SCHUMACHER LOSES IN FINALS WIDENS LEAD IN TOP FUEL STANDINGS

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Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher dropped a close final round race to Doug Herbert here Sunday in the CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, but still extended his lead in the Top Fuel world championship chase. The driver of the United States Army Top Fuel dragster posted a 4.527- second pass at 329.18 mph in his 11th final of the season, but it did not quite measure up to Herbert's 4.516-second run at 329.75 mph. Despite not claiming his ninth victory of the year, Schumacher heads for the re-scheduled Lucas Oil Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa. next weekend with a 273-point lead on second-place Doug Kalitta. "When you get to the finals, you certainly want the whole deal," said Schumacher. "But, looking at the big picture, we gained 56 points today on Kalitta and that was tremendously important. Winning the world title remains the primary objective." The Chicago native was bidding for his second win at Route 66 Raceway, a track located just an hour south of his home. On the way to his meeting with Herbert, he knocked off David Grubnic, Rhonda Hartman-Smith and Brandon Bernstein. "Like I have been saying for days, every round is so critical these days," he offered. "We were able to go more rounds than Kalitta today, which is the bottom line. We're getting closer and closer to that championship. This Army team is beginning to taste it." While Schumacher nears his second world title (he won his first in 1999), the opportunity to tie or break the record for most Top Fuel wins in a single season (nine) remains with three races left on the 2004 schedule. "We got close to tying the record today, but just didn't quite get there," he said. "Again, we need to clinch the title first and then we can think about other things like the record." Joining Schumacher at Maple Grove Raceway next weekend will be his U.S. Army Pro Stock Bike teammates, Antron Brown and Angelle Savoie. Brown and Savoie are second and fourth, respectively, in the Pro Stock Bike standings.
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