Tony Schumacher
Thursday January 20th, 2005

It wasn't long after the U.S. Army Top Fuel Drag Racing Team captured the O'Reilly Fall Nationals in Dallas last Sunday that my cell phone began ringing in earnest.

With a hometown race looming for me this weekend -- the CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., just outside of Chicago -- I suddenly became a marked man.

Between winning races and being a serious contender to win the (Top Fuel) world championship, everyone wants to come out to the race this weekend. You can't imagine how many ticket requests I've received.

Of course, understand, I'm not complaining. After all, success does breed team popularity.

This kind of attention is really great for the entire team. I'd rather have it this way than having to go out and beg people to watch us. But, if you let it, all of that attention can also be distracting. We have to keep reminding ourselves that there's still plenty of work to do.

We're still pursuing the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world championship. Presently, we lead second-place Doug Kalitta by 217 points with but four races remaining on the schedule, including the Joliet stop.

We can't rest for a minute. We have to stay focused 100 percent of the time. The championship race is not over until the NHRA says it's over. Until then, there are races to be won and points to total.

We've been on top of the standings for 17 of the opening 19 weeks. We would like nothing better than to leave my home track still firmly attached to that perch.

We definitely need to widen the gap even more. Winning again at Route 66 Raceway (we captured the spring race last year) would be real special for a lot of reasons.

While the Top Fuel world championship remains the primary objective for the U.S. Army team, setting the record for the most wins in a season in Top Fuel is not far behind.

We have eight wins so far and all we need are two more over these final four races to break the record (the current record is nine -- set by both Gary Scelzi in 2000 and Larry Dixon in 2002).

It will be tough, no doubt about it, but I believe we have just as good a shot to win those races as anyone else. Why not go for it, right? We may never be in this position again.

With that, it's time to start filling those ticket requests. "The Sarge" salutes you all.

We're heading back to Reading, Pa., next weekend for the re-scheduled Lucas Oil Nationals, so until then, please stay well.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.