NHRA’s Legendary Driver “The Sarge” Tony Schumacher to Join Bristol Dragway’s Legends of Thunder Valley

Photo: Bristol Dragway
Photo: Bristol Dragway

Tony Schumacher, the most successful Top Fuel driver in NHRA history, will be honored at Bristol Dragway’s Legends of Thunder Valley, the esteemed hall of fame dedicated to the track’s iconic figures. The induction ceremony will take place during the upcoming NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals on June 9-11.

During his illustrious career, Schumacher secured an impressive 86 Top Fuel victories, with six of those triumphs achieved at Bristol Dragway. As an eight-time NHRA world champion, the accomplished driver will be competing in JCM Racing’s SCAG Power Equipment Top Fuel dragster, aiming to add more wins to his remarkable record at one of his favorite tracks on the circuit.

At 53 years old, Schumacher becomes the 20th inductee into the prestigious Legends of Thunder Valley, joining his father Don Schumacher, who was honored in 2014. Notably, Schumacher is only the second active racer to receive this recognition, following in the footsteps of John Force, inducted in 2016 while still competing in the NHRA Funny Car category.

Originally from Chicago and currently residing in Austin, Texas, Schumacher dominated the NHRA Top Fuel category in the 2000s, clinching six consecutive world championship titles from 2004 to 2009. His outstanding 2008 season, where he was named Driver of the Year across all motorsports, stands as a highlight of his career. During that season, he triumphed in 15 races out of 18 final rounds, secured 9 No. 1 qualifying awards, and remarkably never lost a first-round pairing.

Schumacher also earned NHRA Top Fuel world championship titles in 1999, with one victory in five final round appearances driving the Exide Batteries dragster, and in 2014, where he emerged victorious in five out of six final rounds.

The NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis holds a special place in Schumacher’s heart, as he claimed victory in that prestigious race a record-breaking 10 times across all NHRA professional categories. Similarly, he enjoyed great success at Thunder Valley, with eight final round appearances and six wins at Bristol Dragway. His victories at the track occurred in 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2018, while he finished as the runner-up in 2001 and 2016. Schumacher achieved an impressive three consecutive wins at Bristol Dragway from 2008 to 2010 and secured four No. 1 qualifying positions in 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2008.

Fans are invited to join in the celebration of “The Sarge” during the upcoming weekend at Thunder Valley. They will have the exclusive opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers through pit passes, granting direct access to the teams. This allows fans to witness the skilled mechanics servicing the hot rods between rounds and obtain autographs from their beloved NHRA drivers.

Photo: Bristol Dragway

The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals will showcase a lineup of renowned drivers, including defending Top Fuel champion Brittany Force, Tony Stewart Racing’s Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett, Matt Hagan, the Virginia cattle rancher and six-time Bristol winner and defending Funny Car champion Ron Capps, Mike Salinas, the previous Bristol Top Fuel winner, Alexis DeJoria, the 2021 Funny Car winner, four-time Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence, and the rising star in Top Fuel, Justin Ashley, who clinched the title at Bristol last year.

Get ready for the thrilling return of the high-revving Pro Stock category at Bristol Dragway, where a new generation of talent is leading the way. Keep an eye out for rising stars such as Dallas Glenn, Matt Hartford, Deric Kramer, and Troy Coughlin Jr. These young drivers are making their mark and aiming to make a name for themselves in the Pro Stock class.

Don’t miss the return of the 200-mph Pro Stock Motorcycle class this season, where newcomer Gaige Herrera has made a remarkable start on his two-wheel machine and currently leads the series points standings. He faces stiff competition from seasoned riders Eddie Krawiec, Matt Smith, Hector Arana Jr., Angie Smith, Steve Johnson, and Chip Ellis.

Making a comeback to Bristol Dragway after a hiatus since 2021, the NHRA Fuel Tech Pro Mod Drag Racing Series promises thrilling action. Keep an eye on series leader Justin Bond, who is considered one of the favorites before the race. Other contenders to watch out for in this wild and unpredictable category include JR Gray Jr., Jose Gonzalez, Jason Lee, Khalid Al Balooshi, Mike Castellana, Rickie Smith, and Kristopher Thorne.

The race weekend will also feature exciting events such as the Legends Nitro Funny Car class, NHRA Lucas Oil Series, the FlexJet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown, and the Factory X presented by Holley.

Make sure to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a vibrant carnival atmosphere. Enjoy interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun activities for the whole family.

There are three must-see events for fans: the Nitro at Night qualifying session on Friday, where Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars unleash their power down the drag strip at over 320 mph, with flames erupting from their header pipes. The session concludes with a spectacular fireworks show. On Saturday, don’t miss the Fan Fest in the Pits, held in the large Guest Welcome Center tent, where top drivers are available to meet fans and sign autographs. This event starts 30 minutes after the final pro qualifying session. Another exciting event is the Sealmaster TrackWalk on Sunday morning, just before the pre-race ceremonies. Join NHRA drivers and officials as they walk up and down the famous Bristol Dragway quarter-mile strip.

Qualifying for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals kicks off on Friday, June 9, with two pro sessions at 4 p.m. and under the lights at 7 p.m. The final two rounds of qualifying take place on Saturday, June 10, at 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., featuring the new bonus program, Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, June 11.

Tune in to FS1 for the 90-minute qualifying show on Friday at 7 p.m. (ET), followed by another 90-minute qualifying show on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. (ET). The three-hour final eliminations show will air on Sunday at 7 p.m. (ET) on FS1.

Weekend packages start at just $94, while single-day Friday tickets are available for as low as $30 for adults. Saturday adult tickets start at $47, and Sunday’s tickets start at $37. Children aged 12 and under can enter for free each day in grandstand sections A-U with a paid adult.

To secure your reserved seats, call Bristol Dragway at (866) 415-4158, or visit the BMS website to purchase tickets online.

2023 – Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher, Top Fuel
2022 – Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Funny Car/Top Fuel
2021 – Scotty Cannon, Pro Mod / Funny Car
2019 – Ted Jones, promoter / drag racing visionary
2018 – Mark Oswald, Funny Car / Top Fuel
2017 – Doug Herbert, Top Fuel
2016 – John Force, Funny Car
2015 – Carl Moore, Bristol Dragway founder and Connie Kalitta, NHRA pioneer
2014 – Don Schumacher, NHRA team owner / Funny Car pioneer
2013 – Warren Johnson, Pro Stock
2012 – Gene Fulton, Engine Builder
2011 – Jeff Byrd, Bristol President and GM / RJ Reynolds marketing
2010 – Shirl Greer, Funny Car
2009 – Dale Pulde, Funny Car
2008 – Ronnie Sox & Buddy Martin, Pro Stock
2007 – Bruton Smith, Speedway Motorsports / Bristol Dragway owner
Wally Parks, NHRA founder
Don Garlits, Top Fuel
Larry Carrier, Bristol Dragway founder
Rickie Smith, Pro Stock / Pro Mod

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