Champ Schumacher still in command


It's time for our annual trip to Thunder Valley. To be sure, most racing enthusiasts know exactly where that is -- Bristol, Tenn.

I always look forward to competing in the O'Reilly Thunder Valley
Nationals at Bristol Dragway each year. Given the quality of the facility
down there, we usually put on a good show for the fans with some topnotch

The U.S. Army Top Fuel Drag Racing Team is coming off what I
considered an average performance two weeks ago in Las Vegas. We did advance
to the semifinals out there, but we all thought we had a shot at the win.
That was a bit disappointing coming up two rounds short.

Ironically enough, we entered the Las Vegas race 52 points up on
Morgan Lucas in the Top Fuel standings and left there 60 points up on Doug
Kalitta. So, I guess the weekend was productive in the sense that we widened
our points lead despite not collecting the victory.

I think it's time we return to the form that carried us to
wins in Phoenix and Houston. This weekend, we need to redevelop some
consistency, beginning with qualifying right through eliminations. We've
actually struggled of late in qualifying, which can come back to bite you on
race day.

I'd like to believe that we'll be a strong contender for the victory
in Bristol on Sunday. If one was to factor in trends, that should definitely
be the case. To date this year, I've won races on an every-other basis. So, it's my time again, right?

Seriously, we do know how to run well in Bristol. At last year's
rain-delayed race, we captured our fourth victory of the season after
beating Clay Millican in the finals. Along the way, we also managed to set
the track record for elapsed time (4.477 seconds) and speed (331.36 mph).
I'll certainly take a replay of that race.

It would be nice to defend our Bristol event title since we'll have
a couple of special guests in our camp throughout the weekend -- CW4 Ron
Jeliff and Sgt. Donald Rhoton, both Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans from
the 844th Engineer Battalion. I look forward to shaking their hands. Like
all of the soldiers fighting for our freedom, they're my heroes.

Before closing, I have to mention that prior to my stepping foot
inside beautiful Bristol Dragway, I'll be participating for the second
straight year in the Speedway Children's Charities NHRA Celebrity Golf

This tournament does so much for the local children's agencies in
Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. In fact, more than $2.3 million
has been raised by the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities from
the NASCAR and NHRA tourneys over the last eight years. I'm happy I'm able
to help out in whatever way I can.

With that, I better head for the driving range so I don't embarrass
myself on Thursday. "The Sarge" extends his usual group salute. We'll come
back at you in a couple of weeks just prior to the Summit Racing Equipment
Southern Nationals in Atlanta. Until then, please stay well.

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.