Commentary

No time to let down now, even with Countdown spot secured

Tony Schumacher is already in the Countdown come September. He writes in his diary that the next goal is to start it in the No. 1 spot.

Updated: July 24, 2008, 6:34 PM ET
By Tony Schumacher | Special to ESPN.com

The U.S. Army Top Fuel team will attempt to complete a sweep of the NHRA's "Western Swing" this weekend at the FRAM Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway.

After posting wins in Denver and Seattle on successive weekends, I now need a victory Sunday to become only the sixth driver in NHRA history to nail down the always challenging Denver/Seattle/Sonoma segment of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series schedule.

We're going to be bringing our brooms to Infineon Raceway with the idea of going for the clean sweep. As you will note from the few drivers who have accomplished the feat -- Joe Amato, John Force, Cory McClenathan, Larry Dixon and Greg Anderson -- it's not an easy task. But, if any team can get it done it's the U.S. Army guys. They're the best around. Like our soldiers, failure is never an option for them.

In addition to the drama surrounding our sweep pursuit, I'm also trying to draw closer to Amato's Top Fuel career victory mark. After the Seattle win, I now have 48 career event titles, just four short of Amato's 52.

Frankly, we're just taking it one race at a time. The real priority is to win another championship. If the records happen to come along with that, so be it.

Having already clinched a spot in the Countdown to One phase of the Countdown to the Championship, we've shifted our focus to securing the top seed for the playoffs, which start in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 11-14.

We want to stay on top in order to have a 30-point lead once we get to Charlotte. We have to keep running strong to stay number one. We can't afford to let up for a minute.

With seven wins and two other final-round appearances in the bank, we have bolted out to a 357-point lead over Antron Brown in the standings. But, we know that huge lead will quickly evaporate come mid-September.

It's not like we don't know that the points are going to be reset. We just need to be as prepared as we can be for the stretch run, which covers the last six races. That's when we separate the contenders from the pretenders.

Off to my best career start to a season, I'd also like to win for the second straight year in Sonoma. We all love going to Northern California, and Infineon Raceway is one of the better facilities that we go to. Hopefully, we can make a return trip to Victory Lane.

So, it's off to wine country. "The Sarge" extends his usual group salute. We'll have a much needed weekend off before traveling to Brainerd, Minn. for the Lucas Oil Nationals, Aug. 7-10. Until then, y'all stay well.

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.

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