- Tony Schumacher
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Having recently completed my 250th professional race, I'll be focusing on another career milestone this weekend in the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway.
Amazingly enough, I need just three more final-elimination round wins to reach the coveted 400 level.
Given that John Force just got his 1,000th round win, I'm not so sure that 400 round wins is that big of a deal, but just the same, I'm happy that my career has led me to this juncture.
Over the years, I'm fortunate to have been surrounded by a lot of great people on the U.S. Army Top Fuel team -- including my crew chief, Alan Johnson. Without Alan calling the shots the past few years, I certainly would not be in the position that I'm in right now. He's the best in the business, and I'm blessed that he's on my side.
Alan's value clearly lies in the numbers. From the beginning of the 2004 season through the O'Reilly Midwest Nationals two weeks ago, I have compiled 207 round wins. That represents more than half of my current total of 397.
It's actually pretty incredible that I've notched so many round wins in such a short amount of time. Of course, we want to keep adding to that number. In fact, the plan is to tack on four more this weekend in Bristol, so we can further solidify our hold on the Top Fuel points lead.
We'll certainly have some extra incentive to capture our third victory of the season down in Thunder Valley. I'll be carrying a special "Salute the Troops" paint scheme on my record-setting U.S. Army dragster.
The NHRA effort is part of an overall USO Salute the Troops Memorial Day tribute to the armed forces, a tribute that will also take place during NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 weekend in Charlotte.
It will be an exciting moment when we pull the cover off the U.S. Army dragster before our first qualifying run. I'm happy that we'll have the opportunity to show our soldiers just how much we care about them. They all mean so much to us, and this is a terrific way to express our support. I'm really hoping that I can ring up career win No. 2 at Bristol Dragway for our soldiers.
By the way, did you know that we're off to our best start since the '04 campaign, when we won a record 10 races?
We've been running pretty well thus far, but we have to step it up even more if we're going to compete for another world title. The Top Fuel class has become so competitive that you don't want to get caught running in place. You better keep moving forward, or else you'll definitely be left behind.
With that, it's time to hit the road for Thunder Valley. As always, "The Sarge" salutes you all. We'll have next weekend off before embarking on a two-race stretch that will take us to Topeka, Kan., and Joliet, Ill., respectively.
So until then, all that I ask is for you all to stay well. We'll catch up with you real soon.
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.
2dLaurence Edmondson and Nate Saunders