U.S. Army Duo Looks To Continue Winning Ways at NHRA SpringNationals Near Houston
BAYTOWN, Texas – Win or lose, the two most recent Top Fuel event titlists on the 2014 Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series – U.S. Army Racing’s Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown – keep an unwavering focus on demonstrating the same attributes the Army looks for in its Soldiers, which are putting the mission first, a never-quit attitude and a refusal to accept defeat.
Schumacher, the seven-time Top Fuel world champion and driver of the U.S. Army Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), scored a resounding event title at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway the last weekend in March. Brown, the 2012 Top Fuel champion and driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR, followed that up with his first career victory at the unique NHRA Four-Wide Nationals on the outskirts of Charlotte, N.C., two weekends ago.
Together, Schumacher and Brown have accounted for three titles in the season’s first five events, and they and their respective units look to keep the momentum going at this weekend’s 27th O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in the Houston suburb of Baytown, Texas.
Schumacher, who was victorious at Royal Purple Raceway in 2005 and 2009, looks to join his DSR teammate Brown as the season’s only multiple-event titlists in the Top Fuel class and improve upon his fifth-place standing in the championship. His 2009 victory at the facility was a hugely significant one on his list of career event titles, which now stands at 73 after last month’s Las Vegas win. It was in 2009 at Royal Purple Raceway that Schumacher first scored an event title with crew chief Mike Green, who had just replaced the multiple championship-winning crew chief Alan Johnson along with an entire group of crewmembers. Schumacher and Green beat Johnson’s car in the semifinals that day en route to their first of five wins and the 2009 Top Fuel championship.
Brown’s victory at the Four-Wide Nationals was the 27th Top Fuel event title of his career, and this weekend marks his return to the track where he won his very first in 2008. Combined with his 16 Pro Stock Motorcycle even titles, Brown’s 43rd Wally trophy at the Four-Wide Nationals tied him for 12th on the all-time NHRA win list with Funny Car driver Tony Pedregon. Brown scored his first event title of the season at Phoenix in February.
Dating back to last September’s NHRA round near St. Louis, Brown and his Matco Tools/U.S. Army team have been the hottest in the Top Fuel ranks, scoring four titles in nine events and advancing to six championship rounds. Since his uncharacteristic first-round loss at this year’s season opener at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., Brown has climbed back to second in the Top Fuel standings, just 25 points behind leader Doug Kalitta.
TONY “THE SARGE” SCHUMACHER, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
Your thoughts as we head to the outskirts of Houston for this weekend’s sixth event of the season?
“Well, one of the first things I always like about going back to tracks like Houston is that we’ve won there. I’m always focused on the positives when I look at the schedule. The problem is, it has been five years since we’ve won in Houston, so odds are that this time we have a pretty good shot at it. This U.S. Army Racing team is honored and takes great pride in representing the more than 1 million Soldiers who protect our freedom and our way of life. Only the strongest wear our colors, and the Army NHRA partnership provides Americans a platform to experience the speed, power, teamwork and technology that drives that strength. When I think of Houston, I think of winning with Mike Green for the first time in 2009. We had a lot of pressure. So many people were out there saying we wouldn’t be able to win without Alan Johnson. It took us four races, and getting that first win was huge. Mike has proven over the years that he is absolutely one of the best at getting these cars right. He assembled an incredible crew with guys like (assistant crew chief) Neal (Strausbaugh), who continue to learn more and more. We thrive when it’s pressure time and that all started back in 2009. That Houston win proved we could do it, and we’re still winning now. Hopefully, we’ll be winning a lot more.”
You scored a solid event title at Las Vegas last month, but it’s been an otherwise mixed bag of results, so far. Still, you’re in the top-five in the championship. How do you feel the U.S. Army team is performing?
“Like I keep saying, I just think we’ve got all the right people, and we’ve all been in place long enough to really understand each other. We approach every single weekend with the feeling that it’s going to be hard to beat us. But this is a very humbling sport, as everybody knows. Every time you pull up to the starting line, you can see the goal. It’s like a football player who knows exactly what yard line, or the goal line, that he needs to reach. It’s like a baseball player when he’s up to bat. Most people have normal jobs and can’t say they have jobs like we do. Our job is the same each and every week. To win races and to win championships, that’s a lot of pressure, especially when there’s never just some average Joe lined up next to us. They’re all great. They all have nine guys working with them who are also great at their jobs – all pretty special people. No matter who we’re lined up against, we would be foolish to think we’re going to have it easy. It’s all about what you do to prepare for that moment that makes our job really cool. It’s one of the Army values we keep talking about.”
ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
Your win at the Four-Wide Nationals two weeks ago tied you for 12th on the all-time NHRA win list with Tony Pedregon at 43 Wallies apiece. You’re also now seven event titles away from that 50-win mark. Does it feel like you’re making history?
“I don’t want to think about history or breaking records until my career is over. Hopefully, when I look back – one day when I kick the boots off and take the helmet off – I can look back and go, ‘What a career!’ And, hopefully, I can leave that legacy behind for my kids to look at and say, ‘My dad was somebody.’ Hopefully, I can make a little bit more history and break some records. We just want to compete at a high level every time we step onto the racetrack. If we do that, we give ourselves a great shot at winning races. That’s what my whole mindset is. I don’t worry about the stats we just achieved. I worry about achieving more and more.”
Any special thoughts about this weekend’s race on the outskirts of Houston?
“I’m excited to get back in the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster this weekend after crossing a big one off the bucket list at Charlotte. It’s always great to get back to Houston. That’s where I won my first Top Fuel race and a place where we’ve been pretty good. Two years ago, we made the final and, hopefully, this year we can get back there and win it. We’ve had a pretty good start to the year and our goal is just to continue going rounds. The weather can always be an equalizer in Houston. You’ve got some lower elevation, so there is an opportunity to use more horsepower, but it just depends on how hot it gets. You can usually count on two qualifying sessions where you can – what I like to say, ‘Throw down.’ That means you can really get aggressive and go for it. We’re ready.”
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