With Sunday’s field set for the 38th annual NHRA Southern Nationals, Tony Schumacher has officially inked another major milestone in the record books by qualifying for his 350th consecutive event.
The most successful driver in Top Fuel history has a long and impressive resumé chocked full of career highlights, including leading the class in:
- NHRA Mello Yello Series championships: Eight (1999, 2004-2009, 2014)
- Consecutive Mello Yello Series championships: Six (2004-2009)
- Event wins: 83
- Event wins in a single season: 15 (2008)
- Consecutive victories in a single season: Seven (2008)
- Round wins: 814
- Round wins in a single season: 76 in 2008
- Consecutive round wins in a single season: 31 (2008)
- Final rounds in a single season: 18 (2008)
- Consecutive final rounds: 11 (2008)
- No. 1 qualifiers: 86
- No. 1 qualifiers in a single season: 13 (2006)
- Consecutive No. 1 qualifiers: Six (2005)
- Qualifying streaks: 350 (beginning with Topeka 2003)
“That’s a big number,” said the U.S. Army Top Fuel pilot. “You think about an awful lot of moments that were absolute pressure cooker situations where we weren’t in (the show going into) the last run. There are a lot of races in those 350 where we went up for Q4 and we weren’t qualified, including Indy a few years back. We’re good at big pressure moments. We’re good at just getting it done. And when most people would choke under the pressure, we get it done in those situations. Those are the most fun.”
350 consecutive race day starts is the longest qualifying streak in Top Fuel history and ranks third among active drivers. Currently, Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson leads the pack with 354 consecutive race day starts. The longest qualifying streak in NHRA history belongs to Funny Car’s John Force with 395, ending in 2007.
While the ‘350 streak’ has been 15 years in the making, perhaps just as impressive is the fact that Schumacher has qualified for 452 out of his past 453 attempts, only missing the mark at Englishtown in 2003. Prior, Schumacher had successfully qualified for 102 consecutive events beginning with Reading in 1998 through Atlanta in 2003. Following the Englishtown shutout, he began his current streak at the next event in Topeka.
“That Englishtown DNQ was a huge part of my career,” continued Schumacher. “In reality, Englishtown is the reason (former Army crew chief) Alan Johnson came to DSR. Englishtown is the reason we set all those records and won championship after championship. That DNQ is a blessing in every way.”
It’s only fitting that Schumacher achieved this major milestone at Atlanta Dragway. The Commerce, Ga. track is the only venue on the NHRA tour where Schumacher has not visited the winner’s circle. In 21 attempts, Schumacher has raced to a runner-up finish five times.
“The problem with Atlanta is that the track’s too long,” joked the two-time Atlanta Dragway No. 1 qualifier. “I was winning many times and the other guy passed me. We’ve had some great opportunities to win Atlanta. I’ve made it to a lot of finals. We have to figure out how to finish the mission. It’s time.”
On his chances at finally sealing the deal on Sunday at the Southern Nationals, Schumacher said, “We are in a good spot on the ladder. We have a U.S. Army car that goes down the track. According to the weather, it’s going to be hot tomorrow and when it’s all said and done, we are going to go out and try to win this race. We are in the field and I have a car that is as race-able as we’ve ever had.”
Qualified: No. 5 (lane choice)
The Competition: No. 12 Bill Litton
Q1: 4.219 E.T. at 212.26 MPH
Q2: 4.994 E.T. at 141.08 MPH
Q3: 3.794 E.T. at 327.82 MPH (One bonus point for third quickest run of the session)
Q4: 3.848 E.T. at 313.44 MPH
DSR PR/Photo NHRA Media