KENT, Wash. (July 31, 2012) – U.S. Army NHRA Top Fuel drivers Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown will bring the curtain down on the NHRA’s annual three-race “Western Swing” this weekend at Pacific Raceways outside Seattle.
Like the Army Strong Soldiers he follows, Brown has clearly put the mission first after recording two straight wins and moving into a tie for first place in the Top Fuel standings with his Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammate Spencer Massey.
After claiming victories in Denver and Sonoma, Calif. on successive weekends, the New Jersey native has placed himself in position to sweep the “Western Swing” for the second time in four years. He will head for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals in hot pursuit of a class-leading fifth win.
Brown is one of only five Top Fuel drivers to have swept the “Western Swing.” The others are Schumacher, Larry Dixon, Joe Amato and Cory McClenathan.
While Brown has been riding a wave of success, Schumacher has been attempting to establish some level of consistency. In Denver and Sonoma, the seven-time world champion was taken out in the first round and quarterfinals, respectively, with the latter loss courtesy of Brown.
Given his two poles, four wins and three runner-up finishes the last eight years, Schumacher is hoping Pacific Raceways provides a much-needed jolt to his 2012 season.
Since moving to Top Fuel from Pro Stock Motorcycles in 2008, Brown has recorded a pole, win and runner-up at the track located in the shadow of majestic Mount Rainier.
TONY “THE SARGE” SCHUMACHER, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster:
Despite the recent early round losses, it seems you remain quite confident the desired results will eventually arrive. Is that a fair statement to make?
“I definitely feel that way. We’ve just had some bad luck in recent weeks and haven’t been able to go rounds. I firmly believe we’ll turn this thing around. Drag racing is a sport filled with peaks and valleys. I guarantee that we will return to form real soon.”
Interestingly enough, you still hold third place in the standings behind your DSR teammates Antron and Spencer. That has to provide an infusion of optimism, right?
“Yes, it most certainly does. We have clinched a spot in the Countdown to the Championship and you can’t forget that the points will be reset once it starts. We need to do well the next three races in Seattle, Brainerd (Minn.) and Indianapolis to gain some momentum for the playoffs. It’s all about the team that can get hot at the right time. We want to be that team.”
As you prepare to travel to Pacific Raceways, can you put your finger on why you have had so much success there?
“To be honest, I really can’t. It’s just one of those places where we seem to run well. Maybe there’s some sort of comfort zone I have there that I don’t feel at some other tracks. For example, I haven’t been able to close the deal at Atlanta Dragway during my career. I’m not really sure why that’s the case. You just have to approach every race and every track the same way and it’s going to be what it is.”
After this grueling three-race stretch, you have to be looking forward to some quality time at home with the family.
“I can’t wait. But, you have to remember that I get to go home for a couple of days in-between races while the crew guys are on the road for three straight weeks. It’s a tough deal being away from family and friends for that long. I’m sure they will enjoy getting back to Indianapolis next week.”
ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster:
You were hesitant to speak about a possible second career “Western Swing” sweep after your Sonoma win last Sunday. How about now?
“No, that’s still the case. We don’t ever want to get ahead of ourselves. When you start looking beyond what’s right in front of you, you’re asking for trouble. And, what’s right in front of us is qualifying for Sunday’s race. That’s the only objective at the moment. As I said last Sunday, if we’re fortunate to get to the final in Seattle, it’s only then that we can think about another sweep.”
With that said, you have to be extremely pleased with the way things are falling right now for you and your team.
“For sure, I’m really pleased with our performance. How can you not be? We’ve managed to win three out of the last four races, which is just tremendous. But, we’re not going to sit back and rest on our laurels. Our competition, which includes Tony and Spencer, will be working very hard on a daily basis to find a way to beat us. We have to keep our heads down and continue to work just as hard as them.”
What are your impressions of Pacific Raceways?
“I love it – it’s a beautiful area of the country. Also, with the trees surrounding the track and all of the oxygen they provide, we can make really good power up there. I’m sure all of the crew chiefs eagerly await this tour stop every year.”
Same question as Tony’s – are you looking forward to the week off following the Seattle race?
“I believe every team is pointing toward that break in the schedule. But, we can’t forget that there is still unfinished business to deal with this weekend. Once that’s over, then we can all take a deep breath and prepare for the pre-Countdown races in Brainerd and Indy. Of course, after Indy, the real season begins. We want to be mentally and physically set for those final six races of the year.”
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