NHRA

NHRA: 8-time Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher to miss season-opening Winternationals

2 Comments

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!”

Tony Schumacher will not be racing in this weekend’s NHRA season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, California. Photo: NHRA.

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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

Ker Robertson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?