Long Grove resident Tony Schumacher is looking for his eighth NHRA championship and is the current points leader as he returns to the Chicago area for a hometown race this weekend. Driving the U.S. Army car, Schumacher is looking for his fourth career win in Joliet in the O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
As he prepared for the weekend, Schumacher discussed his first win of the season two weeks ago at Bristol, Tenn., his excitement about racing at home, his goals for the rest of the season.
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If you goWhat: The O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals
When: Qualifying Friday and Saturday night, June 29-30. Championship Sunday, July 1.
Where: Route 66 Raceway in Joliet
Highlights: Long Grove's Tony Schumacher, who leads the league in points, will return to Chicago looking for his fourth win at the track in the Top Fuel division.
• Other qualifying rounds and finals will feature Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock and Motorcycle divisions. Visit Route66Raceway.com for the full schedule.
Promotions: Friday night is "Friday Night on Fire" with an "explosive jet car finale."
• On Saturday, the Chi-Town Hustler Nostalgia Funny Car will race at the end of the night for "Saturday Night Nitro and Nostalgia."
• On Sunday, ticket holders can walk the track and the winner's circle before the race, and each ticket will serve as a pit pass so fans can get closer looks at the cars. Parking will be free for the first time.
Price: Friday $41-$51, Saturday $50-$60, Sunday $12-$66. A general admission pass for the weekend is $125.
Hours: Specator gates open at 7:30 a.m. daily, with eliminations beginning at 9 a.m. and final qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. On Sunday, Sportsman eliminations begin at 9 a.m., with pre-race ceremonies at 10:45 a.m. and Finals at 11 a.m. The track closes at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
How to purchase: Visit www.Route66Raceway.com or call 888-629-RACE (7223).
-- Caitlin Swieca
Q. How did it feel to return to victory lane after such a long time?
A. It really was an incredible experience. I joked about the fact that I may have lost my trophy muscles. But, in all seriousness, to win on the U.S. Army's 237th birthday weekend as well as Father's Day weekend, I could not have asked for a better scenario. I felt particularly happy for Mike Green (crew chief) and my team. They have worked extremely hard since day one, so to finally get that first victory of the year for them was very special.
Q. Now that you have broken the long-discussed 32-race losing streak, can a winning streak be just around the corner?
A. I certainly hope that's the case. We definitely have a race car quite capable of tearing off a few wins in a row. To be honest, I just want to see us continue to perform with consistency. If we can do that, I have no doubt the wins are going to come. First and foremost, we always want to qualify well -- that sets the table for anything we do on Sunday.
Q. What's it like to race at your home track in front of so many friends and family?
A. It's hectic, that's for sure. It seems no matter where you turn, someone is tugging at you for something or another. But, I wouldn't have it any other way. I only get this chance once a year, so I try to make it a fun deal. As long as you stay focused on the job at hand, there shouldn't be any issues. I've won 68 races in my career, but the events I've won at Route 66 Raceway carry a lot more meaning, for obvious reasons.
Q. As we approach the halfway point in the season, you have to be satisfied with where your team is at right now.
A. I'm absolutely satisfied at the moment -- we're leading the points and that's where you want to be. But, leading now was not the goal. We want to be the team that's standing on the top step of the podium on November 11th (the last day of the season). That's when we'll be totally satisfied.