Schumacher, Earnhardt Are Winners Again
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s always satisfying to return to victory lane after a long drought, but for the two men who did it Sunday, it had to be especially satisfying.
NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the NHRA’s Tony Schumacher each ended long losing streaks Sunday. Earnhardt found victory lane at Michigan Int’l Speedway for the first time in four years (143 starts), while Schumacher ended a 32-race winless skid that stretched back to 2010.
Earnhardt, NASCAR’s most popular driver, had come close oh so many times. In the four years since his last victory he’d finished second seven times, including near misses at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Florida’s Daytona Int’l Speedway.
Earnhardt’s victory at the two-mile oval was almost never in doubt. He had the best car, leading 95 laps and beating his closest pursuer by more than five seconds.
“I was just thinking, man, those laps could not go by fast enough. I was like — I’ve got a big lead, I’m going to take it easy — no, I want to run it hard, get it over with,” Earnhardt said. “So I was just in there going crazy, thinking — and I’m looking all around the race track hoping there’s no debris around the next corner. I just knew I was going to come around the next corner and see a piece of metal laying in the race track. I was just waiting on something to happen.”
But there wasn’t any debris, there wasn’t a car with an engine failure and there wasn’t a crash. The stars aligned perfectly and Earnhardt happily sealed the deal.
“You get bad breaks along the way, but if you have a strong enough race team, and strong enough cars, then even the bad luck can’t hold you down forever, and I think this year, we have earned this win,” Earnhardt said.
For Schumacher, the pure excitement of ending his 32-race winless streak all but consumed him Sunday at Tennessee’s Bristol Dragway.
“What a day this has been,” said Schumacher. “To be able to win for our Army Strong Soldiers and my dad, while ending a 32-race losing streak, it’s really a tremendous feeling. I can’t explain how happy I am right now. I almost forgot how heavy these event trophies are – I think I was beginning to lose my trophy muscles.”
Schumacher, a seven-time NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Top Fuel champion, has been the man to beat for many years in what is considered the NHRA’s premier division. Schumacher’s winless streak stunned many, but he knew it was simply a matter of time before he’d find his way back to victory lane.
On Sunday, all the cards fell into place when Schumacher upended Doug Kalitta in the final round.
“There aren’t any freebies in Top Fuel,” Schumacher said. “We definitely had to earn each and every round win today. We were pushed very hard by all of those guys, which was to be expected. I think NHRA drag racing fans are enjoying a great, competitive show so far this year.”
Now the focus for both Earnhardt and Schumacher turns to the next race and winning their respective championships. Both drivers are in the thick of championship battles, with Earnhardt four points out of the Sprint Cup championship lead and Schumacher leading the NHRA Top Fuel standings.
The easiest way to win championships is to win races, and now that both drivers got their taste for winning back, one can only expect to see them both back in victory lane sooner rather than later.
“It feels good to win, and I’ll enjoy it, and in a day or two, I’ll be thirsty for the next one,” Earnhardt said.