Tony Schumacher kept right on digging at the inaugural Carolina Nationals on Sunday, and the more he does the deeper he buries old records in National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel competition.
Schumacher took a stride toward his fifth straight Top Fuel championship by winning his seventh straight race and extending his winning streak to 28 rounds. Both are records. So, too, are his 12 victories this season.
But the big record that fell when he beat Antron Brown in the final at zMax Dragway @ Concord was the career mark for Top Fuel victories. Schumacher's win was his 53rd, moving him past Joe Amato's 52.
"We have to dig. We have to earn it. It's hard work to get it," Schumacher said. "You win two or three and you start to go toward setting records, it just seems so impossible. Nobody's ever done it. There's a reason. Things happen, cars break, mistakes are made. And we just keep making it happen."
Jack Beckman also made it happen in winning the Funny Car final, but just barely. Beckman, who like Tony Schumacher drives for Don Schumacher Racing, ran 4.130 seconds in the final against Cruz Pedregon, who ran 4.162 seconds. But Pedregon left the starting line in .059 seconds to .090 for Beckman. Add that up and Beckman got to the finish line one-one-thousandth of a second ahead of Pedregon as both of their cars were traveling at better than 302 mph.
Justin Humphreys, meanwhile, was moving at a paltry 42.40 mph when he crossed the finish line in the Pro Stock final. That, however, was good enough since his opponent in the title match, Kurt Johnson, could not start his car's engine to make it to the starting line, allowing Humphreys to get his first career NHRA victory.
Steve Johnson, who spent the week bunking at NASCAR driver Mike Wallace's house, won in Pro Stock Motorcycle. He beat Eddie Krawiec in the final when Krawiec started two-one-thousandths of a second too early and fouled. The victory was Johnson's second straight win and the fifth of his career.
Schumacher said he was watching when Kurt Johnson had his problem in the Pro Stock final, and even though things have been going to so well for his team lately he saw a lesson there.
"You still get nervous," he said. "Something could happen. You saw in the finals the car wouldn't start. Something silly happens and then you're behind the 8-ball."
That, though, is where Schumacher’s team has everyone else in Top Fuel these days. But Brown, who remained second in the championship standings with his runner-up finish here, gave it all he had. He was ahead 330 feet out from the starting line and ran 3.923 seconds at 309.42 mph, but Schumacher ran him back down, finishing in 3.882 seconds at the week's best speed of 317.64 mph.
"That's the best dragster on the planet and we're glad we didn't give it away," Brown said.
Schumacher was happy about that, too. He'd rather have to work for success, even as much of it that has come his way this year.
"I love holding the trophy at the end of the day. It's a great moment," he said. "But I love what it takes to get it."
Schumacher got David Grubnic in the first round with a run at 3.873 seconds, moving him up against No. 1 qualifier Larry Dixon in Round 2. Schumacher ran 3.882 in the second round and then ran 3.909 to top Hillary Will in the semifinals. His elapsed time was the best in Top Fuel in each of those rounds.
"We walked out for introductions Friday and a majority of the people cheered, but we got a couple of boos," Schumacher said. "Dixon said, 'I wish I had won 11 races and was getting booed.'
"Everybody has fans and if we keep winning they're going to boo us. If you're just doing an average job, nobody cares. We have something very special. I feel blessed to be the driver of that race car. People can boo me all day long if we keep winning. I am not doing anything mean to them."