U.S. Army NHRA Racing Top Fuel drivers Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown finished the “Western Swing” Sunday in the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways outside Seattle.
Schumacher recorded a red light foul and was eliminated in his second round race against Doug Kalitta, while Brown smoked the tires and lost to Shawn Langdon in the quarterfinals.
“We really wanted a trophy for our Army Strong Soldiers today,” Schumacher said. “With that said, I didn’t get the job done against Kalitta. I needed to give us a chance on a very hot track, but it was all over before that opportunity came around. It’s very disappointing.”
After taking out Scott Palmer in the opening round of final eliminations with the second quickest Top Fuel pass of the weekend (3.828 seconds at 318.62 mph), Schumacher had high hopes of advancing deep into the day. However, his afternoon came to an abrupt end at the starting line. It was Schumacher’s first red light foul since the 2000 race at Pacific Raceways and the fourth of his career.
“I really can’t tell you what caused me to leave early,” Schumacher said. “It wasn’t like I was distracted by something. The (Christmas) tree can be hard to read at times in terms of how fast or slow it goes to green, but it’s still on the driver to react properly. Quite obviously, I didn’t do that.”
Despite posting a third consecutive early round loss, Schumacher will leave the Pacific Northwest still holding third place in the Top Fuel standings.
“I guess that’s something to hang our hats on,” Schumacher said. “To be sure, this definitely wasn’t a good ‘Western Swing’ for the Army team. We’ll go home now and regroup for the final two races before the Countdown to the Championship begins. We want to be totally prepared for the playoffs.”
The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series will take a weekend off before moving to Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway, August 17-19, and then Lucas Oil Raceway Park in Indianapolis during Labor Day weekend.
“It’s imperative we perform well at both of those races,” Schumacher said. “We need to go to Charlotte for the start of the Countdown with some momentum.”
After winning in Denver and Sonoma, Calif. on successive weekends, Brown was looking to make his way to victory lane at Pacific Raceways and become the first driver in NHRA history to bank two “Western Swing” sweeps.
The New Jersey native began final eliminations on a positive note with a solid first round win over Clay Millican, but the sweep dream was eventually shattered in round two by Langdon.
“It appears we were just too aggressive on what was a tricky, hot track,” Brown said. “Without a doubt, we gave it our best shot today for our Army Strong Soldiers. Of course, we wanted to close the deal and get the sweep, but it’s not the end of the world that it didn’t happen.
“I’m really proud of my guys. We’re going back to Indy having won two out of the last three races and three out of the last five races. That’s pretty darn good in my book. I can’t wait to get back to work in a couple of weeks up in Brainerd.”
Brown landed at Pacific Raceways sharing the top spot in the points with his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey. He will leave five points behind Massey with the aforementioned playoffs forthcoming.
“That’s all right,” Brown said. “We’re going to take a little time off in the coming days and then start focusing in earnest on the Brainerd weekend. The mission is very clear for us – we want to be in first with those 10 extra bonus points in hand by the time we get to Charlotte.
“People have to understand that this championship fight is going to be very intense the next few months. The team that ultimately wins the title will have definitely earned it. We want to be that team.”
Going into round 16 of the 23-race NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals August 17-19 at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway, following are the top-five in the Top Fuel standings:
1. Spencer Massey (1,236 points)
2. Antron Brown (1,231 points)
3. Tony Schumacher (1,109 points)
4. Steve Torrence (1,108 points)
5. Doug Kalitta (902 points)
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