The opening-round battles have been set for Sunday’s eliminations in the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas. U.S. Army NHRA Racing Top Fuel drivers Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown qualified for the field second and eighth, respectively, and will rely on their respective U.S. Army Racing team members to play a vital role in their mission to win the second of six events in the NHRA’s Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.
A victory Sunday for either of the Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammates would go a long way in their quest to become 2012 Top Fuel champions. Each earned his first professional event victory on the Texas quarter mile in 1999. Brown won the Pro Stock Bike final in April 1999 while Schumacher earned the first of his 69 Top Fuel victories in the fall of 1999.
Sunday, Schumacher will be looking for his sixth victory in suburban Dallas after qualifying the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster second in the field with Friday night’s run of 3.829 seconds at 320.13 mph. In both his 1999 run to victory and his most recent Texas triumph in 2010, “The Sarge” was the second overall qualifier.
“I’m so lucky to have this Army team behind me because it’s going to be a battle every time we race, and only the strongest wear the colors of the U.S. Army Strong Soldiers we represent,” Schumacher said following Saturday afternoon’s pass of 3.887 seconds at 315.27 mph. “I’ve said it all week – we are a high-pressure team and Sunday is when the pressure is going to be the highest. This group will not back down, and we showed that by going out in the heat of day and putting up a solid number. Tomorrow, we’ll go out there and try to win round after round. Hopefully, we can get to the final and have a chance at winning another race here.”
Brown will look to become the first Top Fuel driver in 2012 to win five national events. The U.S. Army driver will begin from the eighth slot in the ladder after Friday night’s pass of 3.862 seconds at 309.70 mph. Brown’s competitive run of 3.948 seconds at 306.88 mph during Saturday afternoon’s final session, when track temperatures exceeded 120 degrees, provided momentum heading into Sunday.
“The good part is the last run we made it down the track,” said Brown. “We’re looking good for tomorrow because it’s going to be really hot and we know, in those conditions, you have to go out there and try to run a 3.88 to 3.90 to get the job done. All in all, we are right in the mix. Tomorrow is race day and we’re just going to take it one round at a time and stay focused on the task at hand, just like all those Soldiers that we represent, and like they do each and every day of their working lives, we are focused on the mission at-hand. We’ve got to go out there and get after it.”
With the competition in Top Fuel at an all-time high, both U.S. Army teams will have to utilize a level of engineering and teamwork that reflects the Army’s leading-edge technology every time they hit the starting line. Schumacher will face NHRA veteran Chris Karamesines for the first time in 2012 and for the first time at Texas Motorplex. Karamesines, an 80-year-old Chicago native nicknamed “The Greek,” qualified for the event with a run of 3.994 seconds at 299.33 mph.
Brown will look to continue his 2012 dominance of David Grubnic in the classic eight vs. nine matchup. Brown has defeated Grubnic all four times the two have faced each other this season.
Shawn Landon of Al-Anabi Racing earned his third consecutive pole with Saturday morning’s pass of 3.827 seconds at 322.34 mph.
The Top Fuel final is set to begin at 11 a.m. CDT Sunday. ESPN2 will provide three hours of tape-delayed coverage of the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals beginning at 8:30 p.m. EDT.
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