By Tony Schumacher
January 20, 2005

Coming off an unexpected off-weekend due to Hurricane Ivan, the U.S. Army Top Fuel Drag Racing Team carries the NHRA Top Fuel point lead into the O'Reilly Fall Nationals this weekend at the Texas Motorplex just south of Dallas.

Heading for the Lone Star State, we've managed to carve out a 160-point advantage over second-place Doug Kalitta as the 2004 NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series heads down the home stretch of the season.

We're down to the last five races and I'm still not resting easy. I was anxious to get the Reading, Pa., race in the books last weekend, but Mother Nature decided to throw us a curve and postpone the race to the beginning of next month. So, now, we're going to Texas with the hope that we'll be productive and widen our lead in the standings.

Our advantage over Kalitta translates into eight rounds with just 20 rounds left on the table. But, the U.S. Army team refuses to get caught up in the round speculation game. I simply won't allow that to happen.

We have to go out and take care of our own business and not worry about Kalitta or anyone else. If we do that, we'll be just fine. It's when you lose focus on the job at hand that you get in deep trouble.

All we have to do is look back at last year's race in Dallas to see just how one's fortunes can turn on a dime. After taking the No. 1 qualifying spot, we were quickly dispatched in the first round by Kalitta, who had qualified 16th.

We understand that anything can happen at any given time in this sport. From this point forward, every round we can pocket is one less Kalitta or any of the contenders can take from us. That's how you have to look at it. But, at the same time, we still want to win races. That's always the primary objective.

We have tasted victory at the Texas Motorplex -- drag racing's first supertrack -- in 1999 while en route to the world title. My crew chief, Alan Johnson, definitely knows how to get down that track. He won there three times with Gary Scelzi. That's pretty impressive, if you ask me.

With that, I've got to polish my cowboy boots for the trip to "Big D." "The Sarge" extends his usual group salute. We'll reconvene just before the Carquest Auto Parts Nationals in Joliet, Ill., next week. Stay well.

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