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Don't like my canopy? The gloves are off!

Tony Schumacher is proud of his newly approved cockpit canopy and went on the offensive against any critics at the Lucas Oil Nationals. (Photo courtesy of Don Schumacher Racing)
Tony Schumacher is proud of his newly approved cockpit canopy and went on the offensive against any critics at the Lucas Oil Nationals. (Photo courtesy of Don Schumacher Racing)

NHRA Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher is ready to go war with anyone who doesn't like the cockpit canopy on his U.S. Army Dragster.

After securing his No. 1 qualifying spot for the Lucas Oil Nationals at Minnesota's Brainerd International Raceway, Schumacher launched an offensive against those who aren't supportive of the new device.

"I'm so sick of already hearing whining people out there saying, 'Oh my gosh, it's all the canopy.' The car beside me doesn't have one and he ran the same exact time," Schumacher said. ""I think it was a godsend that we went out and ran the same number both times when we ran against my teammate who doesn't have a canopy."

Schumacher earned the No. 1 spot with a slight speed advantage, as he and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown, in the canopy-less Matco Tools/Army/Toyota Dragster, had an identical low elapsed time. So Schumacher claims that was vindication -- and he indicated that should silence his critics.

"Get over it," he said to them (whoever "they" are). "If you don't like what I am running, then put one on your car and run just as fast."

It's unclear to whom he was referring as "whining people out there." Stories here at SB Nation and at the online drag-racing magazine Competition Plus have quoted fellow Top Fuel owner-drivers Morgan Lucas and Bob Vandergriff and Kalitta Motorsports Vice-President Jim Oberhofer, none of whom insinuated at all that Schumacher's top-qualifying spot came from a canopy-cased performance advantage.

Lucas made his remarks Wednesday, two days before the start of the race. And his comments had nothing to do with performance advantages.

"We think there are some potential fire hazard issues that have not been addressed and that the added weight will make the cars more difficult to stop. Given those questions, I cannot see Morgan Lucas Racing pursuing a canopy any time soon," he said.

Lucas also said he disapproved of the NHRA's decision to allow use of the canopy when it isn’t available to every driver who might want one: "The NHRA's tech department doesn't always have the best timing when it comes to some of its rulings. I believe that a change this significant needs time -- like the off-season -- for teams to research the equipment themselves before it becomes accepted for competition use."

In no way did he direct his criticism toward Schumacher personally. He simply expressed a concern he has. Lucas has right to his opinions, and even if he had criticized Schumacher personally he has the right to do that, too.

Vandergriff's remarks leaned toward agreement with Schumacher that the canopy is a safety feature, as Schumacher long has contended. He simply said he hasn't ordered one because with his sturdy 6-foot, 205-pound body, "we can't afford the weight increase to our car. If NHRA raised the weight limit to allow for the increase in weight the canopy and it related components add to the cars, then we would seriously consider adding one. I'm all for safety improvements, and at face value this appears to be one."

Oberhofer said he was glad the NHRA didn't have a weight-added mandate to go with the canopy approval -- "and I hope they keep it that way." He questioned the need for a canopy, saying that drag-racing pioneer Connie Kalitta told him he doesn't remember in his half-century in the sport of any Top Fuel racers being struck by debris And would have benefited from a canopy.

Because it is impossible to prevent what no one can predict, it's also impossible to say that this Mike Green-conceived, Aerodine-manufactured canopy will prevent tragedy, as Schumacher contends. It's also impossible to say Schumacher is incorrect.

But it was unclear against whom Schumacher was railing, for the two most prominent published articles that had any reaction to the canopy from other teams did not question Schumacher's run Friday night that held up as his sixth top-qualifying position at Brainerd and 70th of his career. That issue never was addressed.

Still, Schumacher swung his sword at an unidentified enemy Saturday evening.

"The thing's about keeping people alive," he said about the canopy, "and I am sick of hearing people whine about not getting one. They could have ordered one six months ago. Maybe it wasn't approved. But we did. You should have bought one. If I hear people whining, I will start naming names, because I am sick of it already. The car is great and meant to keep me alive. It makes them look ridiculous, foolish.

"It's not like we pulled this out of the trailer and said, 'Oops - surprise!' We had this car out in testing. We invited every driver to sit in it. They could order it now. We don't own it. Aerodine can sell it to anyone. We don't care. We want people in it. If I thought there was an advantage, I sure as heck wouldn't want anyone in it," Schumacher said.

"We want to keep people safe and follow what Wally Parks started. I want a safer place to race," he said. "This is not an advantage. This is what racing should be. We all have it on the car to keep people from getting killed.

"Is that bold enough?" he asked. "God says to be bold."

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