Countdown Begins At zMAX

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Tony Schumacher celebrates his 53rd career victory during the inaugural NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., last year. (HHP/Harold Hinson Photo)

Tony Schumacher celebrates his 53rd career victory during the inaugural NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., last year. (HHP/Harold Hinson Photo)

CONCORD, N.C. — Last season, Tony Schumacher’s U.S. Army team set the benchmark for how other NHRA Top Fuel teams should perform in their quest for the Full Throttle championship.

With 15 victories and nine No. 1 qualifying performances, “The Sarge” easily raced to his sixth series title and fifth straight.

But of all those times Schumacher hoisted a Wally in 2008, one event — the inaugural NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMAX Dragway — stands out among the others. With his final-round triumph over Antron Brown, Schumacher passed Joe Amato to become the all-time winningest Top Fuel driver with 53 triumphs.

“That was an incredible moment,” Schumacher says. “No matter what happens during the rest of my career, I’ll always remember that special day.”

Heading into this weekend’s Carolinas Nationals at the “Bellagio of drag strips” outside of Charlotte, N.C., Schumacher will begin both his title defense as world champion sitting third in class standings, 40 points behind Brown, as the series enters the first race of NHRA’s six-event Countdown to One.

Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman will join Schumacher in his defense of the Carolinas Nationals Funny Car title, along with Justin Humphreys in Pro Stock and Steve Johnson in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

“We are down to six immensely huge races and just a number of big moments coming up,” he says. “The new season is upon us. Whatever happened to this point really doesn’t mean very much, to be honest. It’s all about how you perform the next six races.”
“We need to get off on the right foot,” says Schumacher, who already has four Wallys this season. “Our mission is to intently march towards another title for our Army Strong Soldiers. We’d like nothing better than to win another Carolinas Nationals.”

Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Tony Pedregon (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the point leaders entering this weekend’s opener in the Countdown to One.