Spinning His Wheels

As driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster, Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher racked up two wins and came in third in points in 2002 (not to mention winning the U.S. Nationals — the National Hot Rod Association’s biggest race each season — twice in the last three years). This year, Schumacher slowed down for a moment to chat with us.

AW: How does someone get started in drag racing?
TS:
The best way to see if one wants to pursue a career in the sport is to get a regular street car, take it to a local track, and gain your initial experience that way. Drag racing is not all about going fast all of the time. You have to understand the art of staging, the rules, and what indexes are all about. It took me 10 years to get where I’m at today (in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series’ Top Fuel class). Clearly, there’s a schooling process in every sport, including drag racing. You have to start at the bottom and work and earn your way up.

AW: What’s the most thrilling thing about the sport?
TS:
I can answer that in one word: winning. I’ve been a competitor all my life in a variety of sports and the feeling I get when I step onto the top step of the podium in victory lane really can’t be put into words.

AW: Were you in the Army?
TS:
While my nickname is The Sarge, I’m not in the United States Army, nor have I ever been. Schumacher Racing signed the U.S. Army as a marketing partner in August of 2000. From the people at the Pentagon to the U.S. Army Accessions Command at Fort Knox, they have all become good friends. This marketing program goes way beyond what happens on the racetrack as we’re involved in so many things — from school visits, to military base visits, to the Youth & Education Services (Y.E.S.) program. Frankly, the relationship with them has helped me grow as a person.

— JAMES E. MAYFIELD