CHANDLER, Arizona – U.S. Army and Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammates Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown return to NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel action this weekend looking to continue their victory streak at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix during the 31st annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals.
The Army tandem has accounted for the two most recent event titles at Wild Horse Pass and both, along with their nine-man teams, head to the Valley of the Sun being part of an Army effort that makes a difference for America. Schumacher, the eight-time and reigning Top Fuel world champion and pilot of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster for DSR, raced to victory at Phoenix in 2013, defeating Brown in the semifinal with a holeshot, then Morgan Lucas in the Top Fuel final in a pedalfest. Last February at Phoenix, Brown, the 2012 Top Fuel world champion, picked up the first of his series-high six event titles behind the wheel of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster in 2014.
The 2015 campaign marks the 15th full season of the partnership between U.S. Army, Schumacher and DSR. It’s been an extremely successful relationship both on and off the track and, to commemorate the relationship, “The Sarge” is carrying the iconic brand on the Piano Black and Double Digital Gold Chrome-schemed machine. In order to reach their ultimate goal and up their record number of Top Fuel world titles to nine by the conclusion of the 24-event season, the team will need to follow the lead of the Army, which is comprised of specialized and elite teams that make a real difference in the world and for this Nation every day.
Schumacher has earned four of his Top Fuel-record 77 victories at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. In addition to his 2013 triumph, the Austin, Texas resident also took top honors in 2005, 2006, 2007, all coming during his run of six consecutive world titles from 2004 through 2009. Last season, he qualified second before being ousted by Brittany Force in the second round.
Brown has duplicated Schumacher’s 2012 and 2013 Phoenix results of following a runner-up finish with a victory. After falling to Schumacher in the 2013 semifinal, Brown defeated Force in last year’s final. Brown was runner-up in 2011 before winning in 2012 and also was a Phoenix winner in 2009.
In the season opener two weeks ago at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, the Army duo matched up in the first round of Sunday eliminations. Brown and Schumacher staged a classic drag race with Brown coming out on top. The goal this weekend is to avoid each other until the final round and perform to the higher cause of representing the U.S. Army, which is an opportunity to be part of America’s first team, which for nearly 240 years has protected and served the Nation.
TONY “THE SARGE” SCHUMACHER, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing:
After closing your championship with a remarkable run in last year’s Countdown, you and your U.S. Army team proved peaking at the right time of the season is most important. After a tough opening-round loss in Pomona, do you feel like you are where you need to be heading into the season’s second event?
“The competitor in me is always striving for more and I was asked the other day about things I fear and I mentioned that I have a fear of getting beat. That’s probably the reason we all work so hard to be the best we possibly can and we do that with preparation. I heard this a long time ago: ‘Over-prepare and go with the flow.’ We weren’t happy about losing to Antron in the first round at Pomona, but we didn’t get beat because we weren’t prepared. It took his best run of the weekend to take us out and that happens a lot. The U.S. Army team has a way of bringing out the best in the competition. It’s something we take pride in and it drives us to continue to prepare harder. I know (crew chief) Mike Green and (assistant crew chief) Neal Strausbaugh and the guys will be just as ready to go as I am.”
The last 15 years for you and the Army have been incredibly successful. The relationship has been more than just carrying the Army colors on your car. What has it been like for you to be associated with the Army?
“I can’t really describe in words the pride it’s given me to have been able to be part of something so big. It’s the U.S. Army. It’s our country. The Army is the face of the Nation and reflects the inclusive culture and unique diversity that hallmarks the American way of life. I’ve been blessed to be part of this U.S. Army program and have heard so many great success stories. It’s truly a unique relationship. I’ve been able to meet so many great people and do things I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to do. I’ve jumped out of planes, repelled walls, driven tanks, and flown in helicopters. It’s been incredible and I’ve learned some valuable things along the way. One of the most important is that, when you are taught by the right people, great things can happen. Whether it’s in Top Fuel racing or the U.S. Army, if you listen and pay attention, you have a great opportunity to be successful.”
It’s only the second event of the season, but it’s already clear things aren’t going to be easy in Top Fuel for any team in 2015?
“I enjoy winning and I enjoy what it takes to win. It’s more difficult now than it has ever been. The teams are better. The drivers are better. The cars are all faster. The unity is better. The Top Fuel class from top to bottom is great. You know every Sunday morning when you wake up that you’re going to be in for a battle and that makes it more fun. We all have those dreams of it being the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and you are standing there with a three-two count. Nobody dreams about blowout victories. And it seems like we get those bottom-of-the-ninth moments at every race. The NHRA is the best sanctioning body and best place for fans to come out and see incredible racing. There is no longer just one team that can win. It’s a monster battle at every race.”
ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing:
After a strong effort at the Winternationals, how much confidence do you and your team have coming into this weekend?
“We’re all very excited about getting to Phoenix. The Matco Tools/U.S. Army crew did a phenomenal job in Pomona. I really wish we could have got that one. We had a really close race with Shawn Langdon (in the final) and he just got us. We’re motivated and ready to build on that. Gaining momentum early in the year is definitely a good thing. We just kept getting better each run in Pomona and we’re going to work hard to continue that this week.”
Last February, you scored your first win of the season at Phoenix and went on to win five more events. How important is getting that first win under your belt?
”Getting that first one always seems to be the toughest and, with the way this class is, nothing comes easy. Having (co-crew chiefs) Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald and the rest of our Matco Tools/U.S. Army boys is a big reason why I feel like we’re going to have a great chance this weekend. It starts with getting qualified and making better laps every time you hit the track. Consistency wins and that’s what we’re striving for. We’ve made the final each of the last four years and our goal is to be back there again Sunday.”
– TSC –
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine