NORWALK, Ohio – Just three weeks ago, the U.S. Army duo of Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown helped celebrate the Army’s 239th birthday in grand style at the Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee. This weekend, as Schumacher, Brown and their NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series counterparts travel to Norwalk, Ohio for the eighth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, they’ll be helping Americans everywhere celebrate our great nation’s 238th birthday.
Together, Schumacher and Brown will look to continue demonstrating the level of engineering and teamwork at the racetrack this weekend that is reflective of the Army’s leading-edge technology and the powerful, realistic training of its Soldiers. And, each would love nothing better than to celebrate our nation’s birthday a second time – two days after Friday’s Fourth of July festivities, of course – in Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park’s victory lane come Sunday.
The way things have been going this season, it’s a good bet either Schumacher or Brown will wind up in victory lane Sunday. Through the first 12 stops on the 24-race tour for 2014, they’ve combined for six event titles – two for Schumacher and the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), and four for Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR.
They are also the two most recent Top Fuel winners on the circuit as Schumacher blazed to victory two weekends ago for the second time this season and the first time in his career at New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire, and Brown took top honors Sunday at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois. Schumacher’s event title was the 74th of his illustrious career while Brown’s was his 45th – his 29th in Top Fuel to go with 16 in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Considering all the winning they’ve done at other facilities this year and in years past, Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park is a venue where Schumacher and Brown have just one event title between them – Schumacher’s Top Fuel win in the inaugural event there in 2007, and that was from a rather inauspicious qualifying position of 14th after which he went on to meticulously dispose of Brandon Bernstein, J.R. Todd, Whit Bazemore and Rod Fuller for the title.
Schumacher hasn’t advanced beyond the Norwalk semifinals since, and last year found himself eliminated in the first round for the first time there. Likewise did Brown make a first-round exit at Norwalk last season, just three years removed from his march to the Top Fuel final in 2010, when he was edged at the finish by Larry Dixon in a tight battle.
With their back-to-back victories at Epping and Joliet, Schumacher and Brown certainly hope momentum is on their side this weekend as they head to the northern Ohio facility located smack between Toledo and Cleveland.
Add the excitement and patriotism that always comes with our nation’s annual Fourth of July celebration and there is nothing but motivation aplenty for the U.S. Army driver duo once it hits the track this weekend.
TONY “THE SARGE” SCHUMACHER, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
What are your thoughts as you head to Norwalk on this Fourth of July holiday weekend?
“This is obviously a very special weekend for all Americans each summer and there’s always such a happy and patriotic vibe wherever we go. Racing in Norwalk over Fourth of July weekend gives us a chance to show how 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. We love winning, and we would love nothing more than to bring home our second-ever win at Norwalk. We won the very first race there back in 2007 but we just haven’t been able to repeat, yet. Obviously, we’re heading there with the idea of doing just that. It’s getting hotter and the U.S. Army team proved in Epping two weeks ago that it can get me down the track when conditions are like that. It was pretty impressive for us to run so well there. We’ll take that knowledge with us to Norwalk, and some more positives from last weekend in Chicago, and see if we can come out on top again.”
The U.S. Army team continued its latest trend of making solid run after solid run down the racetrack last weekend at Chicago. How discouraging was it to be surprised in the first round of eliminations, like you were Sunday?
“We’re never discouraged. It was disappointing, yes, because we know we’re better than that. But that result was zero indication of the incredible strength and fortitude of this U.S. Army team. Every time we are on the track, this U.S. Army team demonstrates the same attributes the Army looks for in its Soldiers – putting the mission first, a never-quit attitude and a refusal to accept defeat. What happened at Chicago was disappointing because we were really looking forward to the opportunity we had. We were in Chicago, my hometown, at a track where we won last year. We came in with a lot of momentum after winning the week before and the place was filled with a ton of great fans, including a lot of my family and personal friends. The reality is, this Top Fuel class is so tough from top to bottom that every round is a huge challenge. We raced Clay Millican in the semifinals at New Hampshire, and at Chicago we were battling in the first round. Despite the outcome, we feel good about the U.S. Army Dragster. We have a good handle on it and the car is really doing its job. We’ll be right back after it this weekend in Norwalk.”
ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
Your overall thoughts as we head back to Norwalk in search of your first career victory there?
“Norwalk is a tremendous facility. We’re still trying to get our first win there. The biggest thing for our team is that Norwalk is like a home track for one of my co-crew chiefs. Brian Corradi is from the area and we always want to do well for him there. You saw how much it mattered for everybody at DSR last weekend in Chicago, especially for Tony and Don as they were gunning for their second hometown win in a row. It was so very special for us to be the DSR team to get the Wally this time around. We’ve been close at Norwalk before. We made it to the final once. So we’ll go there hoping to qualify well and get back into the top half of the ladder. That’s what we are shooting for. And then, we’ll just try to take it one round at a time Sunday and see if we can come out of there with a win.”
Your win at Chicago last weekend was your first with the brand new car the Matco Tools/U.S. Army team built from the ground up since the crash at Atlanta destroyed your favorite primary car. What are your thoughts about that?
“We had a great car and it was gone – gone. The only thing we got out of it was the cockpit stuff. It was working well, and that was the car we wanted to run for the championship. But the Good Lord had a different story. He goes, ‘We’re going to give you a better one.’
The boys back at our Don Schumacher Racing shop went to work, and they gave us this new car. We came out with it at Bristol and it ran phenomenal. We could have won that race but it slipped away from us. And it ran great in Epping. Our Army teammate Tony just took us out in the second round on his way to winning the event. That was a win for the Army and that’s always a good thing. We’ll just see if we can make it two in a row for the Matco Tools/U.S. Army guys at Norwalk this weekend. I’d love to add that place to my list of winning racetracks.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine