CHANDLER, Ariz. – U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher had an incredible 2012 season that brought him to within seven points of earning another world championship trophy. During the brand new 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, the seven-time world champion is ready to go back to work with his U.S. Army team as they pursue another title.
Riding the momentum from a runner-up finish at the season-opening event at Pomona, Calif. last weekend and three career victories at Firebird International Raceway, Schumacher is anxious to return to the NHRA Arizona Nationals, Feb. 22-24. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), and Jason Line (Pro Stock) are the defending event champions at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised on ESPN2 HD.
“We ran 330 mph for the first time there (Phoenix), and we’ve won there a lot,” Schumacher said. “We perform good there for the U.S. Army. I really enjoy going there. For one reason, it’s early in the year and the weather is wonderful and better in February than where I live near Chicago, where it’s 10 degrees. The fans are phenomenal and the fans have always been really good to us in Phoenix.”
Last season Schumacher was runner-up at the event to his teammate, reigning world champion Antron Brown. Schumacher says the new season presents more opportunities to bring his A-game and take advantage of more big moments.
“I’m ready to do it all over again and win another championship,” Schumacher said. “We’ve had so many blessed moments. Those moments are a gift, and that’s what anyone dreams about who has ever been on the starting line. That is the lesson that we learned again last year and we’ll be able to build from and can expect to have much better days this coming season.”
From ending a winless drought at Bristol that dated back to the 2010 season, to a record-setting victory at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Schumacher’s scorecard filled up fast last season and he’s confident that his resilient U.S. Army team can once again push deep into the 2013 season.
“Our U.S. Army team exemplified the mental, emotional and physical strength like no other down the stretch, just like our U.S. Army Soldiers do every day of the year,” Schumacher said. “So, as we head into this season, what you do the year before, in every way, shape and form is going to guide you through what the next year holds.”
In order to earn another victory at FIR, Schumacher will need to be lean and mean to outrun a host of talented drivers, including defending world champ Brown, national speed record holder Spencer Massey, Al-Anabi Racing’s Shawn Langdon, the current points leader who won the season-opening Winternationals last weekend, former FIR winners Doug Kalitta and Brandon Bernstein and Top Fuel rookie Brittany Force.
In Funny Car, defending event champion Hight will lead a field of tough competitors including reigning world champion Jack Beckman, who has won three-times at FIR, teammate John Force, who is an eight-time event winner at FIR, and sophomore-sensation Courtney Force, the current points leader who won at the Winternationals. Others to watch include veteran drivers Ron Capps and Del Worsham, who is back behind the wheel after a one-year retirement in 2012.
Defending Pro Stock world champion Allen Johnson will try to continue last season’s pace and rebound from a slow start at Pomona, while new Team Mopar driver Jeg Coughlin is eager to build on his runner-up finish from last weekend. Greg Anderson, Line, Mike Edwards, Erica Enders, and points leader and Pomona winner Vincent Nobile are all past FIR winners and fan-favorites in the 200-mph factory hot rod category.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful motorsports attraction on the planet. While visiting the pits, fans will also want to check out the interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway.
Fans also will want to take advantage of the popular Championship Sunday Track Walk, which is free to all Sunday ticket holders. This popular event gives fans the opportunity to walk down the legendary drag strip alongside some of the NHRA’s biggest stars.
• SCHEDULE: Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22 and continue on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24.
• TICKETS: Tickets are available for the NHRA Arizona Nationals online at www.firebirdraceway.com or by calling the FIR ticket office at (602) 268-0200.
• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 1 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Feb. 24 and three hours and 30 minutes of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Feb. 24.
• ON THE WEB: Get instant results, access to photos, video and audio clips, and the latest news updates from every NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.NHRA.com.
NHRA ARIZONA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, the second of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Firebird International Raceway, Chandler, Ariz. Track is located off Interstate 10 at exit 162. Follow the signs.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Feb. 22-24.
FRIDAY, Feb. 22 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2 and 4 p.m.
SATURDAY, Feb. 23- LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, Feb. 24 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday, Feb. 24, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying highlights at 1 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Feb. 24, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will re-air one hour of coverage starting at 8 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Feb. 24, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours and 30 minutes of coverage starting at 8 p.m. (ET).
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Jason Line, Pro Stock
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, FC - 8; Bob Glidden, PS - 5; Jack Beckman, FC - 3; Kenny Bernstein, TF-FC - 3; Larry Dixon, TF - 3; Tony Schumacher, TF - 3; Cory McClenathan, TF - 3;Darrell Alderman, PS - 3; Kurt Johnson, PS - 3; Warren Johnson, PS - 3.
Top Fuel - 3.754 sec. by Shawn Langdon Feb. ’12; 325.37 mph by Spencer Massey, Feb. ’12.
Funny Car - 4.023 sec. by Ron Capps, Feb. ’09; 311.34 mph by Matt Hagan, Feb. ’10.
Pro Stock - 6.536 sec. by Mike Edwards, Feb. ’12; 211.76 mph by Mike Edwards, Feb. ’12.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ‘12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.477 sec. by Jason Line, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 214.35 mph by Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
TICKETS: For tickets call (602) 268-0200. Tickets also available online at www.firebirdraceway.com.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the first of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 116; 2. Tony Schumacher, 106; 3. Khalid alBalooshi, 74; 4. Antron Brown, 67; 5. Brandon Bernstein, 60; 6. Doug Kalitta, 59; 7. David Grubnic, 55; 8. Steve Torrence, 53; 9. Spencer Massey, 34; 10. Clay Millican, 33.
Funny Car: 1. Courtney Force, 124; 2. Ron Capps, 94; 3. Johnny Gray, 76; 4. Bob Tasca III, 71; 5. Gary Densham, 60; 6. Cruz Pedregon, 56; 7. Matt Hagan, 52; 8. Todd Lesenko, 51; 9. Jack Beckman, 43; 10. Del Worsham, 38.
Pro Stock: 1. Vincent Nobile, 118; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 95; 3. V. Gaines, 81; 4. Greg Stanfield, 72; 5. Allen Johnson, 52; 6. (tie) Shane Gray, 51; Kurt Johnson, 51; Chris McGaha, 51; 9. Mike Edwards, 45; 10. Erica Enders-Stevens, 42.