COMMERCE, Ga. (May 7, 2017) - Don Schumacher Racing's Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster team does more than carry an old racecar to serve as a back-up for three-time world champion Antron Brown should a problem develop with his primary dragster.
During qualifying Saturday for the following day's championship eliminations in the NHRA Southern Nationals near Atlanta, car chief and team manager Brad Mason's keen eye found a crack in part of the chassis that led the team to pull out its replacement dragster for eliminations.
The protocol is to give a new chassis some shake-down runs before using it in NHRA Mello Yello Series competition but safety overruled routine and crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald deferred to Mason's call to pull out the new car that had never met asphalt.
The move paid off superbly in the first round when Brown produced the second quickest time ever at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga., with a run in 3.702 seconds at 328.78 mph. In the quarterfinals, the Matco dragster set the track speed with record at 329.91 with a time of 3.754 but that wasn't enough to defeat DSR teammate Leah Pritchett's 3.723.
"It was just our fault, that run there, the track was a lot better than we thought it was," said Brown, who owns six trophies from the track and has won the past two world championships.
"We went out and tried to run a .74 like we did in qualifying, we slipped to a .75, and our teammate (Pritchett) went out and ran a .72. They did exactly what they needed to do to beat us.
"The track's been a little rough out there, we hit those big bumps in the right lane (Sunday), and we hit them against Leah too. It cracked our other chassis (in qualifying), but it turned out to be a good deal because we brought out our brand new backup car and it ran flawlessly.
"I'm just really proud of our guys, all our fab shop boys for putting together a car that works so good, and being able to adapt and be versatile to the situation. We kept our heads down, we never gave up, we kept digging, we fought a tough fight this weekend.
The Mello Yello Series will take next weekend off after three races in three weekends. The next stop is at Topeka, Kan.
"We can't wait to get to Topeka. We're creating a monster on this team - (crew chiefs) Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald, Brad and all these guys - it's just getting us more determined, more hungry and we're getting ready to go and unleash the beast. It's going to be nothing nice."
RESULTS FROM NEAR HOUSTON
Event winner: Steve Torrence (CAPCO Contractors)
No. 1 qualifier: Tony Schumacher (Don Schumacher Racing), 3.736 sec., 318.99 mph
ANTRON BROWN: Matco Tools/U.S. Army
Crew chiefs: Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald; assistant: Brad Mason
First round: BROWN (3.702 sec., 328.78 mph) def. Troy Coughlin Jr. (3.788, 304.67)
Second round: Leah Pritchett (3.723, 327.11) def. BROWN (3.754, 329.91-track record)
FRIDAY: rained out
SATURDAY: 3.745 sec., 291.07 mph, (Session 3); 3,741, 326.08, (Session 4)
Best time, speed: 3.667 (2017, Phoenix); 331.12 mph (2015, Brainerd)
Last event (April 28-30, Charlotte Four-Wide): Qualified No. 3, lost in second round
Career at Atlanta: Wins 6 (2015, 2013, 2011, 2008, 2006*, 2001*); Runner-ups 1 (2003*); Poles 1 (2006*); * Pro Stock Motorcycle
2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES TOP FUEL STANDINGS
(Official after Atlanta; 7th of 24 events; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. LEAH PRITCHETT (3) 641 ----
2. TONY SCHUMACHER (1) 627 -14
3. Steve Torrence (2) 592 -49
3. ANTRON BROWN (1) 560 -81
5. Doug Kalitta 486 -155
6. Clay Millican 385 -256
7. Brittany Force 347 -294
8. Terry McMillen 301 -340
9. Troy Coughlin Jr. 295 -346
10. Scott Palmer 244 -397