Oakley's Tony Schumacher Wins Gatornationals
Oakley’s Tony Schumacher added a fourth Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals trophy to his collection to highlight a record-setting day in Gainesville. He was joined in the winner’s circle by Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Those victories capped an incredible day of action that included two national speed records, a national e.t. record, numerous runs that rank in the top 10 of all time, and more career bests. The speed records in both nitro classes fell during the day. After his teammate Cory McClenathan posted a 322.50-mph lap in the opening round, Schumacher blew it away with a 324.98-mph shot in the semifinals. He backed up the run with his 322.04 in the final to set a new national mark for speed.
It was fitting that the Top Fuel final came down to Don Schumacher Racing teammates Schumacher and Antron Brown because they had the two best cars all weekend. Unlike in qualifying and the other rounds when Brown was just a tick better than Schumacher, in the final, the U.S. Army driver came out on top, wheeling his dragster to a 3.797 to beat the tire-smoking Brown and collect Wally No. 62. This was also the fourth Gainesville win for Schumacher, tying him with Joe Amato and Larry Dixon for the most Top Fuel wins at this event. The victory also moved “the Sarge” into the points lead, by 11 markers over McClenathan. “This is absolutely special,” said Schumacher. “First of all, this is the Gatornationals; it’s Gainesville. I’ve won it four times now. But my lights have been bad at the first two races. We’ve had a car that could win, and I’ve been doing everything I can. We finally started working on it hard, and we needed that confidence; I needed that confidence again. That was perfect. It was exactly what we had to go out and do at the exact right time.
“The [DSR] crew chiefs are doing a great job, but they’ve been asking us, the drivers, to focus on driving the same, and we’ve worked on that for quite a while. We’re trying to keep it the same. Cory goes out yesterday and runs an .83, then he turns around and the crew chief says, ‘This is what we have to fix.’ We change it and go out and run an .82, turn around and tell Antron’s crew, ‘This is what we got to do.’ It was just perfect — better, better, and best. That’s what teams can do. When they really work well together and jell and they’re not out there doing stupid things, they just get stronger and better.” Starting from the No. 2 spot on the ladder, Schumacher was consistently quick all day. In the opening three rounds, he clicked off passes of 3.81, 3.83, and 3.82 to defeat Terry McMillen, Doug Foley, and Dixon and secure a spot in his 96th final.
Brown and his Matco Tools-backed team couldn’t have scripted their Gainesville weekend any better. After destroying their primary car in their first-round accident in Phoenix, Brown and his team returned to competition with a brand-new car, and the new dragster performed flawlessly. Brown qualified No. 1, then ran low e.t. of two of the three rounds to advance to his 49th overall final and 16th in Top Fuel. He defeated Todd Paton, Steve Torrence, and Shawn Langdon on his way to the title round.