Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Drag racing in Mount Rainier's shadow hard to beat
By Tony Schumacher
Special to ESPN.com
Coming off a semifinal-round appearance in Denver on Sunday, the U.S. Army Top Fuel team now heads for the Schuck's Auto Supply Nationals this weekend at Pacific Raceways outside of Seattle.
The stop in the Pacific Northwest marks the second leg of the NHRA's annual Western Swing, which concludes at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., July 27-29.
Given our recent performance at Bandimere Speedway, we're optimistic about possibly making a trip to the winner's circle at Pacific Raceways.
Even though we got beat in the semis at Denver, what was most encouraging is that we got down the track seven straight times (qualifying included). We're all fully aware that consistency is extremely important in this sport. That's how you win races and championships.
One will have to forgive me if I'm seen licking my chops upon arrival at Pacific Raceways. I have two wins to my credit there (2004 and 2006), along with another final-round appearance (2005).
For sure, we've done exceptionally well the last three seasons. I guess we just get into a comfort zone out there. I always get asked why we're successful at certain tracks and not as successful at others. There's really no clear explanation for it. I know that Alan Johnson (my crew chief) has plenty of solid data to draw from. That's good enough for me.
We'll enter the Schuck's Auto Supply Nationals holding fifth place in the standings. Currently, that would be good enough for a spot in the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship, which allows the top eight in points (after the Reading, Pa., race, Aug. 16-19) to compete for the world title.
We have a little bit of a cushion between us and that eighth position (126 points), but we certainly don't want to leave anything to chance with four races left until the cutoff. We need to keep running like we did in Denver and, perhaps, even grab a couple of wins along the way.
Our soldiers deserve this team's best effort all of the time. Our brave men and women give us their best effort every day, so why should we be any different? We definitely want to give them a fourth straight world championship.
With that, it's time to travel to the Mount Rainier area. By the way, if you ever get out that way, you'd better make sure you bring plenty of film. It's one of the most breathtaking environments we experience on the NHRA tour.
As always, "The Sarge" salutes you all. We'll come back at you next week just prior to the Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon. Until then, all I ask is for you to stay well.
Four-time world champion Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher drives the U.S. Army-sponsored Top Fuel dragster in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series and is providing a diary for ESPN.com throughout the 2007 season.