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.
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?”