News: US Army drivers to resume NHRA battle in Garden State
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Scott Turner
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - U.S. Army NHRA Racing Top Fuel drivers Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown return to action at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park May 25-27, for the Toyota NHRA SuperNationals.
Like the Army Strong soldiers they drive for, Schumacher and Brown will rely on mental, emotional and physical strength to rebound from second-round losses each absorbed at Heartland Park Topeka in Kansas two weeks ago.
Following his loss to Spencer Massey, Schumacher fell from the Top Fuel points lead to second place. A four-time finalist to date in 2012, he continues to track his first victory of the year. He’s also looking to end a 31-race winless streak that dates back to the 2010 fall Las Vegas event.
Despite being Top Fuel’s winningest driver, Schumacher has just one victory to his credit at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park - in 2008. He was the number-one qualifier in 2007 and 2009.
A Chesterfield, N.J., native, Brown was pushed to third place in the standings after posting a red light foul against Doug Kalitta at Heartland Park. He’s been the points leader on three different occasions over the opening eight races of the season.
Much of Brown’s success in his home state dates back to his career in Pro Stock Motorcycles, when he recorded two wins in 2002 and 2005. Since entering the Top Fuel class, Brown has banked one final-round appearance in 2010.
Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster:
Q: Before discussing your trip to New Jersey, what was it like to do the twin burnouts with Antron prior to the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Charlotte last Sunday night?
A: It was pretty cool. The fans seemed to really enjoy it. As you know, it was also Don Schumacher Racing’s salute to all of those soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I’ve stated this before - Memorial Day is very special to me, given my passionate, long-term connection with the U.S. Army. We had a great opportunity to interact with so many soldiers down at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Frankly, that was the most enjoyable part of the trip.
Q: Now, let’s chat about returning to NHRA action. Progress-wise, what are your thoughts about where the U.S. Army team is since we are now one-third of the way through the season?
A: Even though we have yet to win a race, we’re definitely moving in the right direction. At each event, we seem to get that much better and that’s what counts. We’ve been the points leader a couple of times, already, which is nice. As long as we remain in serious contention over the next nine races, we’ll be positioned where we need to be when the six-race Countdown to the Championship rolls around. Of course, that’s when you want to be running at your best. I would give up winning now in favor of winning six straight races in the playoffs and capturing another world championship.
Q: Having unveiled it in Topeka, what’s your take on the new DSR chassis?
A: It seems fine to me. I know it has some new components that the race fan probably wouldn’t notice. Again, every team is looking to accomplish two things between now and the fall Charlotte race - be in the top-10 to qualify for the playoffs and then try to win as many races as possible. We’re no different and part of that process is being able to use the best racecar we have at the right time.
Q: For years, given your lack of success there, you didn’t look forward to competing at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Since you finally won there in 2008, has your opinion changed any?
A: Sure, I believe it has. Once you finally cross a track off your ‘no win list,’ I think it makes it easier to return there. In a way, you have cleared an obstacle that was once firmly planted in front of you. With that said, it’s a track that can still bite you if you let it. It’s all about focus and determination.
Antron Brown, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster:
Q: What were your thoughts after performing the twin burnouts in Charlotte with Tony?
A: It was a blast. Hopefully, we ended up converting some NASCAR fans into NHRA fans. We sure put on a loud, visual show for them. But, like Tony said, the main reason we were there was for our soldiers. We wanted to say ‘thank you’ to all of our brave men and women who have kept us safe and free on a daily basis. We love all of them.
Q: Please talk about your emotional state after that red-light loss in Topeka.
A: I’m good to go. It was definitely disappointing at the time, but you have to erase that from your memory and move forward. It’s a new race weekend with the opportunity of gaining another win. That’s the only way you can look at it. I have a great team and a great racecar and that’s what I care about. We’re in this for the long haul. There are way too many races left, so I’m not going to dwell on one that’s already history.
Q: Obviously, each season you must eagerly anticipate this race weekend since you get to go home.
A: Absolutely, that’s the case. I love being able to race in front of my friends and family. You do end up with people constantly tugging at you, but you are prepared for that going in. Living in Indianapolis, now, I don’t get back to New Jersey that often. But, when I do get there, I want to maximize the experience as much as possible. Of course, come Sunday afternoon, you want to be able to share a win with everyone.
Q: To that end, how do you like racing at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park?
A: Since it was my home track for so many years, I love it there. If the weather holds up, we usually get some awesome crowds. I haven’t won in Top Fuel, as yet, but being able to win two races in Pro Stock Motorcycles was very exciting. I look forward to claiming that first Top Fuel trophy back in Jersey.