If top-fuel driver Tony Schumacher doesn't win the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series championship this weekend, the world will not end.
But if he does, the world will be his.
He will have completed the National Hot Rod Assn.'s greatest comeback.
He will have won his fourth title overall, and his third in succession, matching Joe Amato as the only men to three-peat in closed-course racing's fastest class.
If Schumacher wins the race -- and that's probably what it will take -- he also will match "Big Daddy" Don Garlits with 35 victories, the fourth-best top-fuel total.
Amato and Garlits are Hall of Famers, so a championship by Schumacher, 36, on Sunday would put him in the very best of drag racing company.
"And they're retired," Schumacher said. "I got lots of time."
And, finally, he will have made good on a promise.
"You got the Babe pointing to the stands, where he's going to hit it," Schumacher said Wednesday, his outstretched arm aimed at the sky. "I'm pointing to 138 points. World record. No. 1 qualifier. Win the race. That's my mission and my goal. I'm as focused as I've ever been. And I will guarantee you, if we have the conditions and do not get the record, I will be knocked off my feet, because [crew chief] Alan Johnson does not fail in those situations."
Schumacher, who 10 races into the season was 336 points out of first place, now is only 45 behind Doug Kalitta, who is trying to win his first title. And Schumacher is guaranteeing that he'll run the table and get the maximum number of points available.
During final eliminations Sunday for the Auto Club Finals at Pomona Raceway, victory in each round is worth 20 points. As it stands, he must go three rounds farther than Kalitta.
"Mathematically, we could win without the record if Kalitta messes up," Schumacher said. "But Kalitta doesn't mess up."
So that's why Schumacher is calling his shot. The national record for elapsed time is worth an additional 20 points. Schumacher, at 4.473 seconds over a quarter mile in his 8,000-horsepower U.S. Army dragster, already holds the record.
In the last 12 races Schumacher has made up 291 points. The previous record for a successful comeback was 197 points by Gary Scelzi in 1998, when he repeated as champion, also with Johnson as crew chief.
Schumacher's first title, in his first full season, denied them three in a row in 1999. Scelzi then won the title again in 2000.
There will be single rounds of qualifying today and Friday, with two rounds on Saturday.
Not only must Schumacher set the record, he must back it up with another run within 1% of the record during the weekend.
"We tried things this year where Alan said 'This is for one run, period, when we need a record,' just the baddest stuff in the world," Schumacher recalled. "And I will guarantee you, when Alan walks up to me [today] he'll say, 'I'm glad I'm not driving this thing.' " Johnson loves that he can count on Schumacher's consistency.
"He's not going to choke under pressure," said the veteran crew chief, who expects the record run to come Saturday. "You have a lot of big races when you're running for the championship. Tony doesn't make mistakes."
Schumacher's comeback this season is a testament to his team, and Johnson's mastery of the dragster. With a new kind of tire, the team struggled through the first 10 races. Johnson eventually moved the engine forward three inches on the chassis to better apply the power to the wheels, and there hasn't been a better team since. They have won four races, most recently two weeks ago at Las Vegas.
"Nobody smoked the tires against us all year, except for one car," Schumacher said. "J.R. Todd smoked the tires in Seattle, and I beat him, and that's the only gift we got all year. We got too close the hard way to fail."