ArmyEdSpace Spotlight

Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher, Driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster

Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher
Austin, Texas
Driver of the U.S. Army Top-Fuel Dragster
Don Schumacher Racing

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself, your background and your position. 

I’m the driver of the U.S. Army Top-Fuel dragster. In addition to being an eight-time NHRA Top-Fuel World Champion, I’m committed to youth education and have participated in speaking engagements for high school and technical college students across the country on behalf of the U.S. Army.

Q: How did you become involved with the Army?

When I was driving for Exide Batteries and we won the championship, Exide was pulling out of racing and the Army was looking at getting involved for the purposes of recruiting. With all the partners out there, knowing the Army and what they would be doing for young people, it was very important to me. I walked into the first Army meeting with my head shaved. I wanted that to be my deal.

Q: What were you surprised to learn about the Army through your involvement?

The way young people have changed over the decades is pretty overwhelming. The different ways the Army has had to adapt in order to connect with them has been pretty intense.

Q: What has been your most interesting or memorable experience with the U.S. Army?

When we went to Afghanistan to visit Soldiers for New Year’s Eve. It’s one thing to see Soldiers at home, doing the training, but it’s a different scenario over there. Getting to learn firsthand from the Soldiers coming back from their missions was pretty inspiring. Inspiring in a way that people in the civilian world will never know how good you have to be and how team-oriented you have to be to do those kinds of jobs.

Q: How important is STEM education to your success as a driver for the Army race team?

It’s very important. Every angle, every part and piece of this 11,000-horsepower car is a result of science, technology, engineering and math. This makes it the exact reason it’s so perfect for the Army Racing team to go out and connect with young people, because they can look at our race car and understand why it’s critical to be educated in STEM – just like our U.S. Army Soldiers.

This isn’t a job where you can just show up with a B-average attitude. You have to absolutely be A+ at your job. You have to be thinking outside the box, coming up with new ideas. Engineering is brilliant because it’s all about coming up with new ideas outside the box. You have to think of things that no one has ever thought of.

The way we correlate what we do to what the Army does is that our race team goes very, very fast but has to constantly adapt due to circumstances: weather, new parts and pieces. It’s meaningful for young people to stand at the ropes and watch these guys do that and listen to what I have to say. The important part of a job like mine is that it builds credibility - so when I speak, people feel they can listen. I have to be able to do what it is I’m talking about, not just talk about it.

Q: What advice do you have for students who are interested in a career in a STEM-related field?

Study for the best grades, because in the STEM field, you’re competing against the highest level. In the Army, there are over 150 jobs. Those with the best grades have the most choices. So go for it, figure out what your goals are, prepare for them and study. One of my favorite expressions is “over-prepare and then go with the flow.” It’s a beautiful saying because if you over-prepare, the flow is always brilliant.

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