NHRA Top Fuel: Tony Schumacher proves once again that Chicago is his kinda town

Tony Schumacher makes it five wins in a row at his home track, Route 66 Raceway in suburban Chicago. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

JOLIET, Il. – When you’re in the boss’s own backyard, at his and your home track, and he’s also your father, well, you can’t help but rise to the occasion.

Such was the case for Tony Schumacher in Sunday’s Top Fuel final eliminations of the Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

The son of team owner Don Schumacher, Tony roared to his record 80th career win, defeating Larry Dixon, a three-time past Route 66 winner who reached the final round for the fifth time this season, but is still looking for his first win.

It was a track record fifth time that Tony Schumacher, a north suburban Chicago resident, has won at Route 66. The eight-time and defending Top Fuel champ is now 14-6 lifetime in final round meetings with Dixon.

“There’s no easy races,” Tony Schumacher said. “I’m just proud to be in the position we’re in. And when you get into that last round, tied with (teammate) Antron Brown in the points and you know if you win you’ll take the points lead, that’s a big moment.

“Our car, the U.S. Army car, has been the big moment car of the century. When it has to be done, we’ve done that. We’re good at it, we’re great at it.”

With the win, Tony Schumacher regains the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel points lead over, taking a 20-point lead over Brown.

“The competition out here is closer than it’s ever been, and it relies more upon the driver than it ever has,” Don Schumacher said.

MORE: NHRA: Final finishing order, results, round-by-round and standings after Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals

Besides coming on home turf, Schumacher’s win was all the more special because it’s the 49th time since 2003 that Don Schumacher Racing has had two of its drivers win on the same day – as well as the third year in a row at Route 66.

Also on Sunday for DSR, Tommy Johnson Jr. earned his first Funny Car win of the season against another DSR teammate and defending Funny Car champ Matt Hagan.

“We’ve had great, great races here the last three years, undoubtedly,” Don Schumacher said. “My guys are doing a phenomenal job and they get to do this in front of family, friends employees and all the fans here in Chicago. It’s just phenomenal.”

Ironically, Tony Schumacher also figured in DSR’s first nitro sweep in 2003, winning in Top Fuel while former DSR teammate Whit Bazemore won in Funny Car.

“He’s the best,”Don Schumacher said of his son, the winningest driver in NHRA Top Fuel history. “The only guy that I’d have to say was better is (‘Big Daddy’) Don Garlits. (Tony’s) the best driver, the winningest driver, the most championships. How else can I look at it?”


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Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.