NHRA in Joliet: Schumacher aims to stay on top in Top Fuel
By Jeff Vorva For Sun-Times Media June 28, 2012 11:06PM
The temperature on the Route 66 Raceway track reached 127 degrees during Thursday afternoon's Comp Eliminator division qualifying. | Jeff Vorva~For Sun-Times Media
NHRA In Joliet
What: O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals
Where: Route 66 Raceway,
500 Speedway Blvd.
Schedule: Friday and Saturday, gates open at 7:30 a.m. with various divisions running throughout the day. The Nitro Burning Funny Car/Top Fuel divisions run at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday, gates open at 7:30 a.m. and fans can walk the track with the drivers at 10 a.m. before the 10:15 a.m. driver introductions. Top Fuel/Funny Cars elimination rounds are at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:45 p.m., with the finals at 4:15 p.m.
Tickets: Prices vary, but Sunday’s event ranges from $11 general admission for children 12 and under to $66 for adult reserved. Call (888) 629-7223.
TV: ESPN 2 and ESPN 3.
Updated: July 30, 2012 6:37AM
On Father’s Day, most of the racing world centered its attention on NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won his first Sprint Cup race more than four years, covering 143 races, at Michigan International Speedway.
On the same day several states south of that event, National Hot Rod Association superstar Tony Schumacher was busy breaking a losing streak of his own.
The seven-time Top Fuel world champion from northwest suburban Long Grove ended a 32-race winless streak when he won an event in Bristol, Tenn.
After taking last weekend off, the NHRA Full Throttle circuit heats up again at the 15th Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at the Route 66 Raceway in Joliet. There will be champions crowned in 12 divisions. Preliminary action in many of the divisions began Thursday but the high-profile qualifications for the Fuel Dragster and Funny Car divisions start Friday.
Schumacher is hoping to reverse his fortunes after the long stretch between career victory No. 67 and 68.
“Heading to Joliet for the next race — I couldn’t ask for a better situation,” Schumacher said after the Bristol event. “Having just gotten that first win of the year and retaken the points lead, that’s what you want to bring with you to your home track. I can’t wait to race in front of my family and friends. It will be hectic, but very enjoyable.
“I hope we can reverse our old streak and start building a winning streak,” Schumacher added. “But you can’t take anything for granted in this sport. We just have to go with the same kind of focus and determination that we’ve had all year and give it our best shot. Hopefully, that effort will produce another win.”
Schumacher has won three times in Joliet, in 2003, ’05 and ’08 and is aiming at Kenny Bernstein’s record of four victories here.
The first 10 races have seen six different champions in Top Fuel this year.
Last year’s Route 66 champion and Top Fuel champ Del Worsham will not defend either title. He retired after the 2011 season and now is a crew chief.
Despite the long losing streak, Schumacher was able to have enough top finishes to vault him to first in the standings with 846 points followed by Spencer Massey (806), Antron Brown (756), Steve Torrence (679) and Morgan Lucas (667).
In Funny Car, there have been six different champs in 10 races but the defending champ is not one of them.
Reigning world champion Matt Hagan enters the Joliet race in 11th place in the standings. Last year’s Joliet champ, Mike Neff, is third behind Robert Hight and Ron Capps.
Beecher’s Dale Creasy Jr. also is entered in Funny Car this weekend. He is 23rd in the points standing but has entered just three events this season.
Wilmington’s Ryan Bolin races in the Super Gas Division, while Dwight’s William Worby, Channahon’s Justin Ford and Lemont’s Fredric Fisher compete in the Super Street Division.
Other south suburban drivers include Palos Hills’ Kevin Lawrence (Pro Stock) and Tinley Park’s Larry and Brian Reimer (Super Comp).