Sarge's world: Can't rest on this success

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The NHRA's regular season is now over. We put the wraps on the 18th race of the year out at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis on Labor Day. To be sure, the U.S. Army Top Fuel team certainly closed the pre-playoffs part of the schedule with quite the bang — we captured the 55th version of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. What a great thrill it was to once again win the NHRA's most prestigious race of the year. In fact, it was my eighth U.S. Nationals title and I was able to match Don Garlits' Top Fuel career win mark. While I was certainly ecstatic about claiming another Indy win, I was especially excited for my crew chief, Mike Green, and the entire U.S. Army team. They worked so hard in preparation for this particular race. Like our Army Strong Soldiers, they performed like a well-oiled machine. It was Mike's first U.S. Nationals win as a crew chief. To see his face light up in the winner's circle was really special. I don't think he's stopped smiling since the win light came on in my lane late Monday afternoon. Almost lost in the celebration was the fact that we were able to beat my old U.S. Army team and crew chief, Alan Johnson, in the finals. Clearly, they're a great team over there. When you beat them, it's a big accomplishment. I'm pretty sure the fans were happy to see that final-round matchup. We had a couple of VIPs in the house over the weekend as well. First, we hosted our Hometown Hero, Specialist Gregory Waters, who is a Silver Star and Purple Heart recipient. And, on race day, NASCAR team owner (U.S. Army car)/driver Tony Stewart arrived. It was nice to have both of them in our camp.

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Stewart, who is known as "Smoke" in most circles, arrived before the first round and stayed right to the end. In fact, he was up at the finish line to meet me after the final-round victory. He even made his way to the winner's circle with us. Needless to say, he's been to his share of winner's circles. While we're still enjoying our U.S. Nationals win, it's time to quickly start thinking about the Countdown to 1, which begins in Charlotte in two weeks. Obviously, we'll be heading down there with some momentum, which is terrific. The Charlotte race is one of four straight for us. We'll also go through Dallas, Memphis and Richmond on successive weekends. We'll definitely need to be on top of our game during this tough stretch if we're going to challenge for another title. With that, I'm going to get ready to enjoy a weekend off before the pace picks up in earnest. "The Sarge" extends his usual group salute to y'all. We'll reunite right after the trip to Charlotte. So, until then, stay well and please remember our troops in your thoughts and prayers.

Six-time world champion Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher pilots the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. He will be providing a blog throughout the 2009 season.

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