NHRA: Tony ‘The Sarge’ Schumacher still MIA but vows to return


Tony Schumacher is too young to be a Where Are They Now? subject.

But the Austin, Texas resident, nicknamed “The Sarge” for his nearly two-decade run of being sponsored by the U.S. Army, has been missing in action from the NHRA circuit for well over a year.

It’s a conundrum, to say the least: Schumacher is the winningest driver in Top Fuel with eight championships and 84 national event wins.

Yet since the Army ended a 19-year run of sponsoring Schumacher following the 2018 season, the Austin, Texas resident hasn’t been back behind the wheel since due to lack of similar sponsorship.

Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher is still known as ‘The Sarge’ even though the U.S. Army stopped sponsoring his team at the end of the 2018 season. (Photo by Sam Morris/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“I’m a very positive dude, but it’s very frustrating,” Schumacher told NBCSports.com. “I’ve been blessed with the best racing career in Top Fuel, period, as well as the best moments.

“Not only did we win all these championships with some of the greatest teammates I’ve ever had, I’ve been blessed with so many great moments that even if I never drove a race car again, I’ve had the most fulfilling career.”

However, Schumacher is adamant that his career is far from over. He WILL be back in a dragster at some point, hopefully sooner than later, he insists.

“I plan on going back and doing a whole bunch more,” he said. “The big question is when? I wish I could tell you that.”

Schumacher’s return is primarily predicated  upon money. To once again become a race winner and championship contender, he needs a top-line sponsor that will step into the large multi-million dollar shoes that the Army left. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet.

“Every single thing we’ve done has come up with a snag,” Schumacher said. “When is it going to come? I don’t know. Are we going to race in a month or two? I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll be there in a month or two, it’s going to take time to put a deal together. I don’t have an answer. We’re constantly working on stuff.”

That the most successful Top Fuel driver in NHRA history has been sidelined for so long is baffling. It’s not like he forgot how to drive: he finished second to Steve Torrence for the Top Fuel championship in 2018.

Not only is Schumacher a great ambassador for the sport and a fan favorite, his persona as “The Sarge” should be very attractive to potential sponsors – but a new deal still hasn’t happened.

Tony Schumacher is a longtime favorite with NHRA fans. (Photo by: Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

He can’t even find a gig as a hired gun, driving for another team. Schumacher’s plight scares a number of his fellow big-name racers, who worry if he can’t find sponsorship, could that be their own plight at some point?

“I talk to John Force, Mike Salinas, Bob Tasca III and Steve Torrence all the time, and they all say they’re terrified that I can’t get a deal,” Schumacher said. “My opinion is I drove the Army car for 19 years and those are big shoes to fill for a sponsor.

“You ever watch a movie where one guy is the bad guy, the other guy is the good guy, this guy always has a smile and is known for comedies? Well, I’m known as The Sarge, that’s who I’ve been and I don’t know if people can see me outside that world, so who knows?”

Short of growing out his still close-cropped Army-style buzzcut, Schumacher says he spends countless hours on the phone and at his computer every week trying to put together a deal with a potential sponsor. While he’s had nibbles, they all have ultimately wound up being misses.

Part of the problem is Schumacher is somewhat hemmed in because the team he races for, Don Schumacher Racing, is owned by his father and with six other fully-funded Top Fuel and Funny Car teams, the types of companies father and son Schumacher can reach out to for potential sponsorships are limited.

“Part of our difficulty in putting a deal together is we already have a Pennzoil car, a Mopar car, a NAPA car, a Matco Tools car, so I can’t go to anything automotive to get a sponsor,” Tony Schumacher said. “If I had my own team, I could go to anyone I want and ask if they want to compete, but it’s not. We’re part of this big team and I think we’re blocked out of a lot of angles.

“Then some people say, why don’t you just take one of your teammates (out) and put yourself in. No, come on, man. My teammates have fought to get into those cars and worked their way up from wherever they came from to get in those positions. That’s not the way we operate at DSR (Don Schumacher Racing). I’ll sit out long before I’ll disrespect my teammates in any way like that – and my dad feels 100 percent the same way. That’s just not how we do it.”

Since he last hurtled down a drag strip in mid-November 2018, Schumacher has not been totally AWOL from the sport he loves. He attended a number of races last season and did several stints as a PA announcer at various tracks as well as several guest spots on NHRA telecasts.

Schumacher insists it’s a matter of when, not if he will return to the covered cockpit of his 330 mph dragster. Until then, he’s been building a start-up business of his own – a credit card processing company – that he’s pitching primarily to drag racing and motorsports-related businesses and teams.

“I have a ton of connections,” Schumacher said. “I’m good at driving a race car and in the process, I became a phenomenal public speaker. And in the process of that, I made connections. From sitting down and hearing the best generals in the country for 19 years talking about how important it is to communicate, that is my forte.

“Drag racing is six minutes a year (a combination of qualifying and elimination runs). But the connections and ability to get your point across and sell yourself and be positive and lead, you can have a company and be really smart and really rich and have no leadership skills whatsoever and that company will fall apart. People follow people who have been there and done it, understand it and done it well and right. That’s who people follow.

“It is a new profession. And even when I go back to driving again, this is going to be something that continually progresses and I’ll never stop doing it because I enjoy it.”

Tony Schumacher last climbed into a Top Fuel dragster at the end of the 2018 season. (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Would Schumacher be interested in taking over Don Schumacher Racing, given that his father and company patriarch Don Schumacher is 75 years old now? The elder Schumacher also owns an international company called Schumacher Electric that employs over 2,000 people.

“I don’t know if I want to,” Tony Schumacher said when he’d be interested in taking over DSR. “I have a hard time even thinking about someone replacing me in a car. I love what I do but I don’t know if I could sit outside and watch. Watching is not my strength. My dad has never named me anything other than the driver. That’s on him to decide if he even wants me doing something like that.”

When he returns behind the wheel, at a time in the sport where drivers continue to excel into their 50s, 60s and even into their 70s like Force, the 50-year-old Schumacher was asked how much longer he’ll continue racing.

“I always have said I’m only going to do drag racing for 10 more years,” he said with a laugh. “The first day I started racing, I said I’d do it for 10 years. Then it was another 10 years and then another 10 years. So I’ll just say 10 years. It’s a good number.

“To me, when I get in a race car and I look at the race car next to me and I don’t want to be there anymore, I’ll know it. Right now, when I get in a race car and look over to the car next to me, he doesn’t want me to be there.

“That’s why I want to be there. It’s all about attitude. I look forward to coming back after a year or two out and doing exactly what we’ve always done: get back into it, put our nose to the grindstone and kick their butts.”

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IndyCar Detroit Grand Prix: How to watch, start times, TV, schedules, streaming


The NTT IndyCar Series will return to the Motor City for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix but with start times in a new location for 2023.

After a 30-year run on Belle Isle, the Detroit GP has moved a few miles south to the streets of downtown on a new nine-turn, 1.645-mile circuit that runs along the Detroit River.

It’s the first time single-seater open-cockpit cars have raced on the streets of Detroit since a CART event on a 2.5-mile downtown layout from 1989-91. Formula One also raced in Detroit from 1982-88.

The reimagined Detroit Grand Prix also will play host to nightly concerts and bring in venders from across the region. Roger Penske predicts the new downtown locale will be bigger for Detroit than when the city played host to the 2006 Super Bowl.

Here are the details and IndyCar start times for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach race weekend (all times are ET):


TV: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET on NBC and streaming on Peacock, the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com. Leigh Diffey is the announcer with analysts Townsend Bell and James Hinchcliffe. Dave Burns, Marty Snider and Kevin Lee are the pit reporters. Click here for the full NBC Sports schedule for IndyCar in 2023.

Peacock also will be the streaming broadcast for both practices and qualifying.

POSTRACE SHOW ON PEACOCK: After the race’s conclusion, an exclusive postrace show will air on Peacock with driver interviews, postrace analysis and the podium presentation. To watch the extended postrace show, click over to the special stream on Peacock after Sunday’s race ends.


GREEN FLAG: 3:30 p.m. ET

PRACTICE: Friday, 3 p.m. (Peacock Premium); Saturday, 9:05 a.m. (Peacock Premium); Sunday, 10 a.m. (Peacock Premium)

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Combined

QUALIFYING: Saturday, 1:20 p.m. (Peacock Premium)

STARTING LINEUP: Alex Palou captured the first street course pole of his IndyCar career; click here for where everyone will begin Sunday’s race

RACE DISTANCE: The race is 100 laps (170 miles) on a nine-turn, 1.645-mile temporary street course in downtown Detroit.

TIRE ALLOTMENT: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate. Rookie drivers are allowed one extra primary set for the first practice.

PUSH TO PASS: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 15 seconds per activation (Indy NXT: 150 seconds total, 15 seconds per). The push-to-pass is not available on the initial start or any restart unless it occurs in the final two laps or three minutes of a timed race. The feature increases the power of the engine by approximately 60 horsepower.

FORECAST: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 80 degrees with a 0% chance of rain.

ENTRY LIST: Click here to view the 27 drivers racing Sunday at Detroit

INDY NXT RACES: Saturday, 12:05 p.m. 45 laps/55 minutes (Peacock Premium); Sunday, 12:50 p.m. 45 laps/55 minutes (Peacock Premium)

INDY NXT ENTRY LISTClick here to view the 19 drivers racing at Detroit


(All times are Eastern)

Friday, June 2

8:30-9:30 a.m.: IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

9 a.m.: IndyCar garage opens

9:50-10:20 a.m.: Trans Am Series practice

11:40 a.m.-12:40 p.m.: IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

1-1:30 p.m.: Trans Am Series practice

1:50-2:40 p.m.: Indy NXT practice

3-4:30 p.m.: IndyCar practice, Peacock

4:50-5:05 p.m.: IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge qualifying

5:30-6 p.m.: IndyNXT qualifying (Race 1 and 2)

6-7:15 p.m.: A-Track concert (Hart Plaza Stage)

7:30-8:30 p.m.: Big Boi concert (Hart Plaza Stage)

Saturday, June 3

6 a.m.: IndyCar garage opens

8:15-8:45 a.m.: Trans Am Series qualifying

9:05-10:05 a.m.: IndyCar practice, Peacock

10:35-11:35 a.m.: Trans Am Series, 3-Dimensional Services Group Muscle Car Challenge

12:05-1:00 p.m.: Indy NXT, Race 1 (45 laps or 55 minutes), Peacock

1:15-2:45 p.m.: IndyCar qualifying, Peacock

4:10-5:50 p.m.: IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, Chevrolet Detroit Sports Car Classic (100 minutes), Peacock

5:30-7 p.m.: Z-Trip concert (Hart Plaza Stage)

7-8:30 p.m.: Steve Aoki concert (Hart Plaza Stage)

Sunday, June 4

7 a.m.: IndyCar garage opens

10:00-10:30 a.m.: IndyCar warmup, Peacock

11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Trans Am Series, 3-Dimensional Services Group Motor City Showdown

12:50-1:45 p.m.: Indy NXT, Race 2 (45 laps or 55 minutes), Peacock

2:47 p.m.: IndyCar driver introductions

3:23 p.m.: Command to start engines

3:30 p.m.: Green flag for the Chevrolet Detroit Prix, presented by Lear (100 laps/170 miles), NBC


ROUND 1Marcus Ericsson wins wild opener in St. Petersburg

ROUND 2Josef Newgarden wins Texas thriller over Pato O’Ward

ROUND 3: Kyle Kirkwood breaks through for first career IndyCar victory

ROUND 4: Scott McLaughlin outduels Romain Grosjean at Barber

ROUND 5: Alex Palou dominant in GMR Grand Prix

ROUND 6: Josef Newgarden wins first Indy 500 in 12th attempt 


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Roger Penske feeling hale at another Indy 500 as Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner

Honda needed 45 seconds to approve Graham Rahal racing a Chevy at Indy

A.J. Foyt takes refuge at Indy 500 while weathering grief of wife’s death

Gordon Johncock: The most unassuming Indy 500 legend

Alex Palou on his Indy 500 pole, multitasking at 224 mph and a Chip Ganassi surprise

Marcus Ericsson, engineer Brad Goldberg have ties that run very deep

New competition elements for 2023 include an alternate oval tire

Indy 500 will be Tony Kanaan’s final race

IndyCar drivers say Thermal Club could host a race

IndyCar team owners weigh in on marketing plans, double points

Alexander Rossi fitting in well at McLaren

Phoenix takes flight: Romain Grosjean enjoying the pilot’s life

Helio Castroneves says 2023 season is “huge” for IndyCar future

How Sting Ray Robb got that name

Kyle Larson having impact on future McLaren teammates

Simon Pagenaud on why he likes teasing former teammate Josef Newgarden

HOW TO WATCH INDYCAR IN 2023Full NBC Sports schedule