Schumacher, Team Adjusting Nicely In 2013
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Seven-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher is off to a hot NHRA-season start. Again. But this one, Schumacher said recently, is a bit different. A bit better in terms of how he and his team are heating up.
This season’s hot start, he said, is directly traceable to Don Schumacher Racing being able to produce dragsters that are more race-weekend adjustable than any he’s ever driven before.
“I really think we have something very special,” Schumacher said during a teleconference last week.
That has shown in the first four events of the season. Schumacher has won two of those events – at Phoenix in Week 2, and Las Vegas the last time out. In addition, Schumacher raced to the final round of eliminations in the season-opener in Pomona.
This weekend, Schumacher will arrive in Concord, N.C. for the Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway with the Top Fuel points lead.
He said that his team’s performance at The Strip in Vegas kind of illustrated how his team and the adjustability of the car got him the victory.
The car, Schumacher said, was not fast off the trailer. In fact, in early qualifying runs, it was nowhere close to being fastest at the event.
“I think what really helped, and I mentioned it before,” Schumacher said, “is that first run when other cars ran 3.81, you kind of go, ‘Man, .85, what’s wrong with this car?’ But what (crew chief) Mike Green and (assistant crew chief) Neal (Strausbaugh) learned from that run helped them win the race. They could run their car all day. The data they got from that run allowed them to do that.
“Conditions changed throughout the day. The changes that Mike would make would repeat. I’ve been kind of saying it all year long: We have this tune-up now where we can make a change, and the car’s performance will reflect change. That was a perfect race to show it. Cars were going out there, you ran a 3.81 first round, but how do you back it down? They went out second round and smoked the tires. We went right down the racetrack because we had the car and tune-up right for that situation.”
Asked if he’s ever had a car with the current kind of adjustability before, “The Sarge” said, “Not as good as what we have right now.”
And asked if he could pinpoint the areas of adjustability, Schumacher took a deep breath.
“Well, that’s a great question,” he said. “It’s obviously a combination between a lot of different things. I think a lot of times, it’s clutch discs. We know how to make a car make power and take away power. Most teams know how to do that. You end up getting a series of discs, a combination, where one’s not working. You don’t know if you should put a used one in. My guys just have found a good thing. Now, that being said, the tune-up they have is phenomenal right now. The power level is outstanding, as many of them are. I would be willing to bet (former Schumacher tuner and current Al-Anabi Racing manager) Alan Johnson’s power is right there with us, if not more. Alan Johnson knows how to make horsepower. So we found something that is better than his. Without being able to walk over and look at theirs, all I can tell you is our adjustability is as good as it ever has been.
“From testing in West Palm (Florida) at the beginning of the year, we were making changes. The first thing they said is, ‘When I make a change, the car responds to it.’ Whether it’s good or bad, sometimes you make changes, and it does nothing. That’s when you go, “Wow, this is not good because we don’t know how to back a car down because we don’t know what the car is telling us it wants.” If you asked Mike Green, he’d probably give you a different answer. I guarantee you it’s a smarter answer because he understands what he’s tuning. I just know what I’m hearing. The guys have an amazing clutch program, blower program, overall fuel program. It’s working well. It’s working well enough where we can put different pieces on the car at different times and actually try it and go, “Wow, that piece worked or didn’t work” because we don’t have to start second-guessing the tune-up.”
Schumacher has won at zMAX, but not under the unique four-wide formula. The hope is the confidence his team has built in the early going in 2013 will get him his first four-wide victory.One Comment