FORCE AND THE SARGE
Tony Schumacher is
on the wrong end of
an 11-final losing streak.
What do you two see in each other that
reminds you of yourself?
FORCE That’s easy: the drive to win.
SCHUMACHER My dad [Don
Schumacher, who owns seven nitro teams,
including Tony’s Army Top Fuel operation]
raced for years, but he quit when I was five,
so I never saw him race. When I was
growing up, John was the guy I always had
my eye on. He’s always just had that look
that says, “I’m going to kick your ass,” and
I don’t care who’s in the other lane, I feel
exactly the same way every time.
Did you two always think – or know –
you’d end up where you are today?
FORCE Anyone who’s competitive knows
that sooner or later he’s going to win.
Not thinking that way just isn’t in your
makeup. In the beginning, you do this just
because you love it – it’s not about being
a champion. But the carrot was always
out there – one day, I’m going to win.
SCHUMACHER Did I think I was going
to win when I first started? [Laughs]
I was happy just to go a couple rounds.
I couldn’t believe a 20-some-year-old kid
like me was getting in a Top Fuel car in
the first place. It was mind-boggling. Then
I showed up for my first race, the 
U.S. Nationals, barely had a license, and
ended up in the final.
It sure didn’t start out that way – for
either of you…
SCHUMACHER I made it to eight finals
the first few years I drove and I lost every
one of them. When you get that far,
you’re always going up against somebody
good. When I finally did win [over the late
Scott Kalitta in Dallas in 1999], I just
knew I was going to get my butt handed
to me again. We took off, and there he
was, way out in front of me. I remember
thinking, “It’s happening again.” Then he
just disappeared. I’m surprised I didn’t
cross the centerline from looking into
his lane to see where he was. They
interviewed me at the end of the track,
joined the NHRA
Funny Car ranks in
2007, driving for
her dad’s team, and
was voted NHRA
Rookie of the Year.
She claimed her
first event win in
’08 – beating John
in Atlanta. Now a
mother, she is
from drag racing.
and I wasn’t even excited because I didn’t
expect to win. I was that used to losing.
FORCE You don’t just wake up one day
and say, “OK, today’s the day. Now we’re
going to win.” I wouldn’t want anyone to
think that. It’s a process. In the beginning,
I just wanted to have enough gas money
to get to the track – whatever else I
needed, I figured I’d borrow when I got
there. The next goal was to start the car,
just see if it would run. I’m not kidding.
I wasn’t going to win. Winning wasn’t even
on my mind. You know what they used to
call me? A “perennial bridesmaid.” I didn’t
even know what that meant – “perennial”
or “bridesmaid.” Then I got [1982-’ 83
championship crew chief Austin] Coil, and
raced for three more years and still didn’t
win anything. One day I said, “Hey, Coil,
when I hired you, I thought we were
supposed to win all these races.” And he
said, “Yeah, and I thought you had a
million bucks.” I remember doing the
burnout in the final when I finally did win
[in Montreal in 1987], thinking, ”You
know you’re just going to get your ass
whipped again anyway, so why not have
some fun?” What happens is, you start
winning all these rounds, and then you
get to the final and forget how you got
there. Pressure changes you. What
changed that day is that I didn’t feel the
pressure. The car doesn’t know it’s the
final – only you do. So forget about it.
Then you win, and the world changes.
“In the beginning, I just wanted
to have enough gas money
to get to the track”
One victory, and you start looking at
SCHUMACHER After that first one, it’s
amazing how fast you get used to it and
how you expect to win every time. I’ve
lost my last 11 finals in a row – even more
than I lost at the start of my career –
and I still think I’m going to win every
time. Every race I go to, I show up feeling