As I prepare to travel to Houston Raceway Park for this weekend's O'Reilly Spring Nationals, I must admit that my mood is not very good.
As many of you may know, the NHRA lost a family member last week -- Funny Car driver Eric Medlen.
Eric crashed during testing at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway the day after the ACDelco Gatornationals and, subsequently, lost his battle with a serious closed head injury.
To say that we will all be thinking about Eric this weekend is clearly a dramatic understatement. It will be tough for us as a group to go forward after such a tragic loss, but we obviously have to.
I'm pretty confident that Eric would want us to move on with life, which includes racing. For sure, he will definitely be with us out in Texas in spirit.
I did not know Eric very well, but I can tell you that he was full of enthusiasm and he had a passion for racing. When we spoke during driver introductions or in the pit area, you could tell that he truly appreciated his job with John Force Racing.
Eric was well known for his boyish smile. It seems like whenever you were around Eric, if you were down, his personality would pick you right back up. He had that kind of affect on people.
I actually know Eric's dad, John Medlen (who was also his crew chief), very well. I can only imagine the heartache he must feel. Our prayers go out to him and the entire Medlen family.
As stated, we will have to find a way to move on from this horrible tragedy. We will have to concentrate on the job at hand, which is winning the O'Reilly Spring Nationals.
The U.S. Army Top Fuel team is carrying some momentum out to Texas in the form of a win at the ACDelco Gatornationals. Just in case you didn't see the coverage of that race, the victory moved me past the legendary "Big Daddy" Don Garlits into fourth-place on the Top Fuel career wins list. I almost feel guilty that I passed such a great racer like him, but they say records are made to be broken, right?
We're certainly hopeful that our success from Gainesville will carry over to Houston. We've only won there once -- in 2005 -- so we're going to have to stay focused if we're to return to victory lane.
Winning Top Fuel races these days is no walk in the park, let me tell you. The talent that's spread out in the class makes it tough week in and week out. If you happen to win a race, you've earned it, believe me.
For me to win the Gatornationals, I had to take out the likes of Melanie Troxel, Doug Kalitta, Rod Fuller and Larry Dixon. How's that for a road full of potholes?
Speaking of Fuller, he continues to lead the standings early on. I've managed to work my way into second and sit 39 points behind. We'll see if we can cut further into that lead come Sunday.
With that, we need to start packing up the gear. Once again, please don't forget the Medlen family during these tough times. And, please keep our soldiers in your thoughts as well.
We'll reunite again just before our race out at Las Vegas in two weeks. Until then, please stay well.
Four-time world champion Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher drives the U.S. Army-sponsored Top Fuel dragster in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series and will provide a diary to ESPN.com throughout the 2007 season.