NHRA in Joliet: Blowup a good thing for Schumacher
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org June 30, 2013 8:34PM
Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher claims the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals victory Sunday at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet. | Supplied photo
Updated: August 2, 2013 7:37AM
Tony Schumacher’s Top Fuel dragster started blowing up and spewing parts out the back end about 100 feet from the finish line at the NHRA O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 Nationals on Sunday. But Schumacher didn’t see that as a bad thing.
Instead, he was able to parlay that blowup into a championship run during the final elimination round at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet. Schumacher, racing for his father, Don, beat Clay Millican 3.930 seconds to 4.094 to win the Top Fuel division.
‘‘We were going to blow up (the car) whether we won or lost,” he said. ‘‘I hit the gas and it already had a cylinder out pretty early.’’
What Schumacher did see as a bad thing is what would have happened if he didn’t have a protective canopy over the cockpit. Only a few drag racers use the canopy; he said the shield probably saved him from a head injury. During the 2012 O’Reilly Nationals, the same thing happened to Schumacher’s car and he was in pain for several days afterward.
‘‘That concussion would have been 10 times worse without it,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m going to feel it (Monday), but I felt it last time for a lot longer. I think people who don’t have it on their car need to think about it.’’
Schumacher won for the fourth time at Joliet, and he wasn’t the only winner for Don Schumacher Racing. DSR driver Matt Hagan beat John Force in the Funny Car finals, 4.065 seconds to Force’s 4.113.
It was Hagan’s second win at Joliet — his previous victory came in 2010 — and his third win of the season. He was the Funny Car world champion in 2011.
‘‘We got to double up with Tony, and it’s awesome to bring it home for (Don Schumacher),’’ Hagan said. ‘‘We started off the day in a slump, but we put it behind us and the car ran well all day and it was flawless. I had to hold onto a fast race car.’’
It was the fifth time this season that DSR drivers won Top Fuel and Funny Car categories at the same Mello Yellow event. It’s the 37th time since 2003 that DSR has posted a double victory. Schumacher has been a part of them 21 times.
The victories by Hagan and Schumacher also gave them the points lead in their respective divisions.
Those victories were even more special for Chicago native Don Schumacher, who got his 210th career win as an owner. DSR started in the Chicago area but is now based in Brownsburg, Ind.
‘‘It’s an incredible number, but I really don’t count (the victories),’’ Don Schumacher said. ‘‘To be able to do it here at my home track with all the fans and my family, it was a massive weekend for us.’’