News: Brown ousted in final; returns to top of standings
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Scott Turner
BAYTOWN, Texas - U.S. Army NHRA Top Fuel drivers Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher and Antron Brown were in the Lone Star State Sunday for the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway.
Brown, aboard his Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster, advanced to the final against number-one qualifier Morgan Lucas but smoked the tires while Lucas recorded a 3.848-second trip at 320.81 mph.
Despite falling short of winning his second race of the year, Brown secured the Top Fuel points lead for the third time in 2012. He holds a 14-point advantage over his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey in second.
"We were trying real hard to get another one for our hard-working Army Strong soldiers," Brown said. "We knew we had to be aggressive against Morgan, given how well he had been running all day. Unfortunately, we just stepped over the line and the tires kicked loose.
"I'm still happy with the way my team performed this weekend. We had to fight our way into the field after not being qualified coming into Saturday, and then we had to get around some really good drivers to set up the meeting with Morgan. We gave it all we had and this time came up just a bit short. That's going to happen at times - you just have to keep your head up and move on."
Brown leveled J.R. Todd, Massey and Steve Torrence en route to the final. It was his fourth final of the season and the 66th of his career.
"We have a long season ahead and most every team is going to experience peaks and valleys," Brown said. "Our goal will be to minimize the valleys so we can be right there in world title contention come November."
Piloting the U.S. Army dragster, Schumacher lost a tight race to Lucas in the quarterfinals despite posting a respectable 3.865-second pass at 319.67 mph to Lucas' 3.834-second run at 322.19 mph.
"We were fighting right to the end, just like our Army Strong soldiers do," Schumacher said. "Our team never gives up no matter the circumstances. Obviously, we're disappointed we didn't win here today, but we'll just look to next weekend at Atlanta Dragway for another opportunity to grab a trophy."
Prior to facing Lucas, the Chicago-area resident took care of Doug Kalitta in the opening round of final eliminations and, in the process, collected his 600th career round win. He joins John Force, Kenny Bernstein, Larry Dixon and Warren Johnson as the only drivers in NHRA history to reach that mark.
"Don't get me wrong, it was nice to celebrate that milestone, but I would much rather have been celebrating in victory lane," Schumacher said. "I'm definitely not about personal accomplishments. It's all about the team and what we achieve together. We want to win races and world championships. That's what we are always shooting for."
In losing to Lucas, Schumacher's winless streak has now reached 29 straight races dating back to the fall 2010 Las Vegas event. But, the seven-time world champion refuses to dwell on such a statistic.
"No way," Schumacher said. "I'm a positive-minded person and truly believe we will take home a bunch of race trophies this year. And, of course, we want to take home the biggest trophy of them all at the end of the year."
Next weekend, Schumacher will not only be attempting to end his winless streak, he'll also be looking claim his first career win at historic Atlanta Dragway. It's the only track on the NHRA tour where he has failed to win a race.
"I guess the stage is set for us," Schumacher said. "We can take care of business on a couple of fronts. Count me in on that scenario taking place."
Going into round seven of the 23-race NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals, May 4-6 at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga., following are the top-five in the Top Fuel standings:
1. Antron Brown (537 points)
2. Spencer Massey (523 points)
3. Morgan Lucas (505 points)
4. Tony Schumacher (500 points)
5. Shawn Langdon (348 points)