Tony Schumacher is unflappable. After longtime crew chief and master tuner Alan Johnson left at the end of the 2008 season to start his own team, Schumacher wished him well and moved on.
Now the man who won a record-tying 15 of 18 events last year for his fifth straight NHRA Top Fuel title — and sixth overall — is starting the new season this week at the O'Reilly Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., with a new crew chief and crew.
"Before he left, Alan said, 'We'd have won again.' But we have a new opportunity and a new challenge," Schumacher said. "We're going to have to dig and learn to work together. … We've won 56 races. But that 57th trophy, I don't want it to be four free rounds. I want it to be hard-earned, dig-deep, suck-it-up moments. Greatness. I want it to be what it took. You had to sacrifice something."
Not that Schumacher is starting over with a novice. His new crew chief is Mike Green, who guided Cory McClenathan to third in the points last year.
"We'd like to start off the way (Schumacher) did last year, with a win," Green said. "Don't forget that I was over in the other lane against them in the finals with the Fram car (and McClenathan). It would be nice to take it a step further this year."
To get it done this year, he's going to have to beat Larry Dixon, a two-time Top Fuel champion, last year's runnerup and now Johnson's driver with his new Al-Anabi Racing team.
NASCAR: Tampa native Aric Almirola, who is scheduled to make his full-season Sprint Cup debut this season in the No. 8 Chevrolet at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, has landed Guitar Hero World Tour as benefactor for his first Daytona 500, according to Sports Business Journal. Almirola still lacks a full-season sponsor, however, as video-game developer Activision will spread a few more one-race sponsorships to teammate Martin Truex's No. 01.
More NASCAR: A record field of 28 cars will start Saturday's reformatted Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. Instead of including only the previous year's Sprint Cup pole winners and other drivers who have won the Shootout, the lineup will consist of the top six teams and a wild-card entry from each of the four manufacturers that compete in Cup. The race distance will be increased from 70 laps to 75 (187.5 miles) on the 2½-mile oval and will be divided into segments of 25 and 50 laps. The lineup will be determined today in a blind draw.
Formula One: The governing body wants to further cut costs, having all teams running on $64 million budgets by 2010. It sent all teams a document proposing regulation changes and a budget decrease that could mean a drop of up to 75 percent for larger manufacturers. The Financial Times of London reported all teams would be required to use a kinetic energy recovery system that allows for a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions without affecting performance. Other actions include standardized parts such as gearboxes, braking systems, suspensions and wheels. … Red Bull driver Mark Webber said he's ahead of schedule in his recovery from a broken right leg and expects to be ready for the season opener March 29 at the Australian Grand Prix.
Times staff writer Brant James contributed to this report.