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Tony Schumacher Debuts Leatherwood Distillery Top Fuel Dragster

In Top Fuel competition, Tony Schumacher rolled into the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season-opener with a renewed sense of confidence and a brand-new look on his JCM Racing Top Fuel dragster. Debuting the Leatherwood Distillery livery in front of a packed house at Gainesville Raceway, Schumacher and his Mike ‘Zippy’ Neff/Jon Schaffer-led team scored the No. 5 qualifying position to start race day at the NHRA Gatornationals from the top half of the field.

The Leatherwood Distillery team opened the weekend with a dropped cylinder in the first round of qualifying but quickly rebounded in the second session with Schumacher taking his 12,000 horsepower machine to the stripe in 3.728 seconds to move into sixth. After waiting out a lengthy rain delay on Saturday, traction issues plagued the team in Q3 but once again, they were able to regroup and recover. In the final session, Schumacher launched hard and clocked his quickest pass of the weekend, a 3.712 E.T. at 326.79 MPH, to move up one position to sixth.

Schumacher began race day with lane choice over his first-round opponent, No. 12 qualifier and hometown racer Josh Hart. The eight-time Top Fuel world champ was looking forward to extending his class-best record of five Gatornationals triumphs but unfortunately, a tricky track got the better of the team. The Leatherwood car lost traction and slowed to a 4.024 E.T. while Hart clocked a 3.750 to advance.

“That was a very disheartening run and I will say that last night lying in bed watching it downpour 40 feet from the track in my American Coach, I knew that today was going to be like nothing we’ve seen,” Schumacher said of his first round performance. “Completely green track, some cars are going to go fast as hell and some cars are going to do things they weren’t expecting, and we unfortunately chose the wrong path. Looking at the computer, it’s hard to tell if it shook or spun. There was a big bald spot on the starting line, but I know we’ll learn from what happened. We’ll go to Pomona and kick some butt. We had a great car during qualifying and we all really thought we were winning the race today. So, it was an anticlimactic way to end the weekend but at the end of the day, we have a way better car than we had last year so we won’t let this one get us down.

The NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series heads west to Pomona, California next for the NHRA Winternationals, March 22 – 24. 

This story was originally published on March 11, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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