KENT, Wash. --
The NHRA's most successful Top Fuel driver has already collected three wins in 2013 - Phoenix, Las Vegas and his hometown Chicago - and has already earned his spot in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's six-race postseason playoffs.
The 72-time NHRA national event winner hopes to continue his mastery of the 26th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals, Aug. 2-4, at picturesque drag strip, and end a winless drought at the facility which has lasted just short of five years. Not since 2008 has "The Sarge" hoisted a Wally at Pacific Raceways.
However, Schumacher could never forget how to win at Seattle. Winning is almost second nature - he triumphed in 2004, 2006 and 2007 before the 2008 victory and holds both ends of the track performance record.
"It's a great, fast track at Seattle," Schumacher said. "The key is when you sit back and we know we've got to win a championship, let's look at the races that are left. Those are the ones you want to go to, where you dominate. And Seattle has been absolutely great to us for a long time, in a row. Our crew chief has a good handle on Seattle, good air and great track. I'm looking forward to it."
Schumacher and the U.S. Army dragster team will enter the event with a dragster they believe is a powerful championship contender. So far, they have raced to six final-round appearances this year, winning three of the events, and in the No. 2 spot in the points standings. Schumacher is confident they are moving in the right direction.
"Here we are at the beginning of the Western Swing," Schumacher said. "One and two are keeping power - we're battling back and forth. The third guy is creeping up on us but we're pushing ourselves away from the field and I think that's the most important thing. We're extending ourselves and getting far out there so that at the end of the day when you're battling it's just one, two, or three cars."
But the ultra-competitive Top Fuel category is proving to be an uphill battle for the four-time Seattle champ. For the past six events, Schumacher and Langdon have gone back and forth trading the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the Series standings.
"There are just a number of good cars," Schumacher said. "If I was a fan, and I am, if I was paying money to see a race, I would want to come to an NHRA race right now. Anybody can go out and do a great job. You don't wake up in the morning on Sunday, no matter who you're racing, and feel confident. Man, there are some great cars out there."
While three victories are amazing, Schumacher needs to continue the momentum he has going right now to hold off some other potent drivers that include some of his fellow DSR teammates. Schumacher is leaving no stone unturned in his mission to earn his eighth season championship.
Schumacher is going to have to prove that he can consistently be a finisher when it matters. The rest of this season is going to be crucial for Schumacher, because he needs to put himself in the best position possible for the Countdown to the Championship that kick off in Charlotte at the NHRA Carolina Nationals, Sept. 13-15.
"It's going to be a battle," the Chicago native said. "I think our crew has the potential to be as good as any team we've ever worked with and the tune up does too. Until you get there you just don't know."
Some of Schumacher's toughest rivals include reigning world champ Antron Brown, last season's event runner-up Spencer Massey, Al-Anabi teammates Langdon and Khalid alBalooshi. Other challengers include defending Seattle champ Torrence, Doug Kalitta, Bob Vandergriff, Clay Millican and Morgan Lucas.
In Funny Car, Courtney Force is looking to return to the track where she earned her first career win and she's well on her way to accomplish her goals with three final round appearances and two wins this season. But multiple drivers will aim to steal her thunder including current points leader Matt Hagan, Johnny Gray, former Seattle winner Ron Capps and three-time season winner Cruz Pedregon have occupied this season. John Force, a seven-time Seattle winner, Tequila Patron sophomore sensation Alexis DeJoria, veteran Del Worsham and 2012 world champion Jack Beckman will also be searching for the win.
In Pro Stock, points leader and two-time Seattle winner Mike Edwards hopes to continue building on his red-hot momentum while defending world champion Allen Johnson along with teammates Jeg Coughlin and Vincent Nobile are equally hot this season and continue in the climb to dominate. Former Seattle champs including Jason Line and Greg Anderson as well as notable thrillers Shane Gray, V. Gaines and Rodger Brogdon.
Since 1960, Pacific Raceways been known as one of the most picturesque and welcoming venues of all NHRA Mello Yello event tracks. The Fiorito family has been committed to the sport since the NHRA's beginnings making the facility a favorite among fans and drivers.
The teams in several categories of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds with intense side-by-side competition.
As always, every ticket purchased for the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals is an exclusive pit pass, allowing spectators to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their sophisticated hot rods between rounds. Fans can meet many of the drivers in the pits and get autographs. Fans will also want to check out NHRA Nitro Alley and the popular NHRA Manufacturers Midway.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:45 and 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, and will continue Saturday, Aug. 3, at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 4.
When the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series arrives in Seattle, families are encouraged to take advantage of a special ticket promotion: Children 12 and younger will receive free general admission with a paid adult all weekend. Fans can also bring an empty Mello YelloR bottle or can to Pacific Raceways box office and SAVE $8 on one adult single day NHRA race ticket, Friday - Sunday.
For tickets, visit www.NHRAtix.com or call 800-884-NHRA (6472).