TOPEKA, Kan. – A perfect finish to the Western Swing has Top Fuel’s Tony Schumacher on the right track and that could be dangerous for the rest of the loaded class heading into this weekend’s Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park.
Schumacher won in Seattle two weeks ago, erasing some early-season struggles for a team that appears to be coming together at the right time. That has the eight-time Top Fuel world champ excited for his first appearance in Topeka since the 2018 campaign, as the longtime star returned to full-time racing this year. There were some early bumps in the road, but as Schumacher and his team showed in Seattle, this team may be primed for a run at another world title as the Countdown to the Championship approaches.
He holds the track record for the quickest pass at Topeka’s House of Speed and a 2010 win at the facility, and Schumacher, who has 86 career victories, will try to add another this weekend in his 11,000-horsepower Scag Top Fuel dragster, knowing full well the importance of this stage of the season.
“You’ve got perform this time of the year,” Schumacher said. “The right attitude is important and there was excitement (in Seattle). Coming into (Seattle), we found ourselves 12th in points, 100 out of the top 10 and you’ve got to perform. These drivers in this class are all great. It’s a tough sport and you’ve got to be able to overcome adversity. It’s all really close right now and you’re to the point where there’s just a few races before the Countdown. We’re going to keep trying and we’ve got a group of people who are excited.”
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car) and Dallas Glenn (Pro Stock) won the 2021 event, and this year’s Topeka race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including live eliminations coverage starting at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, Aug. 14. It is the 14th of 22 races during the 2022 season and only two events follow the annual stop in Topeka before the six-race playoffs begin.
Schumacher is just 10 points out of 10th place and only 51 out of eighth in a tightly-bunched Top Fuel category, finally turning the corner in Seattle in the first race with new majority team owners Joe and Cathi Maynard. The team qualified third there and made a series of strong runs as Schumacher continued to praise the work of his team.
They’ve worked through a lot this year and Schumacher likes where the group is headed, even while dealing with Top Fuel stars like Brittany Force, the current points leader who won in Topeka last year, four-time defending world champ Steve Torrence, Mike Salinas, who has four wins this year, Justin Ashley, Doug Kalitta, Denver winner Leah Pruett, Antron Brown, Josh Hart and 2018 winner Clay Millican.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and there’s ebbs and flows,” Schumacher said. “The worst thing I can do is to put pressure on them when they don’t need it. The guys weren’t making mistakes and you can’t point fingers. They’re giving everything and it’s hard on them. These guys have worked so hard and it’s so hard to get here. It’s a tough sport, but when the good stuff comes, it’s a beautiful thing.”
In Funny Car, John Force earned an incredible 10th Funny Car victory at Heartland Motorsports Park a year ago, slipping past J.R. Todd in the final round. Todd is eager to get some redemption this year in his 11,000-horsepower DHL Toyota GR Supra and he heads to Topeka with plenty of momentum after one of his best showings of 2022 in Seattle. Todd advanced to his first final round of the year before falling to Force’s teammate, points leader Robert Hight.
It gave Hight his sixth win of the year, but it also showed Todd, a former world champion, that things may be getting in order at the ideal time. They ran extremely well in warm conditions, moving back up to sixth in points, and Todd has plenty of good vibes from last year’s performance in Topeka. Combined, it might lead to Todd’s first win of the season as he faces off with the likes of Hight, Force, Matt Hagan, who has three wins this year, Sonoma winner Bob Tasca III, Tim Wilkerson, defending world champ Ron Capps, Alexis DeJoria, and Cruz Pedregon.
“Last year Topeka was a good race for the DHL team with a No. 1 qualifier and then a runner-up finish,” Todd said. “We just came up short in the final. We were runner-up in Seattle two weeks ago and we let one get away. The most important time of the year is coming up in the Countdown. We have three more races including this weekend in Topeka to make up some ground and build some momentum. The DHL Toyota guys are doing a great job, as always. We are just going to work on staying consistent and keep doing what we’re doing. I really believe the wins will come. Topeka will be hot, but it was hot in Seattle, and we did alright.”
Dallas Glenn’s memorable rookie season in Pro Stock included a huge moment in Topeka when he had a perfect .000 reaction time in the final round to pick up the victory en route to NHRA Rookie of the Year honors. He has a win in 2022, but everyone is chasing points leader and four-time champ Erica Enders, who has an impressive six victories already this season. She’ll look to keep rolling against stiff competitors like reigning world champ Greg Anderson, Kyle Koretsky, Seattle winner Troy Coughlin Jr., Aaron Stanfield Matt Hartford, and rookie Camrie Caruso.
It is Pro Stock Motorcycle’s first trip to Heartland Motorsports Park in 25 years and only points leader Angelle Sampey has a victory among active riders, picking up the win in 1997. Joey Gladstone, who picked up his first career win in the class at Sonoma, is only two points behind Sampey in the standings, while other standouts include reigning world champ Matt Smith, Steve Johnson, Angie Smith, Jerry Savoie, Karen Stoffer, Eddie Krawiec and Jimmy Underdahl.