News: Schumacher secures second starting spot; Brown nails sixth position
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Scott Turner
CHANDLER, Ariz. - Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher and Antron Brown finished qualifying for Sunday's Arizona NHRA Nationals here at Firebird International Raceway, Oct. 15, holding the second and sixth starting spots, respectively.
The U.S. Army NHRA Racing Top Fuel pilots had to deal with a second straight day of sizzling Arizona heat which brought the air temperature to 100 degrees and a track temperature to more than 120 degrees.
"The conditions were exceptionally tough yet again today," said Schumacher, who will face off with 15th-place qualifier, Mike Strasburg, in the first round of final eliminations beginning at 11 a.m. MT. "The cars were really slipping and sliding down the track."
"Man, it was incredibly challenging out there," offered Brown, who has a first round match up with 11th-place qualifier, David Grubnic. "You can't imagine how much you have to back the power down on these engines so you can have a chance to put up a clean lap. Fortunately, we were able to do that."
Brown, who came into the event second in the points behind his Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Spencer Massey, had a bit of pressure entering the final two rounds of qualifying. After having his second round pass thrown out by the NHRA due to car weight issues, Brown wanted to make sure he grabbed a top half of the field position for race day.
"We started the day in ninth, so we knew what we had to do to get into the top half and have lane choice," said the New Jersey native. "While the extreme heat sort of levels the playing field, I do know we have a car quite capable of winning tomorrow."
Schumacher, who hails from the Chicago-area, would like to hoist his first trophy of the year come late Sunday afternoon.
"We definitely need to get the job done here in Phoenix," said the seven-time world champion. "We put forth another solid qualifying effort, but it's time we do it on Sunday. We're very much still alive in the Countdown to the Championship. There's no quit in this Army team."
Schumacher and Brown received some help in the Countdown when Massey failed to qualify for the fourth race of the playoffs.
"That certainly opened the door for Antron and I, as well as the Al-Anabi team (with drivers Del Worsham and Larry Dixon)," said Schumacher. "But, it won't mean much if you don't go rounds tomorrow. We have to take advantage of this opportunity to gain a lot of valuable points."
"Tony is spot on," said Brown. "The door is ajar, but it's on us now to barge through it. If we can produce positive results tomorrow, the last two races (in Las Vegas and Pomona, Calif.) suddenly become very interesting."
While Schumacher and Brown were completing qualifying in the Valley of the Sun, U.S. Army NASCAR Racing driver Ryan Newman was preparing to set sail in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Newman, 11th in the Chase for the Sprint Cup driver standings, was slated to come out of the sixth starting position.