Tony Schumacher started race day at the NHRA Arizona Nationals from the No. 12 spot and faced last week’s winner, Justin Ashley, in round one. Before he even pulled up to the line for the opening session, the Maynard Family Racing/Kaizen Collision Centers Top Fuel team were faced with adversity when an electrical issue prevented them from being able to fire up the car during their pre-race warm-up. With the clock ticking, Schumacher and his team made it to the starting line with minutes to spare. Schumacher and Ashley lined up, and both drivers encountered problems early. The eight-time Top Fuel world champ battled through dropped cylinders to hang on for a winning 3.892-second E.T. before suffering an explosion at the finish line while Ashley coasted to a 4.026 in the opposite lane. The explosion caused some serious carnage on Schumacher’s machine, but his Todd Okuhara-led team dug deep to get the car turned around before round two, with Schumacher having to suit up and strap in while he was still in the race pit.
Schumacher staged his machine alongside Clay Millican, his round two competitor, but once again, he started encountering issues right out of the gate and clicked his dragster off near the 300-foot cone while Millican drove away with the round win. Despite the race day drama, Schumacher feels confident that his team will quickly adapt and overcome, and will soon enjoy a Sunday finish in the winner’s circle.
“I think the guys are doing a great job,” said the five-time Arizona Nationals event winner as he reflected on the weekend. “They probably saw more work today than they’re used to seeing. We struggled this morning with all kinds of electronic problems, and we changed mags, coils; everything we could change, over and over again and at 10:40, the car started. We dropped it on the ground, I put the firesuit on and went up there. We were running the No. 5 qualifier, the winner of the last race, Justin Ashley. I hit the gas and had a phenomenal 60-foot time; excellent numbers. Then I wheel-stood twice, carried the wheels to just about half-track, and then had a serious amount of destruction. The guys had to change everything from top-to-bottom to get ready for second round. All of the wires burned everything off, and we got up there the second round without even starting the car up. I was pretty much buckling in as we were driving up to the staging lanes. But, great job for the guys, seriously.
“We are a new team, we’ve gone a couple of rounds against epic drivers. Let’s face it, the guy (Justin Ashley) just won the last race, and we beat Doug Kalitta at the first race of the year. We’re getting our mojo together. The car itself is trying to haul butt. The numbers look great, and we have a really good warm-to-hot track tune-up, and we’re using it now and it’s running fast, but when we get to the heat, like we’ll starting seeing in Gainesville, it’s going to be an awesome car.”
Up next for the Maynard Family Racing team is the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., March 11-13.