Tony Schumacher knows that a Top Fuel victory in this weekend's 11th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by WIX Filters at zMAX Dragway could springboard the eight-time NHRA champion to a ninth title. The pathway to the winner's circle, however, won't be easy for the man known as "Sarge," who previewed the race in a special media luncheon on Thursday at The Speedway Club.

Cooler temperatures and clear weather for this weekend's fourth race of the six-event NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series' Countdown to the Championship promises to add an air of unpredictability. Drivers will have to go full throttle and tune their 11,000-horsepower machines to the hilt in order to grab a coveted zMAX Dragway Wally.

"You're going to see the best side-by-side racing," said Schumacher, the driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster for Don Schumacher Racing. "When it's cool, the races come down to thousandths of a second. The races are won and lost by inches. …These cool conditions (make for) a throw-down, outstanding race. It's going to be great. The racing's going to be worth every nickel you pay for (a ticket) - probably even more.

"We're going to have to seriously take a look at qualifying and how we want to position ourselves because at the end of the day, winning the championship is the only thing. Finishing No. 2 is useless. No. 3 doesn't matter. We've got to cowboy up. Now is the time."