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November 20, 2014

Tony Schumacher

SCOTT SMITH:¬† Tony, thank you, as always, for joining us.¬† Tony in his U.S. Army dragster began the season probably not the way they were looking forward to with a first‑round loss in Pomona, but he did race to his first event win in Las Vegas, just a handful of races following that, and then he went on to win a total of five races this year and took the points lead following the second Charlotte event and then retained the lead the rest of the season.¬† This is his, like I said, eighth world championship and his second with crew chief Mike Green.¬† Talk a little bit about‑‑ you talked about it at the banquet, just the significance of this eighth championship and what that means to you.¬†
TONY SCHUMACHER:  Well, it's fantastic.  Part of it because it's hard to win one anymore.  In any way, shape or form it's the most difficult racing that I've ever seen. 
But to come off a four‑year sabbatical basically after winning six in a row, that's hard.¬† It's hard to take.¬†
We stuck our ground.  Now, we didn't go off and disappear.  We finished second, I think, twice in those four years.  We still had a good car.  We had a great car.  It's just more difficult to win these days. 
This year was amazing.¬† It started out‑‑ we were done in the first Pomona, Pomona 1 at 11:07, I think.¬† We were beat and taking our car apart.¬† At the beginning of the year after some good testing, you think, that hurts, and then you go on to Vegas and win it, and it was spread out.¬† The wins were spread out, and it gave us a little light at the end of the tunnel often throughout the year.¬† And then to go out in the Countdown and just have such an amazing day, go off and win within 24 hours, win two races. ¬†It's never been done before, and like I said at the banquet, it's never been done because it's never been presented as an option.¬† It was just a great opportunity, and we capitalized on it.¬†
In Reading I cannot tell you, it was the most spectacular race ever because it's when you start to see your crew realize there's a chance, and that's a special moment.¬† Great, and then you get to Pomona, and you have to qualify.¬† It's kind of anti‑climactic.¬† I'm so glad we went into the final round because those were difficult races.¬† Starting off in the ninth qualifier spot, running against the second winningest driver in the history of the sport, close race.¬† Close second round, close third round, then getting beat by ultimately the second quickest run in the history of the sport.¬† That's what it took to beat us.¬†
So great team, proud of them, going to really enjoy the off‑season.¬† I'm going to enjoy the way it went down, the way it happened and with a canopy on that car, more weight in that car to keep me alive than any other driver has, and we did it anyway.¬†
SCOTT SMITH:¬† You talked about the Countdown, and it's kind of interesting sitting here looking at the stats, you were either worst or first in the Countdown.¬† Racing to four final‑round appearances, you won three of them, lost one, so those two first‑round losses in St.Louis and Las Vegas, did those races give you any concern or did your team just kind of rally around you at that point?¬†
TONY SCHUMACHER:¬† Well, St.Louis was uncomfortable.¬† We were out so early and didn't make it down the track.¬† Vegas not so much.¬† We made a great run but beat most everybody else I think except Langdon possibly, but when someone goes out and runs a quick session against you which so many people do against our car, you just kind of shrug it off.¬† It's racing, man.¬† We were on the winning side of a lot of those, too.¬† That was unfortunate, but we had to sit there and watch and watch as everything transformed, and it did.¬† It changed leaders several times in that race‑‑ not leaders but second in points.¬†
You know, it could have been a lot worse.¬† We opened the door, and if Langdon or one of the guys up in front, Torrence, wins, they're right on our tail.¬† We got lucky a few times, but we definitely earned it, and I definitely think that Pomona, again, had we gone out first round, it would have been three wins and three first‑round losses, and you know, wouldn't have been the way you'd want to call yourself a champ.¬† If you win a championship you want to do it in good form, and we did it in outstanding form.¬†

Q.  Tony, the tenure of Mike Green, is that what's really paid into this, the consistency of that car combined with your driving skills?  Is that what's got you to this point? 
TONY SCHUMACHER:  We're just comfortable with each other.  I mean, really, he's fantastic.  You know, when Allen Johnson was leaving, he said, don't worry about Mike Green, he's great.  He's great at what he does.  And I believed him.  I didn't know Mike that much, that well, except that he's worked with Allen for a while, and Allen knew the decisions he made and how he raced. 
To hear Allen Johnson say that, it definitely makes you more comfortable.  I don't know if in Allen's mind we were going to go off and win championships.  I don't know that he thought anyone else would at that time because they were running so darned good, and the whole team left, but when Mike came over and I saw the decisions he made and how he raced, I was extremely pleased. 
I think they know that we've gotten through some big moments, and I think a crew chief can look at a driver and say, okay, this guy knows how to handle the pressure and can turn the wick up a little more than he may otherwise.¬† There's a combination of‑‑ we really hit it off well.¬† We went off, the first meeting we had against Allen Johnson with Dixon driving, we won that, and it was just an excitement that Mike hadn't probably had in a while.¬† There was potential to go out and win, and me having this team that had just done so well for five years straight, having lost a crew chief, seeing how good he really was, was so comforting to me.¬† It was just a great combination of, wow, we can actually keep going and go out and try to win the championship or at least be in the battle at the end, at least not be sitting back watching everyone else run away, like so many people said was going to happen.¬† We were written off.¬† We weren't going to win a race, no less a championship.¬†

Q.  The last championship you won after winning the championship, you said that Mike had come to you and said, we've got to change basically everything we're doing if we're going to have a shot at this, and it paid off.  Was there ever that time during this Countdown that Mike said, hey, we've got to step on it a little harder? 
TONY SCHUMACHER:¬† No.¬† I did.¬† There are always those moments where you go, dude, why don't we go back to a five‑disk clutch.¬† We've got to win some races.¬† He said, I'm so close.¬† If we do that, we will not have time to catch it back up.¬† He fought hard to maintain that, him and Neal both, and they said, we have got to make that right.¬† We've got to keep making changes, but we are right on this, we have this.¬† This is something that's going to win in the long‑term more than just this year.¬† Everyone eventually is going to have to switch to this deal, and we're going to be years ahead.¬† Man, we worked a long time.¬†
We may not be years ahead of my two other cars because they're going to walk over and take it once it's figured out, but the other cars aren't going to have it, and ultimately as the power level raises and keeps going up, you're going to have to have these disks, and we have our handles on it.  Now, that being said, everybody runs out of disks.  We always run out of clutch parts, so to make sure that there's a new batch coming out and everything, we've stayed ahead of that game, and I think it's an outstanding advantage we're going to have starting out next year and going forward. 

Q.  Tony, eight championships is a tall measure.  You got this one with a charge into that Countdown when it really counted.  Talk a little bit about that surge. 
TONY SCHUMACHER:  I think we were coming off strong.  Even the Western Swing we were starting to get it.  We really were starting to find it.  Brainerd I got beat on a great race, and I got beat by Kalitta again.  There's just nothing easy about racing. 
But we knew we were getting it at the right time.  Mike said it best.  He goes, we are right on it, and we are coming on strong at the right time.  Proved us right, got beat by a phenomenal run in a close race, but the championships are won, honestly, by those rounds going your way, and we had used up a lot of those rounds going the wrong way throughout the season, and during the Countdown.  And I said it best, I think, at the banquet, everybody knows that championships are part luck.  You have the greatest car in the world and you get the guy who runs low ET against you next to you, it's over.  And it's timing and placement and a whole lot of little things, and we had the right luck and the right car to start it off. 
When you start the Countdown off with a couple of wins, you break people's backs.  You make it hard.  They start thinking different, they start tuning different.  Their backs are against the wall and they have to do things maybe that they're not comfortable with or even ready to do. 
Great example is Morgan Lucas in the final.  What does he have to lose?  He runs a couple of races, why not turn the wick, and that's what they did.  Why not?  But when you're fighting for this Countdown, you've kind of got to do that sometimes when you're not ready for it.  And maybe Morgan pulled that off a few times in a row, but if he had to do it three times in a row, that wasn't going to work.  That's a very difficult thing to do, and I think it just was the right timing for us. 

Q.  You're always good at articulating and defining the strengths of you and your team.  Can you talk a little bit about that?  Is there anything different this year, specific, that made you and your team stronger? 
TONY SCHUMACHER:¬† I just‑‑ we bonded well.¬† A couple of guys left, a couple new guys came.¬† This may be the greatest team I've ever worked with honestly.¬† Mike Green and Allen Johnson, that was a flawless team.¬† We still had rotation of team.¬† We had a good, strong team.¬† But right now it is a group of dedicated people.¬† And again, I'll revert back to my canopy.¬† The canopy should be heavier.¬† I have more leg protection in my car than anyone else is willing to put in because it weighs too much, yet my car is only five pounds overweight.¬† It's because we worked extra hard.¬† It is a group of people that spent more hours at the shop than I've ever seen, worked harder to earn a championship, harder.¬† Allen Johnson and that group was a brilliant group of people with a tune‑up that everyone else was fighting for No.2 from the get‑go.¬†
This was different.¬† There was only one car back there.¬† Now there's 10 cars that can win on any given day.¬† You have to dig a little deeper to win.¬† These guys did it.¬† They performed ‑‑ I don't know what to say about them.¬† They're just an amazing gift of a team, and I think that it really showed at the end of the year how grateful they were to win the championship, not so much entitled to it, they were grateful.¬† It was pretty amazing.¬†
SCOTT SMITH:  Looking forward to next year a little bit, you have the five wins, Antron had six, Spencer, Shawn, Khalid, Richie Crampton, J.R. Todd who finished second in points, Top Fuel is going to be another dogfight, another fun season next year, right? 
TONY SCHUMACHER:¬† It's going to be harder than this year.¬† And repeating a championship is harder than winning one.¬† Winning one, you can go out there and win one.¬† Try to back it up the next year with this level of people.¬† It is going to be brutal.¬† I mean, if we pull this off, it will be as gratifying as‑‑ the one thing to be said is unless you win the first one, you can't win two in a row.¬† Our guys love it.¬† They said, we can't win the second one in a row without that first win, and they did what they had to that time.¬† I'm going to enjoy this off‑season because I know how hard it's going to be next year.¬† It is going to be the most brutal Top Fuel season we've ever seen.¬†
SCOTT SMITH:  We look forward to seeing it kick back off when we hit in Pomona coming up early next season.  Tony, thank you very much for your time. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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