a few years since we’ve won in Reading (2008) and if we can make a deep run Sunday that would certainly big a bonus with Las Vegas and Pomona left.”

Schumacher certainly appears headed to the championship. He’s reached the semifinals in six of the last seven NHRA events, including the first three Countdown races.

Although he was upset in the first round of eliminations at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis this past Sunday, he’s still been the most consistent driver of late in the Top Fuel ranks.

“We’re trying to win a championship and you do that by going rounds,” Schumacher said. “We won eight consecutive rounds to start the Countdown and then got beat early last week. That can’t happen again.

“I know (crew chief) Mike (Green) and (assistant crew chief) Neal (Strausbaugh) and the entire Army team is ready to come back out in Reading and continue our mission. Only the strongest wear the U.S. Army colors and I put my nine-man team up against any.

“They’ve been through the pressure of having to perform when the stakes are the highest. We are all inspired by the mental, emotional and physical strength displayed by our U.S. Army Soldiers. The goal this week is to build on our lead by continuing to run well in qualifying and going rounds Sunday.”

With an attitude like that, we can’t help but salute you in your quest, Sarge.

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