The Sarge is back.
Tony Schumacher has won a record seven NHRA top-fuel titles and a record 76 individual events, but his last championship was five years ago.
Now, the 44-year-old driver with the crewcut nicknamed "The Sarge" is leading the championship standings again with three events left in the season: This weekend in Reading, Pa., then Las Vegas on Oct. 30-Nov. 2 and finally Pomona on Nov. 13-16.
Top fuel is the premier class in the National Hot Rod Assn.'s Mello Yello Series. The nitromethane-fueled dragsters routinely reach speeds well in excess of 300 mph in less than five seconds in 1,000-foot drag races.
Schumacher, who drives for his father's team, Don Schumacher Racing, dominated the class several years ago. Six of his seven titles came in consecutive years, from 2004 through 2009. He also won 15 events in 2008 alone, a record for a single season.
As the competition stiffened, Schumacher was unable to earn another championship after 2009. Other drivers who won the title included Schumacher's teammate, Antron Brown, who won the title in 2012.
But back-to-back victories last month gave Schumacher four wins for this year and lifted him to a 57-point lead in the title standings over reigning champion Shawn Langdon.
"We have the opportunity we were hoping for," Schumacher said in notes released by his team. "We wanted to be running our best at the end of the season when the championship was going to be decided.
"We have a lot of work still to do," he said, "but we've prepared for this moment."