U.S. Army NHRA Top Fuel drivers Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown travel to Royal Purple Raceway outside Houston Friday through Sunday for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Spring Nationals.
Possessing the mental, emotional and physical strength like the Army Strong Soldiers he represents, Schumacher will be looking to bank his 600th career round win in the opening round of final eliminations on Sunday. Only four other drivers in NHRA history – John Force, Kenny Bernstein, Larry Dixon and Warren Johnson – have hit that mark.
The seven-time world champion will also be attempting to end a winless streak that has now covered 28 consecutive races dating back to the fall 2010 Las Vegas event. He enters the sixth round of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series holding second place in the standings, 22 points removed from his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey in first.
Brown, who sits right behind Massey and Schumacher in the standings, collected semifinal-round points at the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, N.C., two weeks ago. The New Jersey native, who captured the 2008 race at Royal Purple Raceway, has sat atop the leaderboard twice already this season.
Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster:
How do you feel as you approach your 600th career round win mark?
“I guess I haven’t given it much thought. To be honest, I’m more concerned with getting a race win versus a round win. But, hitting 600 is definitely a milestone, of sorts. I know not many drivers have done that, so it’s probably a big deal. Frankly, on Sunday, I’d like to say that I now have 603 round wins.”
You have won twice at Royal Purple Raceway – in 2005 and 2009. I would imagine the one in 2009 remains quite special.
“It absolutely does – that was the first race win for Mike Green and me. He was my new crew chief at the time after replacing Alan Johnson. All of the so-called experts said I would never win another race or contend for another world championship after Alan left. Not only did we win that race in Baytown, but we won four other races and the world title that year.”
After going four-wide a couple of weeks ago in Charlotte, you are returning to the traditional two-wide format this weekend. Is there some sort of a readjustment that a driver has to make?
“I don’t think so. Racing two-wide is what we normally do, so it comes naturally. The adjustment for everyone was heading into the Four-Wide Nationals since we only do that once a year. And it seemed most of the drivers did pretty well with that this time around. It was really nice to see, given it’s only our third season doing that kind of racing.”
Presently, you are surrounded in the standings by your teammates, Spencer and Antron. That’s not a shock by any means, right?
“Not at all – they are both great drivers with great teams. I fully expect to continue fighting with them the rest of the season. Of course, that’s what my dad (team owner Don Schumacher) wants.”
Antron Brown, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster:
You were in the final-round foursome at Charlotte but finished a close third behind Spencer and Tony, respectively. How disappointed were you with that result?
“I guess it was a little disappointing in that we knew we had a shot at the win but only came away with points as if we lost in the semifinals. That’s the way it works in the four-wide deal. Certainly, if we were going to lose to anyone in that situation, we wanted it to be to our teammates.”
Are you looking forward to returning to two-wide racing this weekend?
“Four-wide racing really doesn’t bother me, but getting back to two-wide is clearly what we do the majority of the time. So, there is a comfort zone there. What I want to return to, however, is victory lane. That’s the goal for my team no matter what the format is.”
What’s your opinion of Royal Purple Raceway given that you have raced Pro Stock Motorcycles and Top Fuel cars there?
“I like it. There have been a number of records set there over the years. If the wind is blowing right and the cool air comes in off of Trinity Bay, we can really put down some stout numbers. We’ll have to see if the weather cooperates or not. My understanding is we are going to have warm temperatures all weekend long, so we may have to pull the power back a bit.”
With Tony approaching his 600th career round win, what are your thoughts?
“As a friend and teammate, I want him to get it, for sure. He’s achieved so much during his career, it really is mind-boggling. He’s the winningest driver in Top Fuel history – that says it all right there in my mind. If I can do half of what he’s accomplished in the last decade or so, I’d be a pretty happy camper.”