U.S. Army NHRA Racing Top Fuel drivers Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown will come out of the sixth and fourth starting spots, respectively, in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals at historic Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.
After banking an impressive 3.837-second run at 321.42 mph on Friday, Schumacher had his U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster lose traction during Saturday's only qualifying session (the final session was cancelled due to rain) and he dropped from second to sixth in the race-day order.
The Chicago-area resident will square off with 11th-place qualifier Doug Kalitta in the opening round of final eliminations beginning at 11 a.m. PST.
“We just missed it today and got knocked down a few positions,” said Schumacher. “But, we’re going to be just fine. I’m very confident we’re going to start the season with a positive result. The U.S. Army team is ready to rock.”
When Schumacher rolls up to the starting line against Kalitta, it will be a meeting of rivals from years past. It was at the 2006 season finale when Schumacher wiped out Kalitta’s world title bid with a record-setting performance in the final round.
“For sure, we’ve had some serious battles the last few seasons,” said Schumacher. “He’s still a great driver with a terrific team. We will have to bring our ‘A’ game if we are going to advance.”
In the 2012 season opener, Schumacher will be looking to end a 23-race winless streak which dates back to the 2010 fall Las Vegas event.
“To be honest, I’m tired of hearing about that,” said Schumacher. “It’s a new season and we’re all starting from scratch and with a clean slate.”
Before the rain arrived, Brown, in his Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster, recorded a 3.833-second pass at 322.81 mph and rose from ninth to fourth in the lineup.
The New Jersey native will face 13th-place qualifier Cory McClenathan in the first round of final eliminations.
“I’m happy we were able to put down such a solid lap today and move up,” said Brown. “Now, we have some added confidence going into tomorrow. I really love racing here in Pomona. This race, in particular, has so much history attached to it so I’m eager to bring home a Winternationals trophy.”
Brown is quite aware he will be going against a savvy veteran in McClenathan, who was once part of the Don Schumacher Racing stable.
“I have plenty of respect for Cory,” said Brown. “He knows how to get a Top Fuel car down the track.”
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