Handling the controls of the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster, Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher dropped into the sixth starting position here Sunday during final qualifying for the 57th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Entering Sunday’s action, Schumacher sat in the second spot, but a couple of problem-oriented runs (which resulted in 15 points worth of oil down penalties) pushed him down in the lineup.
“It was very unfortunate we had the kind of runs we did today,” said the eight-time U.S. Nationals event winner. “But, if you are going to have issues, you definitely would rather have them in qualifying than in final eliminations.”
Schumacher, who arrived in Indy coming off four straight final rounds, will face 11th-place qualifier, Bob Vandergriff, in the opening round of action on Monday beginning at 11 a.m. ET.
Interestingly enough, despite blowing an engine in session four, Schumacher posted the fourth quickest elapsed time, while in the last round he was among the top five.
“That should tell you we have one fast race car,” said the Chicago-area resident. “I’m sure Mike Green (his crew chief) and the guys will figure it all out and be ready to go. I really believe we have a great opportunity to get our first win of the season here in Indy.”
While Schumacher is winless in 2011, he still holds fourth-place in the standings and is expected to be a serious challenger for the Full Throttle world championship when the Countdown to 1 starts in two weeks at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte.
“We are going to go out there tomorrow looking to get a win not only for ourselves but also for the people we are honoring on my car this weekend – the 75 U.S. Army personnel who lost their lives in the 9/11 Pentagon attack,” he said. “We will never forget those great Americans.”
Schumacher’s U.S. Army Racing teammate, Antron Brown, was able to retain the number-one starting position following final qualifying. His Saturday-night run of 3.818-seconds at 322.96 miles per hour was never challenged.
The New Jersey native, who secured his second pole of the year, will face off with 16th-place qualifier, Shawn Langdon, in the first round of eliminations.
“We had a couple of nice passes today, so it looks like we are prepared for tomorrow,” said Brown. “Beyond winning the race which is always the goal, we also want to solidify our second-place standing in advance of the playoffs.”
As Schumacher and Brown were wrapping up qualifying, U.S. Army NASCAR driver Ryan Newman was hoping to roll off the grid in Sunday night’s AdvoCare 500 Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. As of 8 p.m. ET, rain showers had delayed the start.
Newman, who had qualified ninth in his No. 39 U.S. Army Reserve Chevrolet, is seventh in the Sprint Cup driver standings.
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