Cigar Aficionado

Cigars at 330 Miles Per Hour

I recently had a smoke with Tony Schumacher, a six-time champion drag racer. Tony, known as “The Sarge” for his Army sponsorship and military haircut, specializes in going very, very fast in a top fuel dragster. Fast as in 337.58 miles per hour.

Tony’s car, fed by gallons of nitromethane cut with a touch of methanol, goes from zero to 100 miles per hour in 0.8 seconds. “A Lamborghini will do that in nine seconds,” says Schumacher, a likeable guy with an intense style and a great story to tell. The car generates about 8,000 horsepower, and hits the driver with more G-forces than an astronaut experiences in a space shuttle launch.

Schumacher loves to go fast for work, but when he has downtime he takes is slow, namely with premium cigars. We puffed away in my office, me peppering him with questions about drag racing and him responding with inquiries about cigars. He’s partial to Graycliffs, and also enjoys San Cristobals and Nubs.

He also has a great sense of humor. He had me pull up the YouTube videos of his crashes—he’s had a couple of dramatic ones, including a particularly nasty one in Memphis in 2000. “It was ranked the worse crash in history,” said Schumacher, nonchalantly. The wing came off the back of his car, sending the speeding dragster in a violent right turn, through the barrier, and almost into an oak tree. I pointed to a chunk of metal spinning around and around. “Is that you?” I asked. “That’s me,” he said.

He broke his leg, dislocated eight fingers, chipped teeth and had “an incredible concussion,” but he was otherwise OK. The video ends with a close up of the wing that ripped off, nearly killing him. He saved it.

“I got that wing as a cigar table,” he says. “It’s in my basement.”

Tony’s a great guy who loves his cigars, and he's racing this weekend in Englishtown, New Jersey. You’ll read more about him. In the meantime, check out the clip of his crash.