Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Shorter races the right call until NHRA finishes Kalitta investigation
By Tony Schumacher
Special to ESPN.com
After enjoying a little R&R during the recent holiday weekend, the U.S. Army Top Fuel team is set to jump into the second half of the 2008 drag-racing season this weekend in the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, just outside Denver.
Like our competitors, we'll immediately face a challenge of sorts in having to prepare mentally for racing to 1,000 feet instead of the traditional 1,320 feet, which is a quarter-mile.
Last week, the NHRA announced that beginning with the Mopar Mile-High Nationals, both the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes will race only to 1,000 feet, which is in direct response to the ongoing investigation of the tragic accident that took the life of Funny Car pilot Scott Kalitta last month.
Personally, I think the rule change is great. The NHRA needs time to fully evaluate and analyze what happened with Kalitta's crash. Until there are some clear, definitive findings, we need to do this.
Some observers are questioning whether fans will still see a good show despite the shortened distance. I say, no question about it. In fact, there may be better side-by-side racing. I guarantee you that the sights and sounds of nitro racing will still be there.
The new rule aside, we will be eager to add to our season win total out in Colorado. After posting five victories in the first half of the campaign, we presently hold a commanding 253-point lead in the standings.
The key for us the next six races, specifically, will be to keep building momentum so we can go into the Countdown to 1 phase of the playoffs on solid footing. We've certainly done well to this point, but we want to make it really count beginning with the Charlotte race in September.
I keep getting reminded that, in 2008, I'm shooting for a fifth straight world title and the sixth of my career, which would be a Top Fuel record.
My response to that reminder is that we're racing for our soldiers, not for records. Simply stated, we want to win races and championships for them. This program is all about properly representing those brave men and women who protect our freedom on a daily basis.
With that, it's off to the great Rocky Mountains. "The Sarge" extends his usual group salute. We'll be right back with you next week just prior to the Schuck's Auto Supply Nationals in Seattle. So, until then, y'all stay well.
Five-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 2008 season.