News: NHRA Four-Wide Nationals next up for US Army drivers
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Scott Turner
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - After enjoying a holiday weekend off, U.S. Army NHRA drivers Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown will return to work for the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Friday through Sunday at zMAX Dragway.
A Chicago-area resident, Schumacher will be looking to regain the points lead after dropping a quarterfinal-round race to Brown in Las Vegas two weeks ago.
In Charlotte, Schumacher’s U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster will feature a special U.S. Army Reserve paint scheme. The U.S. Army Reserve provides trained, equipped and ready soldiers and cohesive units to meet global requirements across the full spectrum of operations. As an enduring operational force, the Army Reserve is the premier force provider of America’s citizen-soldiers for planned and emerging missions at home and abroad.
After collecting his third final-round appearance in four races, Brown moved to the top of the standings for the second time this season. Morgan Lucas, Spencer Massey and Schumacher are a close second, third and fourth, respectively - the latter just 13 points out of first.
Since the NHRA tour began traveling to the self-titled “Bellagio of Drag Strips” in 2008, both U.S. Army drivers have notched victories. Brown grabbed a win from last year’s fall event, while Schumacher’s came in the inaugural event, which moved him past Joe Amato on the all-time Top Fuel career wins list. He remains the winningest driver in Top Fuel history with 67 trophies to his credit.
Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster:
What does it mean to be spotlighting the U.S. Army Reserve on your car this weekend?
“I’m honored to have the Army Reserve on my dragster. Hopefully, we can give them a good ride - all the way to victory lane on Sunday. You have to remember the Army Reserve delivers vital military capabilities essential to the Total Force. Those brave men and women play an integral role in keeping our country safe and free.”
You are returning to the track where you became the all-time Top Fuel wins leader. Surely, zMAX Dragway holds a special place in your heart, right?
“It absolutely does. Even though it was four years ago, I remember that day as if it were yesterday. It was such an exciting time for my team, my dad [Don Schumacher] and the Army. I will always cherish that moment. Those are the kind of memories that stay with you forever.”
It’s time once again to race four-wide - have you become comfortable with that format, as yet?
“I think it’s hard to say anyone is really comfortable with it being we only race that way once a season. However, I do think it’s a matter of whether a driver embraces the challenge or not. I don’t really give it a lot of thought, to be honest. I just try to go up to the starting line and do my usual routine and not get caught up in the fact there are three other drivers out there with you instead of just one. The goal is still the same - to be the quickest each and every time you go down the track.”
Your winless streak has now reached 27 straight races dating back to the fall 2010 Las Vegas race. Despite not capturing a trophy to date this year and holding fourth place in the standings, you are still very much in the title hunt, only 13 points behind Antron in first. What’s your frame of mind going into Charlotte?
“I’m as confident as ever. I want to stress one more time - we are going to win races this year. It is not a question of if, but rather a question of when. Obviously, we’ll be shooting to get it done this weekend.”
Antron Brown, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster:
Even though you couldn’t get by your Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey in the final out in Las Vegas, you still managed to wrestle back the points lead from Tony. How does it feel to be number one again?
“It’s terrific, for sure. But, frankly, it would have been nice to finish it off in the proper way at The Strip. You have to give Spencer and his team all the credit - they were just a bit better than us on that day.”
Same question as Tony about the four-wide racing format in Charlotte - how comfortable are you with it?
“Like Tony said, it’s different in the sense we don’t do it any other time during the season. But, I’m fine with it. It’s all in your approach and if you let it affect you. I kind of view it as the NASCAR guys on the road courses. They don’t go to many of those kinds of tracks, but a good driver will rise to the occasion and do his or her job. You adjust and make it work.”
In the opening four races of the season, you went to three finals and recorded a win. You have to be ecstatic with the team’s performance so far, right?
“There’s no doubt about that. I think it’s safe to say we have served notice we’ll be a player in the championship race. I do like how things are progressing, but we can’t rest for a second or otherwise we can slip down the ladder just as fast as we climbed up.”
Can you get a feel this early in the season as to which driver is going to be your biggest threat for the Full Throttle world championship?
“There’s no way I could single one driver out. There are a bunch of drivers to deal with each race weekend, including my own teammates, Tony and Spencer. I said this in the preseason - I believe it’s going to be a fight to the finish among a large group of drivers. Hopefully, we’ll be the one that’s left standing at the end.”