Seeing Tony Schumacher wearing one of his National Hot Rod Assn. top-fuel championship leather jackets during breakfast Sunday morning didn’t look too much out of place. It was a pretty chilly morning for the NHRA season finale at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.
Had it been 100 degrees, Schumacher probably still would have worn one of his six championship jackets. Schumacher, with a hint of premonition, a sprinkle of confidence and proudly donning a reminder of his drag racing dominance, addressed friends and sponsors in the garage area before driver introductions.
Schumacher added to his championship collection and his wardrobe by winning the top-fuel championship by the slimmest of margins.
He finished two points ahead of Larry Dixon, the closest championship race in NHRA history and the Countdown to One playoffs.
“It was probably as gratifying as anything I’ve ever done in my life,” Schumacher said. “We stuck together as a team. We went out the same round as Larry and you could almost have predicted that.”
Schumacher, whose team is sponsored by the U.S. Army, said he was giving his championship trophy to the soldiers at Ft. Hood in Texas, site of a deadly shooting two weeks ago.
“The trophy will sit at Ft. Hood,” Schumacher said. “I don’t think there’s any question in the world where it actually belongs.”
Schumacher won the championship when Dixon lost his semifinal race to rookie Spencer Massey. With Dixon eliminated, Schumacher was in no danger of losing his two-point lead in the top-fuel standings.
“Drove good, just kind of a victim of circumstance,” said Dixon. “Went out there and spun the tires. That was it. At the end of the day, that was it. Spun the tires and game over.”
Schumacher lost his semifinal race to Antron Brown by 0.008 of a second, but it didn’t stop the celebration. Schumacher’s crew cheered when Dixon lost his semifinal race.
Brown beat Massey in the top-fuel final, winning his sixth top-fuel event of 2009 and the 24th of his career. Brown finished third in the overall standings.
Hector Arana won the pro stock motorcycle championship by two points over Eddie Krawiec in another close race. Arana lost in the second round and watched as Krawiec advanced to the pro stock motorcycles final race.
“It feels good,” Arana said. “It hasn’t really hit me yet. I do feel better, lighter now that the stress is over and the worries. It’s an awesome feeling to have this accomplishment this year. This is awesome.”
Krawiec beat Douglas Horne in the final race, his fifth win of the season in 11 final appearances.
Mike Neff defeated John Force Racing teammate Ashley Force Hood in the funny car final. It was Neff’s first NHRA victory.
Robert Hight, who won the funny car championship in qualifying Saturday, lost to Tim Wilkerson in the second round.
Greg Anderson beat Kurt Johnson in the pro stock final. It was Anderson’s third win of the season.
Mike Edwards, who won the pro stock championship in qualifying Saturday, lost to Anderson in the semifinals.