NHRA Top Fuel great Tony Schumacher remains on the outside looking in at Pomona

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November 15, 2019 02:42 PM

NHRA Top Fuel great Tony Schumacher remains on the outside looking in at Pomona

Soon-to-be 50-year-old legend still hopeful of returning to the drag strip in 2020.

Susan Wade

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NHRA/National Dragster

Tony Schumacher missed the entire 2019 season after losing his Army sponsorship.

​​​​​NHRA Mello Yello Series standout Tony Schumacher still has those U.S. Army values he embraced for 19 years.
But he no longer has the U.S. Army’s backing of his Top Fuel dragster, not since November 2018. He still doesn’t have funding from any other source, either. So with no marketing partner stepping in throughout this entire season, the eight-time series champion and 84-time winner remains missing from the on-track action as the season comes to a thrilling end this weekend at Pomona without him.
The 2019 season began in February with the Winternationals at Southern California’s Auto Club Raceway at Pomona with Schumacher absent from the lineup. The class was two short of a full field, a racing adaptation of the missing-man formation. This weekend, the season will conclude with the Auto Club Finals, and again Schumacher will not be in the mix. He hasn’t competed since this race a year ago, when he was runner-up to Steve Torrence and finished second in the final standings.

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However, Schumacher, who turns 50 on Christmas, insists he is committed to driving again—and soon, he hopes. He said, as he did in February, that he and his Don Schumacher Racing marketing experts are more interested in finding a compatible business partner with whom the race team can work on a B2B basis.
“It’s not about sticking the name on the car and running a bunch of laps,” Tony Schumacher said. “It’s about the personal aspect of the sport. That’s where the Army benefited the most. It’s what do we do to get people out and be able to talk? Back in the day, kids didn’t want to walk into a recruiting station, because they thought if they walked in and the door closed, they were in the Army. And out here they can go off and talk to a soldier and say, ‘Look, I’m not going to join the Army, but if I did …’ And that is (priceless) for a company trying to grow.
“We have great companies in our partners with NAPA and Pennzoil and Shell and Mopar. All these companies out there—you want to sit in a room with the biggest of the big? These guys are out here, and that’s what we’re looking for: the right person, not just anybody,” he said.

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The question has dogged him all year: “Are you close to signing a deal?” And Schumacher is ready for it, tiresome though it might be to hear.
“I can tell you we work on it every day. We have proposals out,” he said. “This is the best sport. It almost breaks my heart that any car would sit because I look up in the stands and (see) great people … the car counts are always high … and we’re sitting without a deal. We got caught a little bit off guard. To be honest, at the end of the year when the Army announced they were leaving, it kind of took us by surprise. It’s been a process because we had that for 19 years. It was a long time. We’re trying to find the right fit.
“I look forward to coming back out here. I miss it. I miss it every day,” he said. “I enjoy coming out, working up here in the (TV) booth and dealing with Fox and the guys, but in reality, I belong in that race car.”

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Schumacher said, “I’ve got to get back out there. We’re working it every day. If y’all got a buddy that happens to have a bunch of millions sitting in their pocket and they’re looking around going, ‘I don’t know what to do with this’ …  Our car, man! Call us. Call my dad. We’ve got great people. We’re working on it, and we’ll get something. That’s for sure.
“Over 19 years we learned how to—it was the Army, but we learned how to—build a company. We learned how to take a company that wants to go to market and grow, and that’s what we’re looking at. Some of the proposals we’ve got out there, it’s not just putting the name on the side of the car, it’s what do they want to do? Do they want to expand and go from a bunch of stores to a bunch more? How do we do that? What’s our program? How are we going to help them?” he said.
“You know, drag racing and NHRA has been a very special sport to me,” he said. “As much as I hate not being in a seat, I love being out here watching the sport go on. It was really great to see Snake bring a driver out (finding sponsorship for Austin Prock). It’s awesome, and that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for the youth.

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“We watch the guys in the Pro Mods. We watch the guys in the Top Alcohol Dragsters and Funny Cars. We watch the youth, and bringing them up into this sport, which everybody that’s in the Alcohol ranks, they’re aspiring to be here so bad. That’s where we all came from. So, great young drivers—and I look forward to having my opportunity to race them and get back out here and do my job.”
In the meantime, Schumacher said he has been “staying in shape. You’re waiting for that phone call every week, so you have to do what you have to do. These races are decided by inches, so being in shape physically and mentally, it’s an important part of it. So I stay in the gym, and I stay prepared.” He said in the approximately 200 speeches he delivers every year, he always says, “Overprepare and then go with the flow,” and he said, “I think that’s the key.”
Like Schumacher, Top Fuel rookie Jordan Vandergriff is back to square one. And like Schumacher, he found out late in the money-chase game—early November—that D-A Lubricants will not renew its sponsorship agreement with Bob Vandergriff Racing.  

NHRA/National Dragster

Tony Schumacher hopes to return to the drag strip in 2020.

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Source:https://autoweek.com/article/nhra/nhra-top-fuel-great-tony-schumacher-remains-outside-looking-pomona

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