U.S. Army NHRA Racing drivers Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown took to Route 66 Raceway on Sunday for the 15th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
Brown’s visit to the track just outside of Chicago was a successful one as he leveled Steve Torrence in the final after the latter fouled out at the starting line. Despite the outcome being decided early on, the New Jersey native still stopped the clock in impressive fashion with a 3.784-second run at 322.88 mph.
“It feels so good to be back in victory lane,” Brown said after collecting his second trophy of the season. “Of course, we always dedicate any win to our Army Strong Soldiers. When they’re presented a mission, they don’t give up until it’s completed. For sure, that was us today. Our mission was to get four win lights and that’s exactly what we did.”
In pocketing his first career Top Fuel win at Route 66 Raceway, Brown also nailed his 33rd career victory in his 250th professional start (counting his days in Pro Stock Motorcycles).
“I guess that’s definitely something to hang my hat on,” Brown said. “I’m just so blessed to be in the position I’m in. Please understand that I never take anything for granted in life. I just try to work hard every day and be the best person I can be.”
On the way to his meeting with Torrence, Brown had to get by two-time event winner Morgan Lucas, David Grubnic and Shawn Langdon, respectively. The race against Langdon proved to be his toughest test as he posted a 3.794-second pass at 321.04 mph to Langdon’s 3.803-second trip at 319.37 mph.
“Man, that was like a final right there,” Brown said. “Shawn and his team are just unbelievable. In fact, all the drivers we beat today are from great teams. This Top Fuel class has gotten to be so tough. When you win one of these races, you have clearly earned it.”
After sliding a bit in the standings in recent weeks, Brown has moved back into second-place and now sits just three points behind Schumacher as the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series hits the halfway point in the 2012 season.
“Obviously, we have a long, long way to go yet,” Brown said. “This is going to be a dogfight the rest of the way. Of course, we want to be right in the middle of it until the very end.”
While Brown was pocketing some valuable round wins, Schumacher was not as fortunate in his first-round meeting with fellow Chicagoan T.J. Zizzo.
After qualifying number one for the second time this season, Schumacher had the engine on his U.S. Army dragster explode into a ball of fire shortly after leaving the starting line which allowed Zizzo to streak on by for the upset win. Zizzo was the 16th-place qualifier.
“Man, that was pretty scary,” Schumacher said shortly after climbing from his seriously wounded racecar. “I can’t say that I felt something with the car before the engine let go. To be honest, we seemed to be on a good run. But, then it all went bad in a real hurry.”
Coming off his first victory of the year in Bristol, Tenn. two weeks ago, Schumacher was seeking another positive outing at his home track. In fact, a large group of family and friends had surrounded him all weekend long to provide support. However, his dragster had other ideas.
“Things like this happen – that’s just racing,” Schumacher offered. “I’m sure my guys will dissect what took place and then make sure we’re good to go for the race in Norwalk (Ohio) next weekend.”
The seven-time world champion entered the 11th race of the year holding the points lead. With the Buckeye State trip looming, Schumacher is not overly concerned with his standing at the moment.
“Not really,” Schumacher said. “We just need to turn the page from this weekend and not get caught up with where we’re at in the points. That has a way of taking care of itself.”
Going into round 12 of the 23-race NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals July 6 to July 8 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, following are the top-five in the Top Fuel standings:
1. Tony Schumacher (879 points)
2. Antron Brown (876 points)
3. Spencer Massey (868 points)
4. Steve Torrence (775 points)
5. Morgan Lucas (698 points)
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