BRISTOL, Tennessee – Two hundred thirty-nine years ago, our Nation’s leaders established the Continental Army. As the strategic landpower of the joint force, the Army is called upon to prevent, shape and win against our adversaries.
This weekend, throughout this great land of ours, the Army celebrates its birthday with the theme “239 Years of Our Profession” as it continues to demonstrate its competence, its commitment, and its character in defense of our Nation. U.S. Army Soldiers possess a lifelong commitment to our values. America’s Army professionals conduct themselves consistently with the Army ethic – worthy of “Our Profession.” An Army professional strives to adhere to five essential characteristics of trust, military expertise, honorable service, esprit de corps, and stewardship.
One noteworthy birthday celebration will take place Saturday near the starting line at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway, where the U.S. Army duo of Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown will be hard at work all weekend in the effort to bring home an all-important Top Fuel Dragster victory in the 14th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. Just prior to Saturday afternoon’s third-round qualifying session, Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), and his father and team owner Don Schumacher, will be among the dignitaries taking part in a ceremonial cake cutting celebrating the Army’s 239th birthday.
It has become quite the fixture on the event schedule at Bristol as the traditional mid-June NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series weekend occurs in close proximity to the Army’s birthday celebration each year. It’s also quite fitting that Schumacher and the U.S. Army Dragster are the winningest combination at Bristol Dragway with five Top Fuel event titles – 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. Schumacher also was the Bristol Top Fuel runner-up to Doug Kalitta in 2001, and was fast qualifier in 2004, 2007 and 2008.
If the first nine events of 2014 are any indication, Schumacher and the U.S. Army team are creeping up on their winning ways once again. The seven-time Top Fuel world champion scored his 73rd career event title in March at Las Vegas and, despite sitting seventh in the latest Top Fuel standings, 314 points behind the front-running Kalitta, he and his U.S. Army crew are poised to bring home their sixth Wally Parks trophy from the scenic Bristol Dragway layout and mount a charge toward the NHRA playoffs.
And not only would it be a fitting way to celebrate the Army’s 239th birthday, let’s not forget Sunday is Father’s Day, which would give Schumacher the opportunity to bring home the ultimate Father’s Day gift to his dad and team owner.
Meanwhile, Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster team for DSR are still searching for their first Bristol event title but are certainly among the favorites to bring home the “Wally” this weekend despite first-round exits from each of the last two stops on the tour in Topeka, Kansas, and Englishtown, New Jersey – the latter at the hands of Schumacher and the U.S. Army Dragster two weekends ago.
The 2012 Top Fuel world champion and runner-up last season already has scored event titles at Phoenix, Charlotte and Houston through the first nine events of 2014. His Bristol resume includes a pair of fast qualifying efforts in 2010 and 2012, and he came within 15 thousandths of a second of beating Larry Dixon in the 2011 Thunder Valley Nationals final. Brown continues to hold down the second spot in the Top Fuel standings, 103 points behind Kalitta.
When Schumacher and Brown take to the track at Bristol Dragway once again this weekend, like they do every time they are on the track, they’ll be focused on demonstrating the same attributes the Army looks for in its Soldiers – putting the mission first, a never-quit attitude and a refusal to accept defeat.
TONY “THE SARGE” SCHUMACHER, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
You’ve tasted at least some degree of success at a vast majority of tracks where you’ve raced, but Bristol is one that stands out a little more than a lot of the others. What is it about that place?
“Everybody seems to have tracks where they are good and, fortunately, Bristol is one of those for the U.S. Army team. There is some altitude to deal with there, but mostly it’s just that I love Thunder Valley. I always go into that race feeling successful. I think, anytime you win races, it gets easier the next time. That’s why I go into Bristol with a completely positive attitude and the results have been the proof. 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.”
Bristol also has come to mean a birthday celebration for the U.S. Army, as well as the annual celebration of another great American institution known as Father’s Day. How special do those two events make this weekend for you?
“I’ve said it before many times, but I feel like I’m living the dream. I get to drive the baddest car there is and do it with an incredible group of guys and represent the Army Soldiers who protect our country. The strength of our Nation is our Army, and the strength of the Soldiers is our families. This is what makes us ‘Army Strong’ every day of the year. We’ve had such a great relationship with the Army, and being able to celebrate another birthday carrying their colors is always huge. Yes, winning this weekend would be a great way to cap what should be another great American weekend.”
ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
You won three times and scored a runner-up finish at the first six events of the season, but you head to Bristol having made back-to-back first-round exits at Topeka and Englishtown. What are your thoughts heading into this weekend?
“We’re going to Bristol with some new ‘pipe,’ and that streak will come to an end. Of course, by ‘pipe’ I mean our new Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster, which will be better than the one we started the year with, and that one was pretty fast. Last weekend was an off weekend on our schedule, but it wasn’t a weekend off for everybody because we had to get our new car together. That gives us two good cars heading to the meat of the schedule. We needed to get everything back to normal so we can go back to hitting it hard the way we like to. We went to the championship round in 2011 at Bristol but haven’t sealed the deal, yet. And ‘yet’ is the main word.”
Any special thoughts as DSR helps the U.S. Army celebrate its 239th birthday at Bristol this weekend?
“I’ve been proud to help represent the U.S. Army for a long time, dating back to my Pro Stock Motorcycle days. It has been apparent all along that the mental, emotional and physical strength like no other displayed by our Soldiers is inspiring to all of us, and it has always played a huge part in our drive to be successful. After all, only the strongest wear the colors of the U.S. Army and the Army NHRA partnership provides Americans a platform to experience the speed, power, teamwork and technology that drives that strength.”
- Mike Zizzo
Director of Media Relations
Texas Motor Speedway