Like John C. Fremont in the 1850s, NHRA Top Fuel teammates Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown are heading out West looking for fame and fortune – but this time in the form of ‘Wallys’ and coveted Full Throttle Series championship points.
The Don Schumacher Racing stablemates are currently second and third in the championship standings as they launch a three-race swing that will that carry them to Denver, Sonoma and Seattle, making it one of the toughest three-race stretches in motorsports for the Indianapolis-based race team. The trip tests both the performance capacities of teams as well as their logistical capabilities, but fortunately, it is a test that multi-time series champ Schumacher knows well.
“We all definitely have to be Army Strong,” he said. “The main thing is to have patience and then you will have the opportunity to complete the mission. You just have to understand that you are going to face vastly different conditions at all three places. First, you will be in the thin air of the Rocky Mountains, and then you head back down to sea level in Sonoma before finishing at a very fast Seattle track. The drivers just need to keep doing what they do and try not to make life any more complicated for their crew chiefs. They will have enough on their plates trying to find the right setup for each venue.”
Both Schumacher and Brown has managed the unlikely feat of sweeping all three western events in recent seasons, allowing them to join Joe Amato, Cory McClenathan and Larry Dixon as the only Top Fuel jockeys ever to accomplish the feat. Those accomplishments take some of the uncertainty out of the daunting trip for Brown, who says that he is looking forward to the challenge that the swing poses.
It can be fairly grueling for everyone – in particular, for the crew guys – but the good teams find a way to rise to the occasion. And, I know I’m part of a great team.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Brown said. “It can be fairly grueling for everyone – in particular, for the crew guys – but the good teams find a way to rise to the occasion. And, I know I’m part of a great team. We know what it takes to win at all three tracks and we have outstanding data to apply to the car. As long as I don’t screw it up, I feel we can be successful the next three weekends.”
The swing starts with this weekend’s event at Bandimere Speedway, where both Schumacher has made six final-round appearances while Brown has earned a pair of final berths in his four years of Top Fuel competition. The duo trails DSR teammate Spencer Massey in the point standings, but both drivers are only one good Sunday away from claiming the top spot, which is a key as the Countdown to the Championship looms, as the series leader gets vital bonus points at the Countdown’s start.
“The bottom line is you want to be as high up in the standings as possible when they reset the points,” reported Schumacher. “We did get bumped out of first place in the points by Spencer, but that’s fine. We can easily jump back up there this Sunday with a good outing and should we end up in the number-one spot by the time the Countdown starts, we’ll get those extra 10 bonus points. We’re shooting for just that the next five events.”