Following the lead of our Army Strong Soldiers, U.S. Army Racing Top Fuel drivers Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown each had to overcome challenges during final qualifying for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway.
After posting a 3.778-second pass at 326.56 mph in Friday’s second session, which was good enough for fourth in the order, Schumacher arrived at the track on Saturday morning only to find his run had been tossed out by the NHRA due to a “minor technical issue discovered during a routine tech inspection.”
“That definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to start my day,” the Chicago-area resident said. “But, even though were pushed down to 11th, I knew we would come out swinging today. That’s the way my team operates. We don’t get flustered at all.”
In fact, Schumacher was third quickest in round three and then posted the quickest elapsed time in the final session. The effort pushed him into the top half of the field at 8th and set up a confrontation with ninth-place qualifier Doug Kalitta in the first round of final eliminations.
“We needed to get up there to get lane choice,” Schumacher said. “We’ll be the first pair of cars out tomorrow which is never welcomed, but we just have to go out and take care of business.”
Should Schumacher get by Kalitta, he will notch his 600th career round win and would join John Force, Larry Dixon, Warren Johnson and Kenny Bernstein as the only drivers in NHRA history to hit that mark.
“That’s not even on my radar screen,” Schumacher said. “I want four win lights tomorrow and the race victory.”
Brown had an even greater obstacle to jump over once Saturday’s activities began. Following a couple of weak runs on Friday due to engine issues, the New Jersey native was not qualified.
The driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster did not let the suspense linger very long as he went out and recorded a 3.845-second run at 319.22 mph in session three and thus bolted to the sixth starting spot.
“We were confident coming into today we could get the job done,” Brown said. “I have all the confidence in the world in my team and really wasn’t worried. We just had some little things go wrong yesterday that we knew could be fixed.”
Brown will face off with 11th-place qualifier J.R. Todd in the opening round of final eliminations beginning at 11 a.m. CDT. Once a full-time NHRA driver, Todd is making his first appearance of the 2012 season.
“He’s a terrific driver,” Brown said. “I will have to be sharp at the starting line against him as he typically is a good leaver.”
ESPN2 will provide three hours of tape-delayed coverage of the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals starting at 7 p.m. EDT.
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