U.S. Army Top Fuel pilot Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher dropped a close final round race to Del Worsham here Sunday in the 42nd annual Tire Kingdom Gatornationals at historic Gainesville Raceway.
Schumacher, who qualified number one, posted a 3.866-second pass at 318.39 mph, but it came up just short of Worsham’s 3.858-second trip at 318.99 mph.
“It was a great race,” said Schumacher. “Those were two quality teams battling it out right there. Even though Del hasn’t been in Top Fuel for a lot of years, he’s still a very talented driver. I sensed it was going to be a very close race.”
Prior to making a return to Top Fuel this season with the Al-Anabi team (as a teammate to defending world champion, Larry Dixon), Worsham had been a full-time performer in the Funny Car ranks since 1995.
It appeared Schumacher might collect his 68th career win after building a slight edge at the starting line, but his lead evaporated by half track and Worsham motored on by to just nip the seven-time world champion at the finish line.
“Despite losing to Del, we still had a very good weekend,” said Schumacher. “We got down the track with consistency and made plenty of power (he set the track speed record at 325.45 mph in qualifying).
“Throughout the weekend we displayed the mental, physical and emotional strength that our Army Strong Soldiers have. We’re inspired by all of those brave men and women and want to be successful for them every race.”
On the way to his meeting with Worsham, Schumacher had to get by the likes of David Grubnic, Doug Foley and Dixon.
“We didn’t have an easy path to the finals, that’s for sure,” said the Chicago-area resident. “Like I have said before, when you win one of these races, you have definitely earned it given the competition.”
While Schumacher advanced to his first final of the season and the 104th of his career, his U.S. Army Racing teammate, Antron Brown, did not fare as well.
The driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster lost to Worsham in the quarterfinals after his car lost traction just after he hit the gas.
Schumacher, who now holds second-place in the standings, and Brown, who resides in sixth-place, will have two weekends off before traveling to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, April 1-3, for the SummitRacing.com Nationals.
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