The seven-time Top Fuel champion was disappointed to lose his opening round match-up Sunday in the 26th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway yet, he's confident the data his team is collecting during the 2013 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Western Swing will go a long way toward their ultimate goal of becoming the first Mello Yello Top Fuel champions later this season.
Schumacher's U.S. Army and DSR teammate, Antron Brown, continued his recent Sonoma success by racing the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR into the semifinal before losing to Top Fuel point leader and eventual event winner Shawn Langdon.
"The Sarge" entered the NHRA's 800th event all-time second in the championship standings following his semifinal appearance in Denver to open the Western Swing. Schumacher qualified the U.S. Army Dragster for DSR 12th on the ladder and opened eliminations with a stout match-up versus DSR's Spencer Massey, who won last week in Denver. Things went away quickly after the launch for Schumacher as his tires went up in smoke when the dragster reached 100 feet. Massey would also haze his tires, but was able to get down the track with a run of 4.291 seconds at 242.71 mph. After smoking the tires, Schumacher got back into the throttle and reached the finish line in 5.380 seconds at 148.35 mph.
"The fact is we should have won the race," said Schumacher, who was seeking his third career win in Sonoma. "All we had to do was go down the track. He spun the tires. We just spun them first. You don't need to run against one of the better cars in the first round, but you also need to go down the race track. To be the champion, you have to win all the ones you' re suppose to win and half the ones you're not. As the leader of this team, it's always 100% positive around here. Adversity is what life's all about."
Schumacher ventures to Seattle, 104 points behind Langdon and two behind Massey in the standings still with two more events to continue gathering data in advance of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals and the six-race Countdown to 1 playoffs.
"We made it clear coming into this weekend that we were going to be testing quite a bit of new stuff," said Schumacher. "We're working on September and October tune-ups, stuff that's going to carry over to win a championship. We've got to be aggressive to do that. We'll be in test mode until Indy testing (in late August). You can win a championship in the last six races with the best car from the third position (in the points) or from first. You can't win from first with a bad car in the Countdown."
Brown was optimistic coming into Sonoma, where he had won the two previous events. He raced the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR to wins Sunday over Clay Millican and Tommy Johnson, Jr., before coming up short versus Langdon when his motor exploded at half track. The 2012 Top Fuel champion ranks fifth in the championship standings heading into next week's Western Swing finale in Seattle.
"It was a good weekend out here for this entire team," Brown said. "The car has definitely turned the corner. People are pushing and working hard. Everyone was happy to go out today in the first round and put up our best pass of the weekend. We were building toward that. There is nothing better than when you make changes to the car, and it responds by working exactly the way you hoped it would. That really builds confidence in everyone involved. That's the biggest benefit. We knew what had been plaguing us (in the past few races). We've been working hard to get the car back, the team back and me back to where we need to be. We'll go to Seattle and just try to build on what we accomplished here. Our focus is to keep building and when we get to the Countdown, be right where we want to be. I think we're really close to that right now."
Langdon won his fourth event of the season by defeating Morgan Lucas in the final and pushed his lead in the standings to a fairly comfortable margin over Massey and Schumacher, while Brown is 306 markers back of the leader.
The next event is the 26th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals Aug. 2-4 at Pacific Raceways in Seattle, Wash.