EPPING, New Hampshire – Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown and their respective Top Fuel Dragster teams for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) look to celebrate the U.S. Army’s 240th birthday in ultimate fashion this weekend at the third annual NHRA New England Nationals.
In only its third year on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour, New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire is special in so many ways for the U.S. Army driver duo, not the least of which is its close proximity to where the Army came to be 240 years ago – about an hour’s drive south on the outskirts of Boston.
Schumacher and Brown and their respective teams will be celebrating the occasion for the first time in New Hampshire as they pay homage to the integrity and selfless service of each U.S. Army Soldier over the past 240 years. It is all Soldiers past and present who truly have made and continue to make a difference in this world and for this Nation every day. Knowing that the U.S. Army is the team that makes a difference, and when one is a member of the Army team, he or she is a member for life, Schumacher and Brown continue to proudly wear the colors of the U.S. Army on and off the racetrack.
Heading into the weekend, the U.S. Army driver duo occupies the top two positions in the Top Fuel standings and represents both the most recent event winner this season, as well as the most recent winner at New England Dragway. Schumacher and his U.S. Army Dragster for DSR, 118 points behind leader Brown in the current Top Fuel standings, stormed to his second of five victories en route to his 2014 championship at Epping last June, beating top qualifier Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR in the quarterfinal round on an incredible holeshot. After recording a stellar .006-of-a-second reaction time, Schumacher held on to beat Brown, then went on to beat Clay Millican and Doug Kalitta in the semifinal and final rounds, respectively. He also beat Kalitta on a holeshot for the 74th of his record 78 career event titles. In the inaugural New England Nationals in 2013, Schumacher qualified fourth but was eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual winner and fellow DSR driver Spencer Massey.
Brown, meanwhile, heads to New England as the series’ only three-time event winner this season, including two of the last three. The Chesterfield, New Jersey native scored a milestone 50th career NHRA event title last weekend at his hometown track – Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown. He also scored victories at Atlanta and Charlotte en route to this season’s Top Fuel points lead after nine events. Brown’s emotional victory last weekend made him just the 10th driver in NHRA pro series history to log 50 event titles, and it came at the track just 30 miles from his hometown where he saw his first drag race as a youngster and where his father and uncle competed regularly.
As the Army blows out the candles on its 240th birthday cake this weekend, both Schumacher and Brown hope to deliver the victory that would be the ultimate icing on the proverbial celebration.
TONY “THE SARGE” SCHUMACHER, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
You’re helping to celebrate the U.S. Army’s 240th birthday this weekend, just about an hour’s drive north of where it all started for the Army in a very historic part of the country. Talk a little bit about that.
“We are so proud to represent the U.S. Army every time we put on our race uniforms and put our racecar on the track. It’s a very nice milestone – 240 years – and we are proud to share the occasion with Soldiers past and present up there in New England, where the Army was established to defend our nation. The fans up there certainly respect and support our Army Soldiers. You know, the uniform, and the Army, itself, has evolved over the last 240 years, but everyone who puts on the Army uniform continues to reflect the values upon which our nation was founded and continues the long tradition of service, sacrifice, honor and valor. Our Army – and by that I mean Soldiers, families, and Army civilians – epitomizes what is best about America. Their willingness to sacrifice to build a better future for others and to preserve our way of life is the strength of our nation.”
It must be nice to be headed back this weekend to Epping, where you drove to a pretty convincing event title last year in only the second season ever for the NHRA’s top series at that track. Your thoughts on this weekend?
“I absolutely love it up there. We won last year and it’s always special to come back to a place as the defending event winner. One thing I really like about racing up there is that it’s old school. It’s what racing is supposed to be like. Our sport has always been grassroots and it always will be grassroots. The fans really come out and support the event and they really pack ’em in all weekend long. It’s just a great place to go to. It’s the people up there that make the place so special – it’s what makes our sport so special everywhere we go. Yes, it’s very old school and grassroots in nature, but who cares what everything looks like? As long as the racetrack is safe and competitive, like it is up there, that’s all that really matters. It’s a facility that is fun to be at and it’s a facility that is very conducive to putting on a great show for the fans. I can’t wait to get back there.”
You continued your extremely solid performance in the qualifying rounds once again at Englishtown last weekend, but then you exited in the quarterfinal round Sunday. It seems to be feast or famine on Sundays after such a consistently strong showing on Fridays and Saturdays all season long. Is that frustrating?
“On one hand, yes, we want to win each and every weekend, everywhere we go. But I’m not going to call it frustrating. Things are incredibly competitive out there and we’re going to have our share of great weekends and not-so-great weekends. That’s just how things are. And, don’t forget that we’re still running an all-new car, built from the ground up, that we debuted just three races ago, so we’re still learning. One thing I can say for sure is that, when all is said and done, it will come to be known as the best car we’ve ever had. The good thing is, the car is doing what it’s telling us it wants to do. Some of the changes we’re needing to make are quite different than what we’ve had to do with previous cars because this car takes us outside the box of what our normal thought processes have been. We’ll be good. The car is great. Hey, if we were frustrated, we have a perfectly good, proven car sitting in the trailer that won the championship last year and we can pull it out any time we’d like. But this sport is all about staying ahead of the competition, and that’s the motivation to keep trying new things and build new cars and making them do things that our previous cars have never done before.”
ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
Your win last weekend at your home track in Englishtown had to rank among the most special in your career. How was it for you, emotionally?
“It was a real dream come true for this Chesterfield (N.J.) kid. We knew what was at stake when we went there. I put everything having to do with what that race meant to the side. And that’s what the crew did. I went to that racetrack back in 1986. I remember it like it was yesterday. We all came out for the Summernationals. I spent a lot of hours at the track. I never thought I would be out there being a professional racer. I always wanted to, but you never know if you’ll get the opportunity. I give all the glory to God. Our Matco Tools/U.S. Army team was able to enjoy our big win at Englishtown, but we’ve put that race in the books long before getting to Epping.”
Your thoughts on heading back to Epping this weekend for the third time. You ran well there last year, but you lost an epic battle with your teammate Tony Schumacher in the quarterfinals. What is your outlook for this weekend?
“They have a really, really great racetrack. It’s really smooth, and you’re able to go faster than the track temperature allows you to go at a lot of other racetracks. So that’s what is pretty cool about Epping. You can run hard and you can run fast up there. There are lots of trees around, we’ve got plenty of oxygen in the air, and the barometer is right. So you can make some good power up there and run hard. Last year, we thought we were in a groove. We qualified well. We ran some low elapsed times in each elimination round. And then I met up with Tony and he gave me the shaft up there. Man, he got me. The thing about it is, when we race each other, we push each other hard. We always do. And we don’t like losing to each other. We’re teammates, but we push each other and it’s like bragging rights. Last year at Epping, he really got me. He caught me with my pants down. He took off and it startled me so bad. I had like the worst light I’ve had in my career in an elimination round because he took off. I wanted to go with him but I was late taking off. He went like a 79 (3.79 seconds elapsed time) and I went like a 78 (3.78) and there was no way I was going to beat him. He got me. The good part is he went on and won that event. He brought it home for us. This year, I’m going to cut better lights and take it round by round like we always do and hope to keep doing like we’ve been doing, lately.”
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