NHRA: Tony ‘The Sarge’ Schumacher to race for first time in 20 months

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The Sarge is returning to active duty.

Eight-time NHRA Top Fuel Champion Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher will climb back behind the wheel for the first time in 20 months when NHRA resumes its 2020 schedule July 11-12 and again July 18-19.

Both races will be held – with fans in attendance – at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis as the NHRA returns to competition after a more than four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schumacher, son of team owner Don Schumacher, has been sidelined since the end of the 2018 season when a nearly 20-year sponsorship from the U.S. Army came to an end.

It was that same sponsorship that led to the younger Schumacher gaining the colorful nickname of “The Sarge,” complete with a military-style buzzcut hair style that became his trademark.

Unfortunately, Schumacher — the winningest driver in Top Fuel history with 84 career wins — was unable to find full sponsorship to continue his program, so he’s remained inactive since the Army marched away.

Still, Schumacher — whose eighth and most recent championship was in 2014 and whose last win was at Bristol, Tennessee on June 17, 2018 — is ready to get back in the saddle again.

“I’m pumped up,” Schumacher told NBC Sports. “I’ve been looking forward to this and the opportunity to do it at Indy, my most successful track you know ever, and to do it two weekends in a row. Just a whole lot of great things came together, so I’m really looking forward to it. To be able to get in a race car and go fast again after a year and a half, it’s a beautiful moment.”

“The Sarge” is back. Tony Schumacher will compete in two NHRA races on back-to-back weekends next month in Indianapolis. Photo: Don Schumacher Racing.

Schumacher has not been behind the wheel since the season-ending race at Pomona, California on November 11, 2018. He plans to shake off the rust in several test runs at Lucas Oil Raceway on Thursday, July 9, two days before the race gets underway.

“I’ve made an awful lot of laps there,” Schumacher said. “I’ve made so many laps for so many years that it was so natural. I’ve driven that race car enough times where it ought to come right back and be 1,000% natural, you know. It’s just super cool and it’s just a great opportunity.”

While Schumacher’s legion of fans will likely be excited he’s returning, there is a bit of a caveat: for now, it’s just for those first two races at Indy. He has nothing lined up after that, not even for the annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis on Labor Day weekend.

But at the same time, Schumacher is hoping his performance in those two races will convince one or more sponsors to come on board and get him back on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit on a full-time basis.

Given that there have only been two races held thus far this year – before the pandemic hit – Schumacher could still end up in contention for the championship if funding is found for all of the remaining 17 races left on this season’s schedule (that includes the two races next month at Indy).

“I’d love for someone to step up but I don’t want to lose focus,” Schumacher said. “One thing in 200 speeches a year I did was tell kids do not think about next year and forget to enjoy right now.

This is how Tony Schumacher’s Top Fuel dragster will look when he returns to race for the first time in 20 months next month. Images: Don Schumacher Racing.

“I want to make sure that I’m spending 110% of my time focused on the first race, and then the following week, I’ll focus on that. I’ve been blessed right now with an opportunity to run my favorite race of the year twice in a row with an incredible company on the side (Global Electronic Technology), people who care about racing, so that’s pretty bad to the bone.

“If things pan out and later somebody comes up, so be it, I’m always looking forward to that. But I’m not going to lose touch with reality and the reality is I’ve got two races to go, I’m going to have a great time and I’m going to do it.

“I’m getting into a car I haven’t seen in a year and a half. My focus has to be disciplined. I’ve got to go out and win this race. I’ve been missing this. I’ve won at Indy 10 times and I’ve got a chance to add a little bit to something that’s going to be very difficult for anyone to ever reach.”

Schumacher admits that as each day, week and month has gone by since his last race at the end of 2018, there were times he wondered if he’d ever ride again. But he also has never lost hope that something would eventually come through, even if it was later rather than sooner.

“You always wonder,” he said. “For me, I was like, okay, man, do I just leave it that it was the Army car and we’re done? But I’ve had so many good calls with so many big sponsors, and felt something would come up, something’s out there and it’s big.

“I’ve always said that God’s always got a big plan, waiting for the right moment and the right thing. In time, the right thing and a long-term deal might come up. But right now, we’re just going to kick ass, win Indy twice and have an opportunity to do something I’ve longed to do for the last year and a half.”

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Chase Sexton wins Triple Crown Anaheim 2 Supercross: Levi Kitchen unseats Jett Lawrence in 250s

Supercross Anaheim 2
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Chase Sexton won two of the three races in the Monster Energy Supercross Anaheim 2 Triple Crown, which was enough to overcome a fifth-place finish in Race 2 and give him the overall victory. It was the second Supercross win of his career.

“Super big night for me,” Sexton told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “After last weekend with that being a struggle, I just need to come out here and stop the bleeding a little bit and I did that tonight.”

Sexton suffered a crash on Lap 1 of his heat, sending him into Last Chance Qualifier. The bad gate pick put him in a difficult position to start the race and he was able to climb to only fifth at the checkers.

At Anaheim 2, three riders entered the final race of the Triple Crown in a winner-take-all scenario. Sexton, Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac each had a shot at victory. It raised the intensity level for all riders in an evening that featured a lot of comers and goers.

Jason Anderson took the early lead in Race 3, which set him up for the overall victory. Sexton stalked and passed him midway through the race and then a minor mistake late allowed Webb to slip around as well. Anderson’s 5-1-3 gave him second overall.

“I had a tough couple of rounds, getting off that Anaheim 1 crash and then last week weekend I fumbled a little bit, but I’m excited to get back on the box and start moving forward,” Anderson told Jason Thomas.

Anderson finished seventh in the first two rounds of 2023.

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Ken Roczen was the model of consistency in the opening rounds and at Anaheim 2. In three races so far this year, he’s gotten progressively better each time with a fifth in A1, a fourth last week in San Deigo and a third this week.

With results of 2-3-4, he earned his first podium of the season, which lands him fourth in the standings.

“This was hard earned,” Roczen said after the race. “I completely botched the start and then to have to work my way up. I only happen on the very last lap to step up here on the podium.”

Webb’s solid second-place finish in the third race allowed him to leapfrog several riders and finish fourth overall, but a seventh in Race 1 kept him off the podium. He improved in each race in Anaheim, however, with a 7-4-2.

With a 4-6-5, Dylan Ferrandis rounded out the top five.

The intensity of the race was a little too much for Tomac.

While battling side-by-side with Webb in Race 3 at the one-third mark, Tomac jumped wide and crashed hard. He fell to 14th, doing some damage to his bike in the process. He advanced only one position in that race to 13th. His first two races, a third and second, were strong enough to give him sixth overall. He retains the points lead, but it has shrunk to a gap of only four over Sexton and Webb.

Malcolm Stewart injured late in the week and was not able to mount.


Levi Kitchen became the first rider to unseat Jett Lawrence in the Triple Crown format at Anaheim 2 and won the overall with consistency. In his three races, Kitchen finished 4-2-2 to narrowly edge the winner of the first two races.

“This whole day; this is unbelievable. I took a few good slams in practice and I was down on myself,” Kitchen told NBC Sports Jason Thomas afterward. “The first moto I got a good start and got shuffled back, then I knew I just needed to be consistent.”

Jett Lawrence saved his best for last – which wasn’t hard given the struggles he experienced in the first two races.

Despite those problems, he entered Race 3 of the Triple Crown three points behind Kitchen after suffering a pair of disappointing races by his personal measuring stick. In the first and second 250 races of the night, Lawrence hit the ground. He dropped to the final rider in the running order in Race 2 with a Lap 1 fall. But in both races, he was able to overcome his mistake and close the gap so that he had a chance to take his first Triple Crown win of his career.

Click here for full 250 West Main Results

Lawrence rode to third in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2. In the final race of the night, Lawrence did all he could. He earned the holeshot, but when Kitchen fell in behind him, Lawrence’s fate was sealed. His 3-6-1 tied him in points with Stilez Robertson, but the tiebreaker goes to the final round and his win secured second-place.

“I can definitely say Triple Crowns are not my thing,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Will Christien. “We have one more to try and fix this, so hopefully we can get that done.”

Lawrence will move into the 450 class for the Lucas Oil Motocross outdoor season and his 250 record book will be closed.

The best news for Lawrence is the other riders who entered this round in the top three had a worse night, so Lawrence leaves Anaheim with a 16-point gap on Cameron McAdoo and 17 over RJ Hampshire.

Roberston finished 6-1-3 to take the final step of the podium.

“Getting that win in the second Main meant a lot,” Roberston told Thomas. “I wish I could have done a little better in the third one, but we’re still up here on the box.”

Mitchell Oldenburg used consistency to earn fourth in the overall. He finished 5-4-6.

After missing the Main last week in San Diego, Max Vohland finished 7-8-4 to round out the top five.

RJ Hampshire set himself up as the early favorite with his Race 1 win. In Race 2, it all fell apart. He fell in the sand section and damaged his bike, finishing last in that race. The final event of the night for the 250s provided only a 13th-place finish, leaving Hampshire deep in the points.

Cameron McAdoo hard crash in qualification, which was scary news for a team that has seen three of their riders sidelined with injury. McAdoo was never quite able to get his rhythm with an 8-7-5.

2023 Race Recaps

San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Anaheim 2 coverage

Power Rankings Week 2
SuperMotocross tightens playoff schedule
Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence go two-for-two in San Diego
Results and points after San Diego
Seth Hammaker to miss 250 E season opener with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner with injury
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX