After a two-week break, the U.S. Army Top Fuel Drag Racing Team is
set to return to battle this weekend in the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at
Bandimere Speedway outside of Denver.
We begin the second-half of the 2005 season holding second-place in
the standings, 43 points behind leader Doug Kalitta. That's certainly within serious striking distance.
The upcoming "Western Swing" (comprised of races on successive weekends in Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif.) will go a long way in determining the '05 world title holder.
These next few races can definitely provide a clearer picture of who
might be carrying the big check at the end of the year. We're obviously
hopeful that we emerge as the front runner. We'll fight the fight, that's
for sure. We can't let our soldiers down.
Ironically enough, last year we entered the "Western Swing" second
in the Top Fuel standings behind Kalitta. After pocketing a final round
appearance in Denver, a win in Seattle and a semifinal round advancement in
Sonoma, the U.S. Army team regained the lead and never relinquished it the rest of the way.
With any kind of luck, we will create that scenario yet again. It's going to be extremely tough. There are just so many great teams.
Starting in Denver, I will have a new Top Fuel teammate in the form
of Melanie Troxel. We were previously paired up in 2000 after the U.S. Army
partnered with Don Schumacher Racing at the U.S. Nationals. I'm confident
everything will flow just fine between the two teams. To be sure, the data exchange will be invaluable.
As we head for the Rocky Mountains, I can't help but wonder how many
crew chiefs are already scratching their heads over how to tune their race
cars for the thin air. Bandimere Speedway is probably one of the most
challenging tracks that we go to on the tour given the typical mix of thin
air, a slippery track and hot temperatures.
Alan Johnson, my crew chief, and I have not been able to get to
winner's circle in our respective careers at Denver. We came close last
year, but lost in the finals to Scott Kalitta. There's always a first time
for everything, right?
With that, we're off to the Mile High City. "The Sarge" extends his
usual group salute. We'll be back at you right before the CARQUEST Auto
Parts Nationals outside of Seattle next week. Until then, stay well. As
always, please remember our soldiers who are working extremely hard for us around the world.
Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher drives the U.S. Army-sponsored Top Fuel dragster in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. He won the 2004 NHRA POWERade Top Fuel world championship.