COMMERCE, GA – May 9, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – With the uncharacteristic struggles he has had to open the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, eight-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher saw some irony ahead of this weekend’s 36th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
It is the only track where the ultra-successful Schumacher has not won during a standout NHRA career that includes 80 total victories, and now he finds himself searching for a victory to get his 2016 season on track.
It has been a slow start for Schumacher in his 10,000-horsepower U.S. Army dragster, falling short at tracks where he has previously dominated through the first six races of the season. It is hardly panic time for Schumacher, but a victory at a race where he has never had the ultimate success would go a long way into jump-starting his quest for a ninth world championship.
“It would be awesome,” said Schumacher, who is currently seventh in points. “We’ve got a great race team that knows how to win races. Probably because the car is not performing, I’m performing better. Now if that car comes around and I still do my job, we might have a winning combination. It would be great to win this one. We’ve always said that Atlanta has never been our focus because it’s the middle of the season. It’s not a high-pressure thing, but we’re gaining high pressure now because we need to get into the (Traxxas Nitro Shootout). There’s only a few spots left. Maybe that’s exactly what we need to win.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event at Georgia’s House of Speed. The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1 with qualifying shows on Friday and Saturday and three hours of finals coverage on Sunday. It the seventh of 24 events in 2016 and Schumacher is still searching for that breakthrough moment this season.
He has not advanced out of the second round in what has been an extremely competitive Top Fuel season, but Schumacher can sense a change in momentum. The team, led by standout crew chief Mike Green, has made an abundance of changes, ones that all parties involved believe will lead to impressive results. It hasn’t happened yet, but Schumacher has managed to stay patient knowing what the future could hold.
“I feel like that this has been a long dry spell, longer than we’re used to by far,” Schumacher said. “But after the last race, the changes we’ve made really are starting to show progress. If we continue on the path we were on (in Houston), we’re eventually going to have our old race car back. Hopefully the sacrifices we’ve made up to this point over the last 20 races will pay off. We’ve made some big changes and if they work like (crew chief Mike Green) is hoping it is going to be a great race car.”
Schumacher will gladly take the minor setbacks and struggles if there is a big payoff at the end. If history is any indication, Schumacher will be ready to deliver a clutch performance when it is needed. The performance of his car this year has been on par with the rest of the talented class, but Schumacher hopes the changes that have been made lead to noticeable improvement in the near future.
“You’re watching a handful of cars that are fairly equal and to be the great at the end you have to be better than them,” Schumacher said. “We need to get not only caught up, but hope the gamble we took pushing what we think will be successful pays off. We’ve always been there at the end and that’s because we fight through the adversity. We’re very good at that.
“We understand that to get to the top you have to think outside the box. Everyone else knows how to be fast, you have to know how to be faster. That’s a sacrificial thing. You have to be willing to spend a little time in the uncomfortable zone of getting your (butt) whipped every week to get to that position.”
The early defeats have Schumacher motivated and he will head to Atlanta Dragway as determined as ever. Standing in his way is a talented field, including Don Schumacher Racing teammate, defending race winner and defending world champion Brown. Other class stars include points leader Brittany Force, who has two wins this year, three-time event winner Doug Kalitta, who won in Houston, Terry McMillen, Leah Pritchett, who won in Phoenix, Winternationals winner Steve Torrence, Richie Crampton, Clay Millican, J.R. Todd and Shawn Langdon.
It’s a formidable field, but Schumacher feels confident he can compete for a first Atlanta victory.
“The cars that have won are very good cars, we’re just not in there doing what we need to do to knock them down at different times of the race,” Schumacher said. “Nowadays, you have so many cars, that’s why you’re going to see the winners spread out. It’s not just one or two cars, they’re all really good.”
Wilkerson raced to the Funny Car title at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals last year and already has two wins in 2016. The star-studded class also includes standouts like Alexis DeJoria, who won in Las Vegas, reigning world champ Del Worsham, Robert Hight, a three-time Atlanta winner, seven-time event winner John Force, Jack Beckman, Pomona winner Capps, Courtney Force, who moved into the points lead with Wilkerson by winning in Houston, Chad Head and two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon.
In Pro Stock, Line outlasted his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro teammate Greg Anderson in the 2015 final in Atlanta. This season, Line and Anderson have dominated thus far in the redesigned factory hot rod class, splitting the first six races. Line has three of those wins and the points lead, but the competition will be tough in Atlanta. Jeg Coughlin and Allen Johnson are the only other two active drivers with wins at Atlanta Dragway, while two-time and defending world champ Erica Enders, Drew Skillman, Bo Butner, Shane Gray, Vincent Nobile and Chris McGaha are also expected to make a push for the Wally at Atlanta.
The sleek new Pro Stock cars feature fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle category will hit the track for the third of 16 events this season. Eddie Krawiec is the current points leader and will look to hold off a talented field that boasts plenty of championship level talent. That includes teammate and reigning world champion Andrew Hines, a two-time Atlanta winner who won last weekend in Charlotte, and three-time world champ Angelle Sampey, who has four wins at the track. Others gunning for the Wally include alligator farmer Jerry Savoie, 2011 event winner LE Tonglet, Hector Arana Jr., Chip Ellis, Hector Arana Sr. and 21-year-old rookie Melissa Surber.
The race will also feature plenty of thrilling action in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series, which makes its third stop of 2016.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Qualifying for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta will feature two rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 13 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, May 14, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 15.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA SOUTHERN NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 36th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, the seventh of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. Competition in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series and the NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event.
WHERE: Atlanta Dragway, Commerce, Ga. I-85 to Exit 149 (Hwy 441). After exiting the freeway, go north on Highway 441 to Steven Tanger Blvd. Take left on Tanger and then go right on Ridgeway Road.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 1,100 feet above sea level; Track direction is southeast to northwest.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, May 13-15, 2016
FRIDAY, May 13 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 3:15 and 5:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4 and 6:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, May 14 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 12:45 p.m. Round 1 of eliminations at 3:15 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, May 15 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, May 13, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Saturday, May 14, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, May 15, FS1 will televise three hours of finals coverage at 4:30 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Tim Wilkerson, Funny Car; Jason Line, Pro Stock, Hector Arana, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Dave Schultz, 8, PSM; John Force, 7, FC; Antron Brown, 6, TF/PSM; Warren Johnson, 5, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 4, TF/FC; Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Angelle Sampey, 4, PSM; Greg Anderson, 4, PS; Lee Shepherd, 4, PS.
Top Fuel – 3.732 sec. and 328.86 mph by Doug Kalitta, May ’14.
Funny Car – 4.010 sec. by Cruz Pedregon, May ’15; 320.58 mph by Courtney Force, May ’14.
Pro Stock – 6.493 sec. by Erica Enders, May ’14; 213.00 mph by Jason Line, May ’14.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.794 sec. and 197.54 mph by Eddie Krawiec, May ’14.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.879 sec. by Jack Beckman, March ‘16, Gainesville, Fla.; 331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the sixth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Brittany Force, 464; 2. Doug Kalitta, 463; 3. Antron Brown, 445; 4. Steve Torrence, 417; 5. Clay Millican, 355; 6. J.R. Todd, 316; 7. Tony Schumacher, 295; 8. Leah Pritchett, 291; 9. Richie Crampton, 275; 10. Terry McMillen, 259.
1. (tie) Courtney Force, 439; Tim Wilkerson, 439; 3. Ron Capps, 417; 4. Robert Hight, 404; 5. John Force, 384; 6. Jack Beckman, 379; 7. Del Worsham, 376; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 339; 9. Chad Head, 303; 10. Matt Hagan, 280.
1. Jason Line, 689; 2. Greg Anderson, 610; 3. Bo Butner, 508; 4. Drew Skillman, 399; 5. Chris McGaha, 339; 6. Allen Johnson, 318; 7. Vincent Nobile, 262; 8. Erica Enders, 257; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 255; 10. Alex Laughlin, 220.
Pro Stock Motorcycle:
1. Eddie Krawiec, 232; 2. Andrew Hines, 197; 3. Hector Arana, 154; 4. Chip Ellis, 135; 5. Jerry Savoie, 108; 6. LE Tonglet, 107; 7. Michael Ray, 104; 8. Matt Smith, 93; 9. Angelle Sampey, 92; 10. Jim Underdahl, 84.