NORWALK, Ohio– Fireworks. Family. Celebrations. Things so many Americans are looking forward to this Fourth of July weekend. The same simple things Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown and their respective Top Fuel Dragster teams for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) are eyeing at this weekend’s NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.
Schumacher and Brown both carry the U.S. Army colors and will be surrounded by remarkable men and women looking to make a difference just like the U.S. Army Soldiers make a difference in this great nation that celebrates 239 years of independence this weekend. And celebrating has been a regular occurrence in 2015 for the two drivers separated at the top of the Top Fuel standings by only two points.
Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster for DSR, is looking to join Brown as three-time winner in 2015. “The Sarge” recently celebrated the U.S. Army’s 240th birthday in grand style scoring his 79th career NHRA Top Fuel victory in the New England Nationals in Epping, New Hampshire. The victory was his second during this 15th season of carrying the U.S. Army colors on his 10,000-horsepower racing machine all of which have come while driving for his father, Funny Car pioneer Don Schumacher.
The family theme runs deep at Summit Motorsports Park, where the Bader family has been hosting NHRA national events the last eight years. Their pride in the quality of the facility, commitment to good racing and entertaining the fans rivals some of the best sports complexes in the world. Schumacher won that first event at the northern Ohio track in the summer of 2007 with his father standing at the starting line and the eight-time Top Fuel world champion would love nothing more than to repeat that performance Sunday and earn his 80th Wally. Schumacher advanced to the semis at Norwalk in 2010, 2012 and again last year before losing to his U.S. Army teammate Brown.
Brown, pilot of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster, returns to Norwalk not only as the defending Summit Racing Equipment Nationals winner, but also the current points leader and is tied with Richie Crampton for most wins in the class. The 2012 Top Fuel world champion is vying to become only the second driver to win consecutive races in Norwalk. His team is led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald. There will be plenty of familiar faces in their pit area with Corradi being a native of Medina, Ohio, located less than an hour from Norwalk.
Celebrating a fourth win of the campaign is the goal of the weekend for Brown, who previously scored wins in Charlotte, Atlanta and his historic 50th NHRA victory at his hometown track in Englishtown, New Jersey.
TONY “THE SARGE” SCHUMACHER, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
It’s been an incredible run with you being associated with the U.S. Army. Do holidays like the Fourth of July have even more meaning for you today?
“The great part about life is you continue to learn every day. Growing up you always looked forward to the summer. Vacations. Family. Friends and just having fun. I know the last 15 years have taught me so much and I appreciate the relationship I have with the U.S. Army and the relationship our team has. I’ve been able to do so many great things and all the while men and women from this great country have been fighting for us and keeping our nation free. I’ve seen people come in as recruits. Serve their time both here in the U.S. and overseas and then see them move on to other things in their lives. It’s an incredible honor. Winning in Epping on the birthdate of the U.S. Army was really special and we’re looking forward to many more great celebrations. We know we represent all Americans and we’re just working as hard as we can every race to give them something to cheer about and enjoy the passion we put into this.”
Every stop on the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is unique. What stands out about racing at Norwalk?
“There are so many things. The Bader family works extremely hard to keep facility right at the top of the list of tracks w compete at. Racing there around the Fourth of July always means they put on a tremendous fireworks display. Those qualifying sessions Friday night usually provide light-up-the-sky type of views and running both qualifying sessions at night should just add to it. We love winning, but haven’t been able to accomplish that at Norwalk since that first race back in 2007. I know (crew chief) Mike (Green) and (assistant crew chief) Neal (Strausbaugh) and all the Army guys are going to do their best to adapt to whatever conditions come at them so that we can be in the best position on Sunday to race for a victory. The knowledge these guys on this team have is incredible. Their passion to win is second to none. We’re excited for the challenge of getting the job done this weekend.”
ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
This weekend you return as the defending race winner, and your goal is to return next year as both the defending race winner and the reigning Top Fuel champion. What are some of the factors that can make that happen?
“You have to go out and be consistent and grow with each and every run. Our focus all season has been to grow. Even if we’re struggling and don’t get the results we want we learn from that to be better at the next race. For this upcoming series of races our main focus is continuing to grow. You have to grow each and every race, and that has to continue through the Countdown so you keep working to get to a higher level. This time of the year is when you need to be getting on your Ps and Qs so you want to be polishing your combination not trying to find your combination. If we can come out this weekend and have everything come together we can win the race. Win or lose this weekend we still are in a great position to challenge for that world championship. We just have to keep growing every step of the way.”
The calendar turned to July and that means Norwalk is about to start a busy run of races leading up to the Countdown. What makes your annual stop at Summit Motorsports Park special?
“Norwalk is a tremendous facility. I’m always excited to go to there because out of all our races there is no other show like what the Bader family puts on. When you go there you know you’re not just there for the pure excitement our sport brings but you’re going to be entertained from start to finish. The firework shows are just phenomenal for kids and adults of all ages. For (co-crew chief) Brian (Corradi), this is as close to his home as we race and that’s a big deal. Those guys work so hard both him and (co-crew chief) Mark (Oswald) and all the Matco Tools/U.S. Army guys. They got me a win at home this year and we’re going to do all we can to get one for Brian this weekend too.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine