Home game a welcome respite during long season

I'll be playing a home game this weekend as the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series travels to Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., for the Torco Racing Fuels Route 66 Nationals.

Being a resident of the Chicago area, this is my one weekend of the season when I can actually avoid having to run for a plane at O'Hare Airport. That's definitely a plus.

In addition to enjoying the comforts of home this weekend, we'll also take part in the U.S. Army's celebration of its 233rd birthday at the track on Saturday.

It's going to be a big weekend for sure. We'll certainly have plenty of family and friends on hand throughout and, of course, we'll have a number of folks from the U.S. Army in attendance for the birthday celebration.

The Army's 233rd birthday is really a great time for all of us to reflect on the sacrifices our soldiers have made in winning and protecting America's freedom in the ongoing global war on terrorism.

We head into Round 10 of the 24-race NHRA tour coming off a second-round loss in Topeka last weekend. Despite that result, we still hold a 109-point advantage over second-place Antron Brown in the standings.

Last Sunday was probably the first time all season that we've had what I would call a not-so-great outing. We smoked the tires in both the first round and second round. However, to be fair, the track out there was real challenging with the hot weather.

The Topeka weather may have been a preview of what's to come in Joliet this weekend. Temperatures are predicted to soar into the 90s by race day. Did someone say air conditioner?

That kind of weather will make it tough for every team, not just us. We'll have to adjust and make sure that we get down the track with consistency.

Leading up to the O'Reilly Summer Nationals, I felt like we were a model of consistency, having won three events while advancing to two other final rounds.

We've been on top of the standings since day one and the goal is to remain there through the season finale in November. I'm pretty confident that we'll have some valleys along the way, but over a long season that's going to happen. If we're going to win another title, the key will be to minimize those valleys.

While winning another championship is clearly our goal, our immediate focus is on winning this weekend's race. We've done pretty well at Route 66 Raceway over the years, having won there in 2003 and 2005. We even qualified first last year with a 4.462-second pass.

So, it's about time to hit Interstate 55 South. "The Sarge" salutes you all. We'll take a weekend off before our next race in Englishtown, N.J, so until then please stay well. And don't forget that Father's Day is fast approaching!

Five-time world champion Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher drives the U.S. Army-sponsored Top Fuel dragster in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series and is providing a diary for ESPN.com throughout the 2008 season.