Tony Schumacher denied team colleague Leah Pritchett a chance to write NHRA Top Fuel history by making some of his own Sunday at the Amalie Oil Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.

He broke a tie with Florida favorite son “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Joe Amato, and Larry Dixon in becoming the most successful in his class at this spring classic. His fifth victory here came as he defeated yet another Don Schumacher Racing mate, Antron Brown, in the final round.

“That’s a big accomplishment,” Schumacher said, even still taken back at least a little bit that his name appears with theirs on various lists. He said he appreciates just the chance he has had to make the feat happen. “There’s nothing easy about that,” he said, considering he had to outperform a three-time champion – and a racer who has beaten him 34 times, including seven times in their 12 final rounds against one another.

Schumacher, who won from the No. 1 starting position, burst Pritchett’s bubble. She was trying to be the first Top Fuel racer ever to begin a season with three victories. Doug Kalitta eliminated her in the second round.

Promising that the feat would be “a record I wouldn’t forget for a long, long time,” Schumacher overtook Brown at about 400 feet on the 1,000-foot course and cruised to his 83rd overall victory and first of this year in 3.703 seconds at 329.26 mph in the U.S. Army Dragster. No. 3 qualifier Brown countered in the Matco Tools/Toyota/ U.S. Army Dragster with a 3.764-second elapsed time at 322.65 mph.

“Antron’s had my number for a long time,” Schumacher said. “He makes me step up to the pate and drive the car better.”

Pritchett still leads the standings as Mello Yello Drag Racing Series action swings to the March 31-April 2 Denso Spark Plugs Nationals at Las Vegas. She has a 21-point advantage over No. 2 Schumacher. (He made up 71 points with his victory Sunday.)    

“We’re in the fight every race,” Schumacher said. “It’s going to be a fun season. We’re already in the Traxxas Shootout.” He said Sunday’s achievement “takes that pressure away” from being eligible as one of eight drivers to vie for the $100,000 bonus payout the weekend of the U.S. Nationals. Schumacher won both last September.

He said he’s thrilled at the way new assistant crew chief Phil Shuler has meshed with crew boss Mike green and the team. He said it’s “a comforting thing so early in the season” that Green and Shuler can accurately predict the performance numbers each weekend.

“They’re doing a miraculous job. So far, so great – beyond good,” Schumacher said. “I’m comfortable driving the car. It’s running right down the middle [of the lane], and its’ running truly fast. It’s doing everything a driver dreams about.”

As always, he said preparation is the key, one that has made the difference between his 83 victories “and hundreds of losses. And yes, there is a difference. One is excellent – buys homes and cars. One doesn’t. Clearly a difference.

“We work for six minutes a year. That’s an embarrassing stat. That’s if you go out and make a lot of runs. It’s a lot of preparation to make those six minutes awesome.”

This weekend, in running the table (qualifying No. 1, winning, and setting low elapsed time and top speed of the meet), Schumacher was awesome for about 18 seconds.

And that was more than enough to get his job done, not embarrassing in the least.