TONY SCHUMACHER & ANTRON BROWN
U.S. Army Teammates Seeking Ultimate Success on Drag Racing’s Biggest Stage
INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 2, 2015) – U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher lives for the big moments. The eight-time and reigning NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world champion is accustomed to excelling in the extremely competitive atmosphere that for him and his team has yielded a number of spectacular moments occurring in less than four seconds and at more than 300 mph. And he also knows there’s nothing quite like being at the U.S. Nationals with an opportunity to achieve greatness.
Schumacher and his U.S. Army teammate Antron Brown both take aim on greatness this weekend in the 61st annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. “The Sarge” leads the Top Fuel class into competition this weekend with a 53-point advantage over Brown in the championship standings and is seeking to become the first driver to win 10 U.S. Nationals. It’s a mission that begins Friday night aboard the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR). Brown, the 2011 U.S. Nationals winner and 2012 Top Fuel world champion, will pilot the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR with an eye on U.S. Nationals victory number two and potentially the number-one position when the Countdown to the Championship playoffs begin two weeks hence.
The U.S. Nationals provides a different type of challenge than each of the other 23 events on the NHRA schedule. Five sessions of qualifying. The $100,000-to-win Traxxas Shootout. Extra points available during Monday’s elimination rounds that will set the final standings heading into NHRA’s six-event Countdown. Those are known variables heading into this weekend. The unknowns include handling the pressure of succeeding when expectations are set at the highest levels, possessing the versatility and adaptability needed to perform in extreme conditions, and maintaining focus while being pushed to limit. The team that handles all of that best will be the one celebrating Monday evening.
Schumacher is confident the experience and leadership of his nine-man U.S. Army team for DSR, led by crew chief Mike Green and assistant crew chief Neal Strausbaugh, and the ability follow the example set forth by the U.S. Army, which is comprised of specialized and elite teams that make a real difference in the world and for this Nation every day, will provide him a chance to add another Indy title to his illustrious career. Schumacher and the U.S. Army team are creating their own legacy in the sport’s signature event. With his nine U.S. Nationals titles, “The Sarge” is tied with Bob Glidden for most wins in the prestigious event. He has reached the final 11 times in 19 U.S. Nationals appearances, including his storybook debut in the event back in 1996. He first joined the accomplished list of U.S. Nationals winners in 2000 the first weekend he carried the U.S. Army colors.
Schumacher has driven the Army machine to victory in all nine of his U.S. Nationals triumphs. Following his first win in 2000, he won three in a row from 2002 to 2004, then four in a row from 2006 to 2009, then eclipsed “Big Daddy” Don Garlits’ record of eight Top Fuel U.S. Nationals wins with his 2012 victory.
This weekend, Schumacher will debut a special-schemed U.S. Army Dragster designed to commemorate the 15th year of the partnership between the U.S. Army and Don Schumacher Racing, which has exemplified the Army’s commitment to constantly evolving. The NHRA is indeed constantly evolving, from the technology and equipment, to the wide variety of racetracks and conditions, to the competitors each unique in his or her own way. It all means adapting to challenges and overcoming hurdles on a daily basis.
The impact of success in the U.S. Nationals runs deep with Brown. The New Jersey native has called Brownsburg, Indiana home for more than a decade and revels in the opportunity to join his childhood heroes with multiple wins in two classes at the U.S. Nationals. Brown is a three-time U.S. Nationals winner, hoisting the Wally twice while competing in Pro Stock Motorcycle – first in 2000 and again in 2004 – to go with his 2011 U.S. Nationals triumph in the Top Fuel ranks. Brown enters the weekend with four event titles in 2015 and a fifth would certainly enhance his chances of overtaking Schumacher in the championship standings heading into the Countdown. Following this weekend's U.S. Nationals, the top-10 will be eligible to contend for world championships after points are reset with the No. 1 driver holding a 30-point edge over No. 2 with the rest of the field separated by 10-point increments.
In addition to positioning themselves for Monday’s eliminations, the U.S. Army tandem of Schumacher and Brown will compete Saturday in the fourth annual Traxxas Nitro Shootout that will pay the winning team $100,000. Schumacher, the defending Traxxas Shootout champion, will race Brittany Force while Brown faces J.R. Todd to open the event. The first round and semifinals of the Shootout will run concurrently with the third and fourth qualifying sessions.
The 61st annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will be showcased nationwide on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD during eight hours of coverage. Qualifying sessions and the Traxxas Shootouts for both Top Fuel and Funny Car will be part of Sunday’s telecast, which airs from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. EDT, and again from 11 p.m. Sunday to 1:30 a.m. Monday. Coverage of the U.S. Nationals elimination rounds begins at 4 p.m. EDT Monday.
TONY “THE SARGE” SCHUMACHER, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
Because of the success you’ve had at Indy, how often are you asked what the key is to winning it? And, how do you answer that question?
“I’m not sure there really is a single answer. I think being surrounded by people who have done it before is a huge part of having success at Indy. The leadership. The knowing you can win. The positive attitudes. Those are things that win Indy. When I’m sitting in the car getting ready to go Friday night, I know (crew chief) Mike (Green), (assistant crew chief) Neal (Strausbaugh) and the rest of my nine-man team are ready for what’s ahead of us. These are the four days you look forward to most.”
This year marks the 15th year of the partnership between the U.S. Army and DSR. This weekend, and for the Countdown, you will be driving a special-schemed car to commemorate the partnership. The stakes at Indy are incredibly high already, but does racing a new paint scheme for the first time bring with it added pressure?
“When you have one chance to do something like race a car for the first time, the pressure to perform increases exponentially. We cherish those opportunities and I like to say those moments are gifts. I’ve been fortunate for the past 15 years to experience so many gifts because of the relationship we’ve had with the U.S. Army. All the people we’ve met. The places I’ve been. Knowing U.S. Army Soldiers around the world are being radioed the outcome of what we are doing in the U.S. Army Dragster. The passion. The commitment and feeling of unity that comes along with it. It’s amazing to think back to where it all started and it was right here in Indy. We came out that first weekend and won the U.S. Nationals together. My first time winning it and we’ve been together for so many more incredible opportunities. This car is incredible and is something everyone associated with the U.S. Army and Don Schumacher Racing is going to be extremely proud of. We’re going to do everything we can to make this weekend special with this car … we get one opportunity to win the U.S. Nationals with it and we’re looking forward to trying to see if we can take advantage of this opportunity.”
ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
When you hear “Indy,” your eyes light up. What makes the U.S. Nationals so special to you?
“I think what makes Indy so special is the history. You go back to the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and see how everybody comes from everywhere just to compete in this race. It’s the best of the best and it can absolutely make your season. It’s one of those deals where winning at Indy always sticks out. You know when it happened, how it happened, who you beat and what it took to get there. You can go down in history if you win this. Winning Indy is a big deal.”
It’s the last race before the Countdown but it’s also the U.S. Nationals. Are you pleased with where you are right now, both in terms of your chances in the U.S. Nationals and through the rest of the season?
“Everyone gets excited because of the prestige of Indy and our Matco Tools/U.S. Army boys want to leave Indy No. 1 in the standings. I feel like we’re in a good spot and we’re where we need to be with our team. We’re second in points and have won four races, and we’ve had some really, really good races. At other races, we’ve tried new things and we’ve been aggressive. We’re learning where the car needs to be. We’ve won in all conditions and that gives us confidence we can handle anything that comes at us. We know what we have to do to succeed and we have a good game plan.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine