Tony Schumacher returns to victory in Houston

Eight-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher picked up his first victory in more than two years, powering to the win in a thrilling side-by-side duel with Steve Torrence in the final round of Sunday’s 33rd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park. 
Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil, the 10th of 11 races during the 2020 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
With Schumacher and Johnson both winning, it gave Don Schumacher Racing its first nitro sweep of 2020 and 66th overall for the organization, which now has 356 wins. Schumacher, the winningest driver in Top Fuel history, and Torrence put on a remarkable show in the final round, with Schumacher’s run of 3.669-seconds at 330.63 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Okuma/Sandvik Coromant Toyota dragster edging past Torrence’s 3.687 at 330.07. It gave Schumacher his 85th career victory and first since winning at Bristol in June of 2018. He defeated Cameron Ferre, Doug Foley and Billy Torrence to reach the final round, saving his best pass of the weekend for the championship round.
“I’m super proud and I’m so happy for my guys,” said Schumacher, who returned to the sport in July after not racing in 2019. “I’ve done this and lived these moments, and been part of some cool stuff, and these guys were able to dig deep. That final round, those are epic battles. I’ve been on both sides of that. I beat Torrence in Indy by .0006 and lost the same way to him. You’ve got two badass teams battling it out and that was the best race we’ve seen all year. It was a team effort and everybody did a great job.”
Torrence, the No. 1 qualifier, stayed on paced as he chases his third straight Top Fuel world championship by advancing to his sixth final round this year and 61st in his career. He picked up round wins against Shawn Langdon and Antron Brown, making six passes in the 3.60s this weekend. Torrence will take a 101-point lead over Doug Kalitta to the 2020 finale in Las Vegas.
Johnson remained in championship contention in Funny Car with a clutch performance in Houston, going 3.929 at 321.04 in his 11,000-horsepower MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to beat teammate Ron Capps’ 3.952 at 325.14 in the final round. It gave DSR its 13th straight Funny Car win and a victory for Johnson’s sponsor in their hometown. Johnson, who now has three victories this season and 22 in his career, beat Jim Campbell, J.R. Todd and then points leader Matt Hagan in a critical semifinal race to reach the finals. The victory pulled Johnson to within 42 points of Hagan, with Jack Beckman, who was upset in the opening round by Capps, just one point behind Johnson, ensuring a must-see showdown in Las Vegas.
“It was a must-win,” Johnson said. “We get close and then we stumble and we think we’re out of it, and here we come again. We just keep coming back. It’s like a heavyweight battle and when we get knocked down, we get back up and keep swinging. I’m just really proud of these guys. They never quit. I’m just super happy with the fight in these guys and this has got drama written all over it when we go to Vegas. You’ve got to keep digging and you knew the final round was going to be a great race. It’s definitely been different this year, but once you fire the engine it’s no different. These guys have done a really good job under some tough circumstances.”
Capps reached the final round for the 125th time in his career with victories against Beckman, who was the No. 1 qualifier, Cruz Pedregon and Alexis DeJoria.
In Pro Stock, Stanfield earned his first career win in the class thanks to a pass of 6.535 at 211.03 in his Janac Brothers Racing Chevrolet Camaro to beat Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the final round. Stanfield beat Kenny Delco, Troy Coughlin Jr. and Kyle Koretsky to advance to the final round for the second time in his career. Coughlin beat Matt Hartford, points leader Erica Enders and Greg Anderson to reach his 115th career final and stay in championship contention. 
After advancing to his first final round in Gainesville, Stanfield finished the job in Houston, capping off an incredible day for the young standout. He won the race in the Factory Stock Showdown Drag Racing Series, also clinching the world championship in that class. Add in the Pro Stock victory and Stanfield took home a remarkable three Wallys on Sunday.
“I definitely can’t put this into words,” Stanfield said. “I remember listening to my dad race and I’ve dreamed of the day that I could hold up a Pro Stock Wally ever since I was a little guy watching my dad race. It’s always been at the top of my goals. I tried to stay as calm as I could, but I knew my guys had my best interests in mind. I stayed focused, we did our job and we got it done. To be honest, this whole day has been crazy, just accomplishing huge, huge dreams. I haven’t had time to soak it all in, but what my dad has taught me is to clear your head and focus on what you need to do. That’s what I was able to do today.”
Despite falling in the second round, Enders stretched her points lead as she tries to win back-to-back world titles and her fourth overall. She leads Jason Line and Coughlin by 55 points heading to Las Vegas.
Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Krawiec won for the first time in more than two years on his Harley-Davidson FXDR, going 6.801 at 198.61 in the finals to beat Ryan Oehler. Krawiec’s last victory came at Brainerd in 2018, but he was impressive in Houston on Sunday to pick up his 48th career victory. He had a series of 6.80 runs over the final three rounds, beating Michael Phillips, Jerry Savoie and Hector Arana Jr. to reach the final round. Oehler beat Kelly Clontz, Andrew Hines and points leader Matt Smith to earn his second final-round berth, but Krawiec led from start to finish in a strong championship round performance.
“It just feels good to win again,” Krawiec said. “I feel like I’ve accomplished all that I’ve needed to and I don’t have to prove anything, but it’s nice just to get it done. There’s a lot of great racers in the class and you can’t take anything for granted. You have to appreciate every win, even more so right now with the competition level in the class. We’ve got 4-5 motorcycles all fighting for the championship. It’s great racing and that’s the way it should be. You have to be on your game at all times. It’s a big team effort and that’s what I really attribute this to.”
Matt Smith kept the points lead and is 58 points ahead of Scotty Pollacheck with one race remaining. Defending world champ Hines trails Pollacheck by just eight points as he remains in title contention as well.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series finishes its 2020 season Oct. 30-Nov. 1 with the Dodge NHRA Finals presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
(Courtesy of NHRA Communications)
Adam Sinclair