TONY SCHUMACHER & ANTRON BROWN
‘The Sarge’ Chases First NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Win as Brown Seeks Third in a Row
CONCORD, North Carolina (April 20, 2016) – Eight-time world champion Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher may be the winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series history with a record 80 event titles that have occurred at 20 of the 21 tracks on the current schedule.
But the driver of the U.S. Army Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) is still in hot pursuit of one of the sport’s crown jewels that has managed to elude him, even though it’s contested at a track where he’s actually won a pair of event titles in recent years.
That would be this weekend’s seventh renewal of the one-of-a-kind springtime event known as the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway on the outskirts of Charlotte, North Carolina, where “The Sarge” and his U.S. Army Dragster powered their way to fall event titles en route to Top Fuel world championships in 2008 and 2014.
He scored back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Four-Wides in 2012 and 2013 and each year very much looks forward to this unique event during which four lanes of 10,000-horsepower racing machines are sent down the racetrack each run instead of the customary two.
This weekend at zMAX Dragway, Schumacher, who’s winless in his illustrious career only at Atlanta Dragway, will be looking to close the deal once and for all and, most importantly, jumpstart his pursuit of a ninth Top Fuel championship with his first victory of the season and the first of his career at the Four-Wides.
Schumacher’s DSR teammate and fellow U.S. Army driver Antron Brown, on the other hand, is arguably the hottest driver heading to this weekend’s Four-Wide Nationals on multiple fronts.
The driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR is the most recent Top Fuel event titlist, having scored his first victory of the season three weekends ago at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The two-time and defending Top Fuel world champion is also vying for a his third Four-Wide Nationals title in a row and, with his victory in last season’s fall event, is seeking his fourth event title in his last five visits to zMAX Dragway overall.
This weekend’s event is a challenging one Schumacher likens to climbing into the boxing ring with three other fighters, and one that is sure to feature more than the usual helping of unexpected twists and turns. When the dust settles, the U.S. Army Top Fuel drivers each hope he’s the one hoisting another prestigious Wally trophy in celebration of a highly unique accomplishment.
FS1 will provide two hours of qualifying-round coverage at 10 p.m. EDT Saturday and three hours of Sunday’s elimination rounds beginning at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
TONY “THE SARGE” SCHUMACHER, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
Your overall thoughts as the U.S. Army team heads to the outskirts of Charlotte for this weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals?
“I think Mike (Green, crew chief) and Neal (Strausbaugh, assistant crew chief) are very confident going to Charlotte this weekend. We tested the day after Vegas and we found some great stuff, so that bodes well for the U.S. Army effort. It’s been a little tough going so far this season as we’ve worked our way through some issues, but it’s getting better and better all the time and all that matters is that we’re peaking at the right time, which is the six-race Countdown. I’m looking forward to a great weekend and the opportunity to win the Four-Wides for the first time.”
The Four-Wide Nationals certainly bring more challenges to you as a driver. With the media hype and added attention to this unique event, are your expectations different for this event compared to the other 23 on the schedule?
“This race is certainly different from all of the others, but it’s still my job to leave the starting line at the light and get to the finish line first. That’s it. My job is to drive a racecar no matter how many cars are there and get to the finish line first. We love Bruton Smith and his staff does a great job of putting on big events. It’s always exciting to go to Charlotte and we know this event is truly unique.”
What is the biggest key to succeeding in a unique race like this and how have you learned to block out the extra distractions at this race?
“We’ve all learned how to race in the Four-Wide Nationals, and it’s not as easy to race three other cars. If you show up at a boxing match with three other guys, it is distracting. Who’s going to hit me first? What’s the next move? There are a lot of other variables and, for a driver who is trained and is used to going one on one, it certainly takes some getting used to. It starts with staging. You can’t make a little mistake because there are three other drivers who can capitalize on it. Normally, you might be able to make a mistake and there’s a chance the other driver will make one, too. But when there are three of them, you’ve got a couple guys who are going to be ice cold. You have to be a machine to win the Four-Wide. You have to be as ice cold as you can ever be to get the job done. I want that Four-Wide trophy. It’s a race I haven’t won and our mission this weekend is to be the last one standing.”
ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
You’re vying for your third consecutive NHRA Four-Wide Nationals victory this weekend and your fourth event title in your last five visits to zMAX Dragway. How do you account for that kind of success?
“Our success in the Four-Wide is because of the adaptability our Matco/U.S. Army team has. It’s a totally different race and we have been able to adapt to that unique format and everything that goes on around us. What we do is accept the challenge and, the harder the challenge, the more focused we get on the task at hand. You have to be on your toes in the Four-Wide with everything that goes on. You can’t mess up because it’s a battle royale. Things come at you from all directions and you have to hit it quick and get ahead. The stakes are even higher in the Four-Wide and we give it all we have and any extra we can find.”
What is it like to match up against not one but three other racecars each time down the track?
“You have to beat two cars until the final and then you have to beat everybody. We throw the strategy of racing one car out the window. We can’t leave anything on the table.”
You and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army team put together a complete, very consistent weekend to win at Las Vegas three weekends ago. Do you feel you’re finally in prime position to successfully defend your 2015 Top Fuel world title?
“That’s what we shoot for every race weekend, and we’re always trying to learn from whatever happens – not just learn from it, but to build upon it for the next race. That’s always our goal. We don’t do anything differently as far as defending our championship from the previous season. We just try to be more efficient every time we go up to the starting line and it’s as simple as that.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine