In a story that couldn’t have been scripted any better, newly-minted Top Fuel team owners Joe and Cathi Maynard became first-time winners Sunday at the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent Washington. Their driver, Tony Schumacher, powered to his first victory since the fall of 2020 and 86th overall to close out the three-race Western swing.
Aboard the DSR Performance-powered Okuma Top Fuel dragster, Schumacher earned the No. 3 qualifying position, his highest-seeded start to-date in 2022. On Sunday, Schumacher battled tricky track conditions to defeat Scott Palmer and fellow world champ Shawn Langdon before outlasting Justin Ashley in a wild pedalfest to reach his 155th final round. Against current Top Fuel points leader Brittany Force, he snagged the starting line advantage and legged his dragster to the finish line first, ahead of a slowing Force.
“This was a fantastic weekend, and talk about perfect timing,” said Schumacher, who to that point in the season had just a 5-12 round record with one semifinal round appearance. “Joe and Cathi Maynard, along with their partners Eric and Kim Lehman, buy the team with my dad, and here we go out and qualify third, which is our best qualifying performance by far all year. We’ve been struggling. We were having a tough time this year, a lot of awful luck, but we dug deep, worked hard, and made some big changes, and it paid off.”
Making the victory extra sweet, Schumacher’s triumph allowed him to deliver a Wally trophy to Joe and Cathi Maynard in their debut weekend as team owners, after assuming a majority ownership stake in the team last Sunday from Don Schumacher.
“Cathi and I are so passionate about this sport, and the first drag race Cathi ever saw was Tony Schumacher driving past her at 330-miles-per-hour, and she has been hooked ever since. That was 15 years ago. So, fast forward to 2020, we contacted Don Schumacher to get started with the team, and like I’ve said before, Don gave Cathi and me an opportunity to live out a dream,” said Maynard, who gets to enjoy the unique bragging right of being able to claim he is undefeated as a team owner after his first weekend at the helm of the Okuma Top Fuel team. Tony has been our favorite driver for a long time. We love drag racing, we have that Maynard family spirit, and that’s why we’re here.”
For Schumacher, the victory was retribution for what had otherwise been a challenging first half to the season.
“Coming into this race, we found ourselves 12th in points, 100 points out of the Top 10, and you get down to where there’s four races left before the playoffs start, and you’ve got to perform,” said Schumacher who moved up one position to 11th on Sunday, and is within 10 points, or one round win, of Clay Millican, who occupies the No. 10 spot.
“We went out today and got that first round win, and we were excited, and you look at that ladder and you’ve got Justin Ashley, Langdon, Brittany, and it’s like, what are you kidding me? This was not an easy one by any means. These guys are all great; they’re excellent on the starting line, and they all had lane choice. So, to be able to go out there today and have a race day like we had, it’s just exciting. It’s good for the sport, it’s good for Joe and Cathi Maynard, it and was good for my guys. It’s a tough sport, you’ve got to be able to overcome adversity, and when you have days like today, it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.”