Sights Firmly Set on U.S. Army’s Fourth Straight Title, Fifth of Season at Southern Nationals
COMMERCE, Georgia– For U.S. Army Racing’s Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown, the mental, emotional and physical strength like no other displayed by our Soldiers is inspiring and plays a huge part in their drive to be successful.
Nowhere is this more evident than the fact Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), and Brown, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR, have won the last three NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event titles and four of the first six this season between them.
They’ll head to Atlanta Dragway this weekend in hopes of putting the U.S. Army in victory lane yet again when the series hits town for the 34th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals.
Schumacher, the seven-time Top Fuel world champion and holder of a division-record 73 event titles, ironically has yet to hoist a Wally in 17 visits to Atlanta. It’s the only track on the current NHRA schedule from where he has yet to bring home a first-place trophy named after series founder Wally Parks, but he certainly has knocked on the door numerous times with runner-up finishes in 2000, 2008, 2011 and 2012.
His 73rd career title came three events ago at Las Vegas, where he won for the second year in a row and for the eighth time in his illustrious career. The Sarge is looking to rebound from consecutive early round losses at Charlotte and Houston with his first career Atlanta title and improve upon his sixth-place position in the Top Fuel standings, 227 points behind series leader Brown.
The Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster driver, meanwhile, heads to Atlanta as the defending event titlist and is riding a hot streak like he never has before since joining the Top Fuel ranks in 2008. Back-to-back wins at Charlotte and Houston put him atop the championship chase six events into the season and gave him five titles in the last 10 events dating back to the St. Louis round last September. Brown has advanced to the final round at seven of those last 10 events.
A year ago, he qualified second and blazed past Brandon Bernstein in the final round to score his third career Top Fuel title at Atlanta and fifth overall. He triumphed in Pro Stock Motorcycle competition at the track in 2001 and 2006 before scoring his Top Fuel titles in 2008, 2011 and 2013.
Brown’s victory at Houston three weekends ago was the 28th Top Fuel title of his career and his 44th overall. It put him atop the standings for the first time this season with a modest 37-point lead over second-place Doug Kalitta.
TONY “THE SARGE” SCHUMACHER, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
You overall thoughts heading to Atlanta this weekend?
“The good news heading to Atlanta for this U.S. Army team is that we are finding our way down the track on a pretty regular basis as a result of the tireless efforts of this entire organization since we closed the book on the 2013 season. Every member of this U.S. Army Racing team, from the pit crew to the business staff, plays a hugely important role in the success of the car on the track. It’s just like how every Soldier, no matter which of the more than 150 career options he or she chooses in the U.S. Army, is vital to the success of the mission. Our mission is to stay the course, continue finding our way down the racetrack faster and faster, and the results will come. Like I said at Houston, we’ve been getting down the racetrack but the car hasn’t necessarily done the same thing every time. It’s important to get down the track from the very first qualifying run of the weekend to put ourselves in the best position possible come Sunday. But, even then it involves a little bit of luck because you have to match up against the right people in those elimination rounds. We had one of the better runs that opening round in Houston despite our problem at the end but we got beat by just seven-thousandths of a second at the line. Meanwhile, other people smoke their tires and win the round because the guy they raced against red-lighted. It’s that kind of luck that has been eluding us but, if we keep our head down, continue to work hard and keep getting down the track, even the good luck is bound to come to us.”
Considering you’ve won more event titles than any other Top Fuel driver in history, what is it like to head to Atlanta, which is the only track where you have yet to hoist a Wally?
“It’s not like we haven’t run well at Atlanta over the years. We’ve been in the finals there many, many times, so we’ve definitely run well there. It’s just that final run of the day on Sunday where we have yet to break through. We’ve had some excellent final-round runs but, at the end of the day, we just got beat. We’re certainly not through at Atlanta, not by any means. Just like we approach every weekend at every track we race at, we will head to Atlanta determined to be the most difficult team to beat there this weekend. The results may not necessarily show it, but we have made some solid progress as far as getting the U.S. Army team back into championship form. Our sister car and fellow U.S. Army-sponsored team is lighting the Top Fuel world on fire at the moment. We can certainly feed off of that and blaze through the competition ourselves this weekend if all goes according to plan. I’m really looking forward to getting back down there.”
ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
You head to Atlanta on perhaps the hottest streak you’ve ever been on in your career. That must put confidence at an all-time high for you and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army team, right?
“It feels good that we’re in stride right now. Going into the race, you go with confidence when your car’s running good and how the team is operating. One thing I really love about our team is that it doesn’t matter what we did before our first qualifying run, it matters how we end up in qualifying. It matters how much we grew with each run. We’ll have problems at every race, but we’ll grow from it. We get our car into a zone where it’s ready to race on Sunday. The main thing is we know what our team is always capable of. We know we have a really good chance of winning every race if we do our jobs right. What’s so good about our Matco Tools/U.S. Army team now is that we’re operating on all eight cylinders.”
Atlanta Dragway has yielded a good bit of success for you with Top Fuel wins in 2008, 2011 and 2013, as well as a Pro Stock Motorcycle event titles in 2001 and 2006. What is it about that place?
“It’s always been a good racetrack for me. I distinctly remember winning there on the U.S. Army bike when I beat Andrew Hines in the final (in 2006). I remember getting my second Top Fuel Wally when I beat Tony Schumacher on a holeshot (in 2008). That was a huge deal because that was the era when no one was beating Tony. It reminds me of one of the old-school racetracks that I grew up on around New Jersey. When you go there, it’s the history and environment that brings you back to when you were a little kid. The stands are really close to the drag strip and the old-school drag racers come there. It makes me feel like where it all started for me and I just think about going fast and going faster.”
- Charlie Brim
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