TONY SCHUMACHER & ANTRON BROWN
U.S. Army Drivers Each Seeking Third Triumph in Houston;
Schumacher To Expand His Reach By Joining Twitter
BAYTOWN, Texas (April 28, 2016) – During the past three decades, no driver or team in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ Top Fuel class has been in more pressure situations than eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team at Don Schumacher Racing (DSR).
This weekend’s 29th annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston closes the first quarter of the 2016 NHRA season, the sixth of 24 events, and is an opportunity to begin building momentum toward the ultimate pressure situations that loom later in the campaign: first, claiming a spot in the six-event Countdown to the Championships and, secondly, fighting for a ninth title.
The pressure to break through an uncharacteristically tough start of the season for “The Sarge,” and his nine-man U.S. Army team is the first priority of the weekend. The second for Schumacher is making the most of his personal debut in the Twitterverse and finding creative and compelling ways to keep his words of wisdom to 140 characters or less.
The good news is Royal Purple Raceway has been the sight of a pair of early season victories that have launched Schumacher to NHRA titles in 2005 and again in 2009. And last spring, the driver of the U.S. Army Dragster for DSR, who moved his family from Chicago to Austin, Texas during the summer of 2014, came agonizingly close to tying Kenny Bernstein and Larry Dixon for most Top Fuel wins at the facility. He charged to last year’s final but narrowly lost to Doug Kalitta when a burst panel prematurely opened late in the run.
Fans of the U.S. Army driver can look forward to the highly anticipated opening tweet for Schumacher late Friday afternoon. His handle is @TheSargeTF and, safe to say, he won’t begin his venture into the Twitterverse with, “Houston, we have a problem.” During his more than 200 speaking engagements each year, he talks about situations versus problems and being gifted because of the opportunities he’s been put in. Not only has he earned the opportunity to do what he loves to do, but to do so being surrounded by incredible people, from his nine-man racing team, to the U.S. Army Soldiers, to the NHRA fans. Chances are that first tweet will be something motivational and inspirationa before he explores a variety of topics and impactful situations he has experienced.
Schumacher’s U.S. Army teammate Antron Brown, a longtime and active member of Twitter, already, heads to Houston with plenty of momentum. Brown won seven consecutive rounds, beginning with four straight to capture the 17th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, before being clipped at the finish by Brittany Force in the final of last weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, North Carolina. The two-time and reigning Top Fuel world champion is a two-time winner of the SpringNationals, winning in 2008 and 2014. Last year, he qualified 10th before running into Schumacher in the second round.
Brown, whose Twitter handle is @AntronBrown, will certainly be one of many to follow and engage Schumacher this weekend as he begins his journey in the platform.
Brown leads the U.S. Army contingent in the Top Fuel standings heading into the weekend ranking second to Force by 63 markers. Schumacher stands seventh, 186 points out of the lead.
FS1 will provide coverage of the SpringNationals, including qualifying shows Friday at 8 p.m. EDT and midnight Saturday, and delayed coverage of Sunday’s elimination rounds beginning at 5 p.m.
TONY “THE SARGE” SCHUMACHER, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
You’ve talked through the early portion of the season that you and the U.S. Army team have a very good racecar and are very close to where you want to be. Do you feel like you are closer to breaking through on Sunday?
“I’ve said this a lot and I really mean it – I’m a firm believer in over-preparing and then going with the flow. We all have high expectations and we all have an incredible will to win. That’s the never-give-up mentality. We’ve worked our way through a lot of things already this season and it’s about being great when we need to and that’s in the Countdown. We have to learn something from each step of the way. That’s the beauty of the Countdown – you get challenged by all sorts of conditions and situations. This weekend, we’re looking to build data for hot, sticky tracks that we could have in the Countdown at places like Dallas, St. Louis and Las Vegas. The Army car is one of the best cars in this class, no doubt, and (crew chief) Mike (Green) and (assistant crew chief) Neal (Strausbaugh) will continue finding ways to make it better and better. Sundays are extremely important to us and we’re going to continue to prepare and learn with each run.”
This weekend you will venture in unchartered waters by joining Twitter and diving head first into a new social media platform. Are you looking forward to what may come it?
“I have to praise the NHRA for continuing to work on ways to build our sport. I know they got (John) Force to get on Twitter a few weeks ago and it created a huge buzz for our sport. I’m all for finding new ways to interact with our fans. I’ve said NHRA drag racing is the most fan-friendly sport there is for a long time. I love spending time with fans at the track and, with Twitter, I can share not only the experiences I have at the track, but also the relationships I’ve made because of this sport. Whether it’s been me wearing the U.S. Army colors and connecting with Soldiers all across the world, or interacting with athletes in other sports from professionals to college to high school, I’ve learned there’s an opportunity to learn, grow and share with people all over the world. And this is just another way we can try and send the right messages. We’re going to have some fun with it and see where things go.”
ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
After consecutive final-round appearances, it would appear you and the Matco Tools/ U.S. Army team are beginning to reap the benefits of some early season testing. Are you where you would like to be through five races?
“We’re getting there. Not quite where we want to be. These guys have continued to work and been able to adapt to what’s been in front of them. It says a lot about the leadership of (co-crew chiefs) Brian (Corradi) and Mark (Oswald) and all the Matco Tools/U.S. Army guys. We didn’t get off to the best start in the first three races, but you have to take what you can from those events. We knew we were building toward something and that showed in Las Vegas and then last weekend at the Four-Wide. The main thing is we’re always gaining ground and learning each and every race, we’re growing. We’re really positive and looking forward to Houston. We’re just going to go out there and continue this battle. The Top Fuel class is very challenging and we’re looking forward to the new challenges in Houston.”
With the news your teammate is joining the fun on Twitter, do you have any advice for him?
“Tony will be just fine. He’s such a class act and any time you listen to him, you get so pumped and ready to go to battle. It’ll be fun to see him share with the world some of his catch phrases and motivational thoughts. It’s a great way to help spread the word on the greatness of the men and women of the U.S. Army and also hopefully bring our sport some new fans.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine