The playoffs are some of the most intense times a team in any sport will ever experience, and true champions rely on their mental, emotional and physical strength to succeed, just like our U.S. Army Soldiers.
The NHRA Full Throttle Racing Series kicked off its version of the playoffs – the six-race Countdown to the Championship – with this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., and U.S. Army Top Fuel drivers Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown began their ultimate mission of becoming the 2012 Top Fuel champion.
Schumacher followed last weekend’s historic U.S. Nationals victory with a run to the final round in the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster.
His bid to win his 70th career Top Fuel national in his 900th career round of Top Fuel racing came up just short Sunday when Shawn Langdon of Al-Anabi Racing captured his first career Top Fuel win with a run of 3.785 seconds at 326.71 mph against Schumacher’s pass of 3.808 seconds at 322.27 mph.
But, most importantly, Schumacher’s final-round appearance vaulted him into the Top Fuel point standings with five events to go.
“We want to be at our best when it counts most, and that’s where pays off to be involved with the Army, which is our Nation’s preeminent leadership experience,” Schumacher said after his seventh final-round appearance in 17 events this season.
“Man, I thought we had that one. I’m proud to be in the other lane with Shawn. He’s a great guy. This win is a long-time coming for them. They are going to be great adversaries for a long, long time.
That was a heck of race. The fans got what they waited for through the rain delays we had to sit through tonight.”
The seven-time champion has been leaning on every member of the U.S. Army Racing team since his most recent championship in 2009. Despite coming up short in its annual title quest in 2010 and 2011, and enduring a 32-race winless streak in the process, the unit has maintained its “refuse to lose” attitude in its quest to become champions once again.
Schumacher knows each and every member of his nine-man team is vital to the success of the mission, just like each and every Soldier is vital to the success of our Army. Schumacher’s U.S. Army NHRA team has made a strong statement during the last two weeks of action.
Slicing through the field at Indianapolis en route to victory, and in Charlotte this weekend after beating David Grubnic, Morgan Lucas and then Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammate Spencer Massey, the message is clear that the U.S. Army team is, indeed, back.
“Awesome job today by this entire group – Army is still on top,” Schumacher said. “We’re heading to Dallas with the points lead, and that was one of our goals coming to Charlotte. We wanted to win Charlotte, but we came up a bit short.
We’ve got a great Army car for the Countdown. This thing is bad to the bone, and I can’t wait go into battle again with this team next week in Dallas.”
Meanwhile, Brown failed to advance past the first round today for only the second time in 2012. A broken inner shaft ended what looked like a promising run for the Aarons/Matco Tools/ U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster.
Kahlid alBalooshi didn’t make a perfect run, either, but his pass of 4.425 seconds at 182.43 mph was just fast enough to take out Brown, who posted a run of 4.716 seconds at 159.31 mph.
“We were going down the racetrack fine, feeling Army Strong,” said Brown, who qualified outside the top-half of the Top Fuel field for only the second time in 18 events this year. “Then, suddenly, we just broke an input shaft and we don’t know why. That’s how drag racing goes. You can go from a hero to zero pretty quickly in NHRA racing.
It just wasn’t our weekend no matter how you look at it. We fought hard in everything we tried to do, just like the 1 million Army Strong Soldiers we represent worldwide do every single day, but the outcome was just the opposite of what we wanted.”
Brown entered this weekend’s first event of the Countdown to the Championship leading the point standings but now sits fourth heading into next weekend’s event in Dallas.
“We’re going to regroup and get ready for Dallas next week,” said Brown, who trails Schumacher in the standings by 28 points. “We are going there with a full head of steam and we’re going to keep on pressing. There are still five races in front of us and we have plenty of racing left. It just hurts to go out so quickly because it’s the first race of the Countdown.”
With five races remaining in the Countdown to the Championship, which culminates at the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA finals Nov. 8-11 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., the top-10 drivers competing for the title rank as follows:
1. Tony Schumacher (2,170 points) 2. Spencer Massey (2,160 points, -10) 3. Shawn Langdon (2,151 points, -19) 4. Antron Brown (2,142 points, -28) 5. Doug Kalitta (2,105 points, -65) 6. Morgan Lucas (2,099 points, -71) 7. Brandon Bernstein (2,095 points, -75) 8. Steve Torrence (2,093 points, -77) 9. Bob Vandergriff (2,053 points, -117) 10. David Grubnic (2,043 points, -127)
The next event on the NHRA schedule – the second race of the six-race Countdown – is next weekend’s (Sept. 21-23) AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex in Dallas. Four qualifying sessions – two Friday and two Saturday – will set the field for Sunday’s eliminations, which begin at noon EDT.
Source: Don Schumacher Racing (DSR)