SCHUMACHER TO START SEVENTH

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Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher will come out of the seventh starting position here Sunday in the CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals at Route 66 Raceway. The pilot of the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster put up a pair of 4.54-second passes during final qualifying to settle into the upper half of the field for the seventh straight race. "We had some ideal conditions - cool and sunny - that led to some terrific performances by a lot of people today," said the Top Fuel point leader. "We would have preferred a better starting spot, but tomorrow's another day and we all start from scratch." Schumacher will face 10th-place qualifier, David Grubnic, in the first round of eliminations beginning at 11 a.m. CT. "We've got a tough first-round draw, but we'll be ready to go, trust me," added the Chicago native. "There aren't any freebies in Top Fuel." Schumacher is in the midst of a championship race that has him 217 points ahead of second-place Doug Kalitta. "Every round is so critical right now," he said. "This is quite pressure- packed. We can't afford to give Kalitta any room to breathe." With eight wins to date in 2004, the 1999 Top Fuel world champion entered the Joliet race one win short of tying the record for most Top Fuel wins in a single season. "That's not even a thought," he offered. "The race with Grubnic is the only item on our plate at the moment."
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