Last year at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, Tony Schumacher lost to Doug Kalitta in the Top Fuel final by a close margin.
On Sunday in the Top Fuel final for the 23rd annual event at BIR, it was Schumacher's turn. He left the starting line before Kalitta's teammate Dave Grubnic, 12/100ths of a second, to win by 36/10,000ths of a second, the equivalent of about 20 inches.
Schumacher, who picked up 56 more points in the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series and collected the 17th win of his career, said he could "hear Grubnic, feel him."
"I could have swore I saw the nose of his car a couple of times and I thought to myself this was awfully close," Schumacher said.
Top Fuel dragster driver Tony Schumacher hugged his 2-year-old son Anthony at the finish line after winning the Top Fuel final with a time of 4.615 seconds at 321.96 mph Sunday in the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. Schumacher beat David Grubnic. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
Schumacher said both originally planned to stage deep but both rolled in the lights at the same time.
"So (the start) was pretty nuts," he said.
It was the second time the two have raced each other in a final with the same outcome. Schumacher, who won lane choice by 65/100s of a second, also won a national at Seattle.
Schumacher was lucky to get past the first round where he defeated his neighbor TJ Zizzo by 8/1,000ths of a second.
He said something went wrong with his dragster's engine after the burnout.
"That first run was just insane," Schumacher said. "I had no idea something was wrong except it was very strange (my crew chief Alan Johnson) was pulling me up (after the burnout) so fast."
Tony Schumacher launched his Top Fueler on his way to winning the title in the 23rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Sunday at BIR. Schumacher's winning pass was in 4.615 seconds at 321.96 mph. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
Schumacher said the belt was up against his engine and couldn't move.
"The second we started it was getting hot," he said. "It was just fraying everything."
By the time the run was over, Schumacher said his blower belt was "murdered."
"I just got lucky, that's a fact," he said. "The first round was luck."
The quarterfinals saw Schumacher defeat a cylinder-dropping Cory McClenathan.
Schumacher's biggest win was over Brandon Bernstein in the semifinals. Bernstein, who in the quarterfinals set a track speed record of 327.35 mph, lost 4.6 to 5.4.
Schumacher said that win was a 40-point swing, 20 points for him and 20 that Bernstein didn't earn.
"Big, big round," Schumacher said.
Another big round was in the quarterfinals when Doug Herbert took out the top qualifier Kalitta, who had engine problems.
Grubnic defeated a tire-smoking Scott Weiss by four one hundreds of a second in the first round, a cylinder-dropping John Smith in the second round, and Doug Herbert in the semifinals, 4.8 to 4.6.
As Schumacher said, "Like I said those are the ones that you look at and sit on the shelf and they shine because it is a great race, good side by side. You earned it."
CLINT WOOD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5869.
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