Blown Engine Can’t Slow Tony Schumacher
JOLIET, Ill. – Tony Schumacher raced to the Top Fuel victory in spectacular fashion Sunday as his U.S. Army dragster’s 8,000-horsepower engine exploded in a huge fireball when he crossed the finish line in the final round of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Schumacher’s fiery finish stopped the clocks in 3.930 seconds at 269.29 mph, but it was quick enough to hold off a determined Clay Millican, whose Parts Plus dragster trailed and the veteran driver remained winless in six career final round appearances. It was the third win of the season and the 72nd overall for local favorite Schumacher, a longtime Chicagoland area resident.
Schumacher powered past David Grubnic, Khalid alBalooshi and defending world champ Antron Brown to advance to the final round. In the final, Millican was actually ahead of Schumacher near mid-track, but Schumacher’s machine surged forward, the engine eventually expiring just as he crossed the finish line first.
“It’s always great to have a hometown win here in Chicago,” said Schumacher of his fourth victory at Route 66 Raceway, located just south of Chicago. “It was a great day for Don Schumacher Racing with another double-up [Matt Hagan’s Funny Car win]. This is 37 times that we’ve done that, and it was personally gratifying with all the family and friends I had here this weekend.”
Going into the final with Millican, he was very aware of his record against drivers who are seeking their first wins.
“When you look back in Top Fuel history, whenever anybody gets their first win, it’s against me,” said Schumacher, who regained the series lead with the victory. “Between Shawn Langdon, J.R. Todd, and everybody else, that is what has happened. But I told myself today that this is not going to be an ongoing trait. We’re going to stop it right here and now. I don’t care when or if Clay wins a race, but just not today. Not here at my home track where we have a chance to extend our points lead, which is going to be very valuable when we get down to Indy [the last race of the regular season].”
In Funny Car, Hagan extended his series lead with his third win of the season as he edged final round opponent John Force at the finish line. Hagan’s Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger posted a 4.605 at 315.34, while Force’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang finished just behind in 4.113 at 304.80.
“It’s so hard to get these wins, so I feel great to be here,” said Hagan, who had to knock of championship title contender Johnny Gray, defending world champ Jack Beckman and Bob Tasca III in earlier rounds.
“I don’t think you could put together a tougher line-up,” Hagan continued. “We’re doing good things right now and we want to keep it up, but I want to stay humble. This is such a humbling sport. Things can change fast, so we’re just gonna keep doing what we’ve been doing.”