Riding a six-race winning streak, the U.S. Army Top Fuel team heads into the NHRA's second season -- the Countdown to 1 -- in this weekend's inaugural Carolinas Nationals at recently opened zMAX Dragway down in Charlotte, N.C.
Coming off a victory two weeks ago at the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, we'll take a 30-point lead into the initial round of the playoffs.
It's certainly time to elevate our game. Everything to this point has been about positioning and building momentum. Now, we have to put up or shut up.
Relative to momentum, over the first 18 races, we have clearly stockpiled a bunch. We've accumulated 11 victories and two other final-round appearances.
Since the NHRA mandated 1,000-foot races for Top Fuel and Funny Car, we're undefeated, with wins at Denver, Seattle, Sonoma, Calif., Brainerd, Minn., Reading, Pa., and Indianapolis.
Additionally, along the way we managed to break our own records for most consecutive Top Fuel wins (six), most Top Fuel wins in a single season (11) and most consecutive round wins (currently at 24).
With the Indianapolis win, I also tied Joe Amato's record for most career Top Fuel victories, which stands at 52.
Not to minimize what we've done to this point, but in my eyes all of those numbers won't mean that much if we don't perform well in these next six races. The real goal is to win another title. We've got to get another POWERade trophy for our soldiers.
Following the race this weekend in the heart of NASCAR country, the NHRA tour will move through Dallas, Memphis, Richmond, Las Vegas and Pomona, Calif. With the exception of Virginia Motorsports Park, we have recorded wins in recent years at all of the other venues.
It's pretty comforting to know that, of course, but as I always say, the past is never a true indication of what's to come. You still have to go out and get the job done this time around. We're just going to take it a race at a time, and with any kind of luck we'll be able to enjoy a fifth straight crown after it's all over in Pomona.
So, it's off to Bruton Smith's new palace. "The Sarge" salutes you all. We'll be right back at it again next weekend at the Texas Motorplex just south of Dallas.
Until then, y'all stay well, and please remember to keep our soldiers in your hearts and prayers. That's especially important since the 9/11 anniversary is upon us.
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.