Tony Schumacher reflects on historic win at the NHRA U.S. Nationals

BY foxsports • September 5, 2016

Tony Schumacher admits he didn't really know how to fully drive a Top Fuel car back in 1996, when as a rookie driver made his first start at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. 

Schumacher qualified in the No. 16 spot, the final open position in the qualified field, and managed to reach the final round. One might consider the magical moment as beginner's luck. 

Twenty years later, at the Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals on Monday, Schumacher scored a record 10th event victory at the Labor Day spectacular, scoring more wins at the prestigious event than any other professional drag racer. Schumacher surpassed Bob Glidden for the top spot by stopping Steve Torrence in the final round. 

Joining the U.S. Army sponsored Schumacher on the winner's podium at Lucas Oil Raceway was teammate Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Schumacher faced a familiar foe in the final, as he matched up with Torrence's CAPCO team, which employs Alan Johnson as a tuning consultant. In his first race, Schumacher was scheduled to meet Johnson's brother Blaine, who was killed during the final qualifying session at the 1996 event. 

"I gotta say to Alan Johnson; I know how much that one meant to him," Schumacher said. "I know how intense it was when lost Blaine 20 years ago, but know that he was riding with me too. We love the moments; we love the battles you guys put on." 

Schumacher's road to victory included wins over Tripp Tatum, defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown and J.R. Todd. 

Monday's triumph completed a clean sweep race which included the $100,000 Traxxas Top Fuel Shootout on Saturday. 

First-time Indy winner Hagan used a holeshot to secure the second career double-up victory for Don Schumacher Racing, as he outran Del Worsham for the Funny Car title.

Hagan was .034 of a second quicker off of the starting line, and that made the difference in a 3.964 to 3.958 decision.

Hagan reached the final round with victories over John Bojec, Robert Hight and Tommy Johnson, Jr. 

"When you're racing Del Worsham, he's a competitor, and brings you to the game," Hagan said. "He makes you get on-point, so I'm just glad to get it done."

McGaha became the fifth 2016 Pro Stock winner as he ran a 6.688 elapsed time at 207.15 miles per hour secure his second career Pro Stock victory at the expense of Denver winner Allen Johnson. The victory pushed him into seventh in the championship point standings.

The Odessa, Texas-based driver said the last 100 foot of the race had him coaxing his car to the finish line.

"I was in the car, and I was saying, 'I'm winning, I'm winning, I'm winning, don't break or nothin' now," McGaha admitted.  

Pro Stock Motorcycle's winningest rider Hines added victory No. 47 to his win total as he scored his fifth win of the season when Hector Arana Jr. fouled. The Screamin' Eagle rider scored the victory with a 6.862 elapsed time at  194.63 miles per hour. 

"It was a total team effort," Hines said. "We came out and tested last week and figured out a few things. But we came in here this week, and the weather was totally different. So all our notes were totally wrong. I've got such a resilient crew. They figured out how to make things make power in different kinds of air."

The Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals concludes the 18-race regular season of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drag racing's version of the playoffs, the Countdown to the Championship, kicks off the six-race series in less than two weeks at zMax Dragway, located on the grounds of Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Bobby Bennett is the Publisher/Editor of, a leading independent online drag racing magazine, since 1999. For the latest in dragster news worldwide, visit or follow on Twitter @competitionplus