Sarge's World: Proving them wrong one last time
As you read this, we have put the wraps on the 2009 NHRA Full
Throttle Drag Racing Series season. And what a season it was for
the U.S. Army Top Fuel team.
The U.S. Army team captured its sixth straight world championship at the season finale in Pomona earlier this month. Of course, it was not accomplished without some dramatic fanfare. Having recorded some big moments at Auto Club Raceway in the past, it was appropriate that we put another chapter in the book at the 2009 Auto Club Finals.
To set the stage, you may recall we had a slight one-point lead over Larry Dixon going into the race weekend. After the first day of qualifying we were able to double the lead, but then Larry jumped on top of the order following the second round of action.
It was during the last day of qualifying that our big moment arrived. In session number four, we laid down a near record 3.772-second pass which vaulted us back into the lead by two points.
Now, fast forward to race day and it was on us to maintain what was essentially a one round lead over Larry. We ended up doing just that. Larry lost in the semifinals to Spencer Massey and that clinched the crown right there, despite us also going out in the semis courtesy of my teammate, Antron Brown.
We're now a couple of days beyond the title-clinching day and I can tell you we're all still on cloud nine. For my crew chief, Mike Green, and all of my team, this is their first championship. You can only imagine their emotions still today.
Many of the so-called experts counted us out before the season started. All you heard was Schumacher would not win another race, no less another championship, since crew chief Alan Johnson and his team left following 2008.
Well, I'm here to emphatically state the experts were dead wrong.
They all underestimated the talent and desire that Mike and the guys had. They worked their butts off from day one to make sure the U.S. Army car would remain in title contention. They were intently focused on delivering another championship trophy to our hard-working Army Strong Soldiers. You can safely say it was mission accomplished.
In fact, this year's version will soon go to Fort Hood, Tex. to honor the fallen and wounded from the tragedy that occurred there in early November. I have put in the request with the Army to allow me to hand deliver the trophy myself. That's how much it means to me.
I know Mike Green and I get most of the attention when it comes to the team's successes, but there were nine other guys who were clearly just as important throughout the year.
Tyler Clouser, Ron Freedman, Ryan McGilvry, Lanny Miglizzi, Brad Morrison, Neal Strausbaugh, Tom Turkal, Mike Vendely and Joe Veyette were all instrumental in making sure the U.S. Army car was flawless over 24 races. There isn't a better group of guys out there, I can guarantee you that.
People have been asking me how this championship rates with the previous six. It certainly ranks right up there. Again, many NHRA followers assumed I/the team would quickly fade into the sunset and would never be heard from again.
To go out and beat your old crew chief and old team was quite gratifying to say the very least. They're a great bunch over there and that added into the mix as well. When you beat an Alan Johnson team, you know you've really done something.
To further reflect on what was a magical season, I have to say winning Indy for the eighth time was also very special. Being able to tie the legend Don Garlits for the most Top Fuel wins was rather mind-boggling. Here's hoping my love affair with O'Reilly Raceway Park continues in 2010.
And, speaking of 2010, it won't come quick enough for me and my team. We're going to work extremely hard in the offseason to make sure we defend our turf, sort to speak. I'm confident the guys, after some much deserved time off, will hit the shop running in preparation for our first test session.
Personally, I'm going to make sure I stay mentally and physically sharp over the next couple of months. My team expects that of me and I expect that of myself. I want to be ready to roll by the time the season opener comes around the middle of February.
With that, "The Sarge" would like to extend one final group salute to y'all for 2009. The U.S. Army team wishes you a safe and enjoyable upcoming holiday season. We appreciate all of the support you gave the sport this season and we sincerely hope to see you at the track at some point next year. Y'all stay well and please remember to keep our Army Strong Soldiers in your thoughts and prayers, especially during the holidays.
Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher pilots the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. He provided a blog throughout the 2009 season.