INDIANAPOLIS – They call it the “Big Go”-but first it has to begin at a standstill.
Lined up along the south end of Monument Circle were the Top Fuel and Funny Car dragsters that will take to Lucas Oil Raceway for the 60th annual US Nationals this Labor Day Weekend.
They took a break from their natural habitat of the speedway to be shown off for fans at the annual kickoff fest held in Downtown Indianapolis.
Most of the drivers in the NHRA’s top two series were in attendance, including the Force family and Tony Schumacher, who knows all about success here in the Circle City.
“It was the home of my first race ever, I got here in ’96, the is the first place I ever drove a Top Fuel car in eliminations,” said Schumacher, who drives the US Army Top Fuel machine. “So coming back, we’ve had a lot of success here. We’ve won this race nine times and we’ve been in the finals more than half the times I’ve been to the “Big Go.”
It's a successful streak that ranks him among the elite in the history of the prestigious event, which is ranked by many dragsters as the "Super Bowl of Drag Racing." Not only does the place of Indianapolis in the racing community factor into such a distinction but also the fact that drivers can lock up the final spots in the NHRA's Championship Countdown.
For Schumacher it's a combination of pride yet at the same time pressure as he goes for his 10th US Nationals victory this coming weekend.
"It sets the bar awful high," said Schumacher. "You start to think of how many people never won it and how difficult it is and to go out this year to win it for a tenth time and be the only driver in history to ever do that. Right now we're tied with Bob Glidden, which is a great driver to be tied with. The guys done so much.
"To have a chance to set yourself above everybody and have a team capable of doing it and an opportunity to do it at a great racetrack like Indy. So looking forward to getting started.
So what has been the key to Schumacher's success? The driver had a clever answer.
"You show up with the right team, the right group of people capable of winning. I joke about it, but I idiot proof my life," said Schumacher. "I've eliminated the guy that can't get the job done from my team. I think it's necessary to show up to the battle like we're going to have with the right guys around you.
"I can honestly tell you when I look through my visor and I see my nine guys, there's no idiot in the group."
He's got nine trophies to prove that true.