The NHRA season kicks off this weekend with the Lucas Oil Winternationals, but there will be one name conspicuously absent from the starting line.
Eight-time champion Tony Schumacher, the winningest driver in NHRA Top Fuel history (84 wins), will not be competing in this weekend’s race.
While rumors have been floated that the 49-year-old Schumacher may be retiring from the sport, the Austin, Texas resident was adamant in a post on his Facebook page this week that he is not stepping away or stepping down permanently:
“Some of you have probably heard the news that our car is parked. We are still working on a sponsorship deal. These things take time but like I said before, I am absolutely NOT retiring. I love this sport and have dedicated most of my life to it. I love my team and they are the best guys I know. Unfortunately, our car will not be at Pomona but I will still be there to support my teammates and fans. Thank you all for your continued support and patience!”
Schumacher’s inability to race this weekend is understandable. Schumacher lost sponsorship from the U.S. Army after nearly two decades following last season. Don Schumacher Racing has been working on putting together a new sponsorship deal for Tony Schumacher, but has not been able to wrap things up yet.
Ergo, while Tony Schumacher – who finished second to Steve Torrence in the Top Fuel standings last season – will be attending in-person this weekend’s race at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, he will not be behind the wheel.
Schumacher is a two-time Winternationals winner (2004, 2008). He also was runner-up in 2000 and 2013.
The son of team owner Don Schumacher did not say whether he will also miss the second race of the season, February 22-24, in Chandler, Arizona.
In a post three days earlier, also on his Facebook page, Schumacher had this to say: “For all the people asking, I have no plans to retire or take time off. I drive a Top Fuel dragster and that is what I will continue to do for as long as I am able to. See y’all soon!”
While Tony Schumacher will not be racing this weekend, his six teammates will be: Top Fuel drivers Antron Brown and Leah Pritchett, as well as Funny Car drivers Ron Capps (entering his 25th season in Funny Car), Jack Beckman, Matt Hagan and Tommy Johnson Jr.