One Top Fuel dragster will have a much sleeker look at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway this weekend.
Tony Schumacher's U.S. Army machine features a new enclosed driver canopy, built in Indianapolis, that makes the car look even more like a rocket on wheels. Brownsburg-based Don Schumacher Racing spent two years developing the concept. The purpose is to keep debris from accidents and engine failures at 300 miles an hour out of the cockpit.
"I've hit two birds right here in Indianapolis testing, both with the right front wing," said Schumacher after a test run in the canopy. "You catch a bird with your head, you're going to get killed. We've seen it in IndyCar, all the open-wheel cars - you catch a spring, a front wheel, a blower belt, a spark plug - it doesn't matter - the ignition system bouncing down the road in a crash…"
Schumacher's U.S. Army machine is the first and only top fueler using the canopy. Competitors might complain about an aerodynamic advantage. But Tony says it's all about safety. The canopy debuted two weeks ago at Brainerd, Minnesota. Tony qualified well, but did not win.
"I hear the performance advantage all the time," said Schumacher. "But guess what? You can buy it. I can buy it. Anybody can buy it. That means there's no advantage. If you don't buy and it is an advantage, that's your fault. We're doing this thing for safety. If we all have it on the car, like we hope, there's no advantage at all except safety."
Aerodyne Composites Group, located on the west side of Indianapolis, manufactures the bulletproof canopy out of carbon fiber and Kevlar. The company has just 15 employees and has built parts for IndyCar and NHRA teams for more than 20 years.
Schumacher hopes other drivers and teams follow his lead.
"Whether or not they put it on the car, the need to pay (respect) to my guys who worked so hard, and Aerodyne who worked so hard, and Purdue University who checked it all out. They need to pay the respect and come check this thing out. Until you sit in it, you're not sure if you like it or not. It looks fast."
Schumacher should be fast this weekend going for his record 9th win at the U.S. Nationals. He would pass "Big Daddy" Don Garlits.
"It's just been special," said Schumacher. "Any driver in the top ten probably has the racetrack that is great for them. Indy has been mine. Eight wins, ten final rounds - you can't dream of something that big."
Pro qualifying for the Full Throttle Series begins Friday night in Clermont and runs through the weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway. Final eliminations for the U.S. Nationals begin at 11 a.m. Monday.