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Tony Schumacher, Leatherwood Distillery Team Leaving Pomona with NHRA Winternationals Title Still On The Line

Persistent rain showers plagued teams throughout the weekend during the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California, and Sunday’s elimination rounds were no exception. After scoring his best qualifying position in 46 events, Tony Schumacher and the Leatherwood Distillery Top Fuel team began race day at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip from the No. 2 starting position. Schumacher was on track to capture his first trophy of the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season but will now have to wait nearly two weeks to make a run for a third Winternationals victory.

In the opening round of eliminations on Sunday, Schumacher used his starting line advantage coupled with a 3.752 E.T. to easily defeat Terry Totten’s instant tire-smoker. Next up for Schumacher was a showdown with Shawn Langdon, who entered the weekend as the most recent winner on tour after powering to victory at the season-opener in Gainesville, Florida two weeks prior. Once again, Schumacher’s machine-like reflexes allowed him to score the holeshot start and he never trailed for the win, taking the Leatherwood dragster through the finish line beams in 3.774 seconds versus Langdon’s 4.589-second effort.

The semifinal round featured a match-up with another heavy-hitter, with the eight-time world champ lining up opposite Billy Torrence. Against Torrence, Schumacher was first out of the gate for the third consecutive round and clocked a 3.742 E.T. to knock out his opponent and earn a bid to the final round for the 158th time in his storied career. Shortly after, the skies opened up with rain and hail, forcing NHRA to cancel the remainder of on-track activities for the day. The Winternationals will be completed during the upcoming NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird Motorsports Park, April 5 – 7, where Schumacher will meet his former teammate Justin Ashley in the final round. Schumacher will be attempting to win his first race since he scored JCM Racing’s first trophy at the 2022 NHRA Northwest Nationals near Seattle, and his 87th win overall.

“It’s always disappointing when you’re going into the finals and your car is running well and you’ve got the momentum rolling, you’re driving well, the crew is doing a great job, you have lane choice, and all of a sudden it hails,” said Schumacher, who last competed in a final round during the rescheduled 2023 NHRA New England Nationals, which were contested in Bristol, Tennessee the following week. “It doesn’t happen often, but it is what it is. We’ll go on and finish this race in Phoenix. We’ll have a big, big Phoenix which is truly exciting. We’ll have a shot to win that race, a shot to win this race, a shot to win the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, so, there will be a lot on the line. But hey, the car is performing and that’s something we’ve been working toward for a long time. Whether we won it here, or we win there, we made it to the finals, we earned some points. The guys did a heck of a job and we’re all so happy that we have a car that is running good enough to make it into the finals. Justin is a great driver. I’ll be racing against my old sponsor and my old crew chief, Mike Green. I won two championships with him, I respect that team and I’m going to show up with respect and do my job to beat them.”

In Top Alcohol Dragster competition, No. 9 qualifier Joe C. Maynard snapped his undefeated streak when he lost a tight race on a holeshot in the first round of eliminations versus Joey Severance. It was Maynard’s first elimination round loss since making his debut in Gainesville, Florida earlier this month where he doubled up on trophies, winning both the national and rescheduled divisional event.

This story was originally published on March 25, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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