U.S. Army NHRA Racing Top Fuel drivers Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown kicked off the 2012 drag racing season in impressive fashion Sunday in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.
Brown, aboard his Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster, advanced to the Top Fuel final against his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey but came up just short in his effort to capture his first Winternationals victory.
Massey’s 3.750-second run at 325.77 mph was just 44 thousandths of a second better than Brown’s 3.794-second pass at 320.43 mph.
“There’s not much to say – he just got us there at the end,” Brown said. “I’m a little disappointed because I wanted to take home a trophy, here, today. This is one of the bigger races on the tour and you want one of these at some point during your career.
“We fought really hard all day long and that’s all I can ask of my guys. Like our Army Strong soldiers, we never accept defeat, so we’ll be back, for sure.”
Dating back to last year, this was Brown’s sixth final in the last 11 races. During that span, he has compiled a class-leading 30-7 round record.
While Brown was bidding for a season-opening win, Schumacher directed his U.S. Army dragster to the semifinals opposite Massey.
Schumacher posted a very respectable 3.809-second pass at 322.88 mph, but Massey countered with a sizzling 3.745-second jaunt at 328.62 mph. Massey’s elapsed time was the second-quickest in NHRA history since the sanctioning body moved to 1,000-foot racing. His speed was a national record.
“We got down the track cleanly, but they really put up a great lap right there,” said Schumacher, who now has a 24-race winless drought. “You have to tip your hat to Spencer and his guys – they did a terrific job. It really was a thing of beauty.”
On the way to his match up with Massey, the Chicago-area resident took out Doug Kalitta and Bob Vandergriff with a pair of 3.790-second runs at 324.67 mph and 324.83 mph, respectively.
“Needless to say, we wanted to get a win here this weekend,” Schumacher said. “But, you are not going to get any complaints from me. We performed well and we know we have a car quite capable of winning a bunch of races. Our time will come.”
After finishing second and fifth in the standings the last two seasons, Schumacher wants to start building momentum early in an effort to show his competition he’ll be a serious player the next 10 months.
“That’s for certain,” he said. “We’ll head for Phoenix next weekend (for the Arizona NHRA Nationals Friday through Sunday at Firebird International Raceway) and take another swing at those guys. Before too long, we are going to start connecting and knocking a lot of people out. And, of course, that will mean plenty of wins for us, as well.”
Going into round two of the 23-race NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, following are the top-five in the Top Fuel standings:
1. Spencer Massey (119 points)
2. Antron Brown (95 points)
3. Morgan Lucas (87 points)
4. Tony Schumacher (78 points)
5. Bob Vandergriff (57 points)
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