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Tony Schumacher Makes Impressive Run in Leatherwood Distillery/RAC Financial Top Fueler, Comes Up Short at NHRA Arizona Nationals

Tom Macht photo

Driving the Leatherwood Distillery/RAC Financial Top Fuel dragster, Tony Schumacher posted the best run of Sunday’s opening elimination round at Firebird Motorsports Park yet found himself on the wrong side of a close drag race.
Before he made a run at the Sunday hardware, Schumacher had already scored one win earlier in the weekend. On Saturday afternoon during the second round of qualifying for the NHRA Arizona Nationals, Schumacher clinched his first victory of the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season when he defeated Brittany Force to win the Phoenix edition of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Top Fuel Challenge. After collecting his first trophy of the weekend, Schumacher then faced his former teammate Justin Ashley in the weather-delayed running of the NHRA Winternationals final round during Q3. Hoping to go two-for-two, Schumacher gave it a good run, recording a 3.772 E.T. to Ashley’s slower 3.802-second run, but his opponent’s starting line advantage propelled him across the finish line stripe first.
Schumacher and the Leatherwood/RAC team had redemption on their mind on Sunday morning when they lined up next to Ashley once again. The eight-time Top Fuel world champ had the better-qualified car, starting from the No. 6 position which pitted him against Ashley who was starting from the 11th seed. Crew chiefs Mike ‘Zippy’ Neff and Jon Schaffer tuned the Leatherwood/RAC rail to a 3.791 E.T. at 325.69 MPH, which held up to be the best run through the first three elimination rounds, but once again Ashley’s holeshot start carried him through the finish line beams first, allowing him to advance with his 3.804-second pass.
“Terrible outcome for what would’ve been a great race,” said Schumacher, who had a 0.067-second reaction time to Ashley’s 0.039. “Every other side-by-side matchup this morning, we would have won. We were low E.T. of first round, and I was third-quickest on the tree. Unfortunately, we ran someone who was the quickest on the tree, and he won. Whatever Justin is doing, hats off to him because he’s doing a hell of a job. Absolute respect for what he’s doing with his right foot.
“At the end of the day, we now have a car that can compete with the rest of the field. On paper, a first-round loss doesn’t look so great, but today was simply one of those situations where we were on the bad side of a good drag race. Would’ve preferred to be on the good side but we have confidence knowing that we’re competitive.”
Schumacher departs the Phoenix area ranked seventh in the Top Fuel standings. The Leatherwood Distillery/RAC Financial team won’t have to wait long for another opportunity to collect more win lights as the NHRA Mission Foods Series heads to Las Vegas next weekend, April 12 – 14, for the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

This story was originally published on April 8, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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