Tony Schumacher qualified the SCAG Power Equipment Top Fuel dragster 11th for the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals, the opening event of the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Making his first Countdown and Maple Grove Raceway appearance since 2018, Schumacher returned to ‘the Grove’ looking to add to his category-best five Reading Wally trophies.
Schumacher’s 3.754-second pass from the weekend’s third qualifying session pitted him against fellow championship-hopeful Clay Millican in round one of eliminations on Sunday morning. Schumacher, a two-time finalist in 2022 who powered to victory in Seattle last month, scored a large holeshot start on Millican to nab the early lead, but his 11,000-horsepower machine drove into tire smoke shortly after, and his opponent was able to drive around for the win, ending Schumacher’s day after the first round.
“It’s been four years since I’ve been back at Reading, and man, this is a beautiful place,” said Schumacher, an eight-time Top Fuel series champion. “The fans were jam-packed in here all weekend, and we love to see that. Our car did not perform that well during qualifying, and we didn’t do that great on race day. We had a huge lead versus Clay early on and then it spun the tires, I pedaled, it shredded a belt, and Clay got past at the finish line.
“It’s easy to be disappointed, but when I sit down and I think about the day, it comes down to the fact that we are in the entertainment business and there has to be a winner and a loser. And right now, we are not performing to the level we need to be at, but we will get there. And I know we will get there, and I can say that with confidence because I’ve been in this position before. We will rebound, and we will get our car back into winning form.”
After the first playoff event, Schumacher sits 12th in the point standings and is within one round win of the No. 10-ranked driver. Schumacher and the Maynard Family Racing team compete next at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals in Concord, N.C., September 23-25, where Schumacher returns as a two-time event champion.