BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 2, 2023) – Tony Schumacher, NHRA’s winningest Top Fuel driver in history, will be inducted into Bristol Dragway’s Legends of Thunder Valley, the historic track’s official hall of fame, during next weekend’s NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, June 9-11.
Six of the “The Sarge’s” record 86 career Top Fuel victories came at Bristol Dragway during his distinguished career. The eight-time NHRA world champion, who will be competing in JCM Racing’s SCAG Power Equipment Top Fuel dragster next weekend, says he’s looking to add more wins to his stats at one of his favorite tracks on the circuit.
Schumacher, 53, is the 20th inductee in the prestigious Legends of Thunder Valley and joins his father, 2014 honoree Don Schumacher, in the exclusive club. Schumacher is also only the second member to be inducted while he is still an active racer, joining 2016 inductee John Force, who continues to compete in the NHRA Funny Car category.
Schumacher, a Chicago native who currently resides in Austin, Texas, dominated NHRA’s Top Fuel category in the 2000s. He won six consecutive world championship titles from 2004-2009. His incredible 2008 season, where he was named Driver of the Year for all of motorsports, was perhaps his best ever, where he won 15 races in 18 final rounds and posted 9 No. 1 qualifying awards and never lost a first-round pairing that season.
He also claimed NHRA Top Fuel world championship titles in 1999, driving the Exide Batteries dragster to one victory in 5 final round appearances, and in 2014, where he won five times in six final rounds.
Schumacher had an amazing love affair with the sport’s most prestigious race, the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. He has won that race 10 times during his career, a record for all NHRA professional categories.
He also had a similar affection for beautiful Thunder Valley, where he reached eight final rounds and was able to cash in on six of them, including wins in 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2018. He posted runner-up finishes at Bristol in 2001 and 2016. He claimed three consecutive Bristol Dragway wins from his epic ‘08 season through 2010. He also claimed four No. 1 qualifying positions at Bristol, in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Guests are invited to come out and celebrate with “The Sarge” next weekend at Thunder Valley.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they're granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans will get to see plenty of NHRA stars during the weekend, like Top Fuel defending champ Brittany Force, Tony Stewart Racing Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett, Virginia cattle rancher Matt Hagan, six-time and defending Bristol winner and defending Funny Car champ Ron Capps, Bristol Top Fuel winner Mike Salinas, 2021 Funny Car winner Alexis DeJoria, four-time Top Fuel champ Steve Torrence and Top Fuel rising star Justin Ashley, who won the Top Fuel title at Bristol last year.
The high-revving Pro Stock category returns to action at Bristol with some new faces leading the way including Dallas Glenn, Matt Hartford, Deric Kramer and Troy Coughlin Jr. Meanwhile, series veterans and multi-time champs Greg Anderson and Erica Enders are ready to return to their winning ways.
The 200-mph Pro Stock Motorcycle class also returns this season and a new rider, Gaige Herrera is off to a fast start on his two-wheel machine and currently leads the series points standings. He is being chased by veteran riders Eddie Krawiec, Matt Smith, Hector Arana Jr., Angie Smith, Steve Johnson and Chip Ellis.
For the first time since 2021 the NHRA Fuel Tech Pro Mod Drag Racing Series will return to Bristol Dragway and series leader Justin Bond will be among the pre-race favorites. Others to watch in the wild and unpredictable category include JR Gray Jr., Jose Gonzalez, Jason Lee, Khalid Al Balooshi, Mike Castellana, Rickie Smith and Kristopher Thorne.
The race also will feature action in the Legends Nitro Funny Car class, NHRA Lucas Oil Series, the FlexJet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown and the Factory X presented by Holley.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA's popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
There are three major events that fans definitely won’t want to miss, including Friday’s Nitro at Night qualifying session where the Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars “light their candles” and power down the drag strip at more than 320 mph as flames erupt out of their header pipes. A brilliant fireworks show will complete the racing on Friday. On Saturday, race officials will host the popular Fan Fest in the Pits, where many of the top drivers are available to meet with fans and sign autographs. This event begins 30 minutes after the final pro qualifying session and is held in the large Guest Welcome Center tent. The other is the Sealmaster TrackWalk on Sunday morning prior to pre-race ceremonies. Join NHRA drivers and NHRA officials as they walk up and down the famed Bristol Dragway quarter-mile strip before racing begins.
Qualifying for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begins Friday, June 9 with a pair of pro sessions, the first at 4 p.m. and the second under the lights at 7 p.m. The final two rounds of qualifying are set for Saturday, June 10, at 1 and 4:30 p.m. and will include the new bonus program Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, June 11.
Friday’s 90-minute qualifying show will air on FS1 at 7 p.m. (ET), and be followed by another 90-minute qualifying show on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. (ET), also on FS1. Sunday’s three-hour final eliminations show will air at 7 p.m. (ET) on FS1.
Weekend packages begin at just $94 while single-day Friday tickets start as low as $30 for adults. Saturday adult tickets start at $47 and Sunday’s tickets start at $37. Tickets for kids 12 and under are free each day in grandstand sections A-U with a paid adult.
To purchase your reserved seats, call Bristol Dragway at (866) 415-4158. Tickets also are available online by visiting the BMS website.
LEGENDS OF THUNDER VALLEY
2023 – Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher, Top Fuel
2022 – Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Funny Car/Top Fuel
2021 – Scotty Cannon, Pro Mod / Funny Car
2019 – Ted Jones, promoter / drag racing visionary
2018 – Mark Oswald, Funny Car / Top Fuel
2017 – Doug Herbert, Top Fuel
2016 – John Force, Funny Car
2015 – Carl Moore, Bristol Dragway founder and Connie Kalitta, NHRA pioneer
2014 – Don Schumacher, NHRA team owner / Funny Car pioneer
2013 – Warren Johnson, Pro Stock
2012 – Gene Fulton, Engine Builder
2011 – Jeff Byrd, Bristol President and GM / RJ Reynolds marketing
2010 – Shirl Greer, Funny Car
2009 – Dale Pulde, Funny Car
2008 – Ronnie Sox & Buddy Martin, Pro Stock
2007 – Bruton Smith, Speedway Motorsports / Bristol Dragway owner
Wally Parks, NHRA founder
Don Garlits, Top Fuel
Larry Carrier, Bristol Dragway founder
Rickie Smith, Pro Stock / Pro Mod