Schumacher piling up NHRA points despite zero wins
(MCT) — Tony Schumacher has won an NHRA top fuel championship with just one victory in a season. He's also won a championship by winning a record 15 races in a season.
But this year, Schumacher, the all-time leader with seven top fuel championships, may distinguish himself in a totally different way. It's possible he could win the title without a single victory.
And that's all right with The Sarge, who leads the top fuel standings despite going a career-most 30 consecutive races without a win.
"We're in the lead," Schumacher said heading into this weekend's Dollar General NHRA Summernationals at Heartland Park Topeka, "and if I go all year long and never win a race and win the championship, so be it. I've won the championship by setting the world record on the last run of the year (2006), I've won it by winning the last round of the year (2007).
"I've done it in every way. We haven't done it by not winning one. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't want to win it that way, but I rather win it that way than not win it at all."
Only one driver in the NHRA's 60-year history, Rob Bruins in 1979, won a title without a winning a race. But that was in a 10-race top fuel season. Schumacher, the series' all-time leader with 67 wins, has not won since October 2010 at Las Vegas.
However, the pressure to win is not getting to him or the U.S. Army team.
"If it did, I'd be driving like an idiot," said Schumacher, 42. "I'm fine, and the crew is tuning the car fine. It's funny, because when we won 15 in (2008), and seven in a row, we used to always say, 'Don't ever get cocky, man. You never know when it will be your last one.'
"We'd joke about it, because you have to respect the fact there are great teams out there, and it doesn't take just a great team anymore, but it takes a great team and some pretty good luck, because it's all timing."
Though he has failed to win in seven races this season, Schumacher has reached the finals four times, and he took the points lead from his teammate, Antron Brown, with a runner-up finish on May 6 at Atlanta.
Schumacher, who leads Spencer Massey by 25 points and Brown by 30, was also runner-up at Phoenix, Gainesville and Charlotte and has been to 11 finals since his last win.
If there's a constant in Schumacher's defeats, he believes it's the syndrome that affects the New York Yankees in baseball or Duke or North Carolina in college basketball or the Green Bay Packers in the NFL .
Everyonegives Schumacher their very best shot and treat a race against him like their personal Super Bowl.
"The last one, we smoked the tires," Schumacher said of a loss to Steve Torrence in Atlanta, "but the three before that, we made amazing runs. And the guy next to us ran low ET (estimated time) of the weekend.
"Our team makes people go faster. In those races, people turn knobs in their cars they've never tried before. People are going to do things they've never done before because they have to. We make people do things that are special, and that's cool.
"It's not always going to work out for them. It has lately, but it's not always. You have to smile and appreciate the fact you're not getting beat with stupid stuff, you're getting beat by teams who are very capable of going fast."
It took Schumacher 14 years to conquer Heartland Park, but he won his first race in Topeka in 2010 and was top qualifier last year when he set a track record of 324.12 mph before losing in the semifinals to eventual winner Massey.
This week, Schumacher plans on bringing a newly built Don Schumacher Racing dragster to Heartland Park that just might be the one to break the winless streak.
"That car was very fast when we tested it, and we're going to go real fast," Schumacher said. "The other car has been to 11 finals and hasn't won, so it's time to change the metal."
And change his luck.
"I'm going to get that trophy at some point," Schumacher said. "And when I do, I'm going to smile and know we were patiently waiting something we expected all the time."