U.S. Army teams can’t find Englishtown magic

Tony Schumacher surges to sixth semifinal of 2013; Anton Brown can’t advance in Toyota Summernationals.

Expectations were high entering the 44th annual Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., for the U.S. Army Top Fuel tandem of Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown.

Tony Schumacher
Tony Schumacher

Photo by: NHRA

Both drivers and their Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teams were hoping a level of engineering and teamwork reflective of the Army’s leading-edge technology and a work ethic reminiscent of the powerful, realistic training of the Army Strong Soldiers would enable them to come away with a victory this weekend in the extremely competitive NHRA Mello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel class. Despite a tremendous effort by both teams, neither Schumacher, who was seeking his second Englishtown triumph, nor Brown, who returned to his home track for the first time as Top Fuel World Champion, could find the formula to win four rounds Sunday.

Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), made his sixth semifinal appearance in 2013, but saw his chances at career win number 72 go up in smoke just past the starting line in his run against Khalid alBalooshi.

“This was a tough weekend for a lot of reasons,” said Schumacher. “We wanted to come out to Englishtown and perform at the highest level for all of the Army Strong Soldiers out here. This is an area of the country where there are so many current and former members of the military.

It would have meant a lot for us to be celebrating a victory with all of them, but it didn’t work out that way. I mentioned Saturday that we were running well enough to go rounds, but maybe not good enough to win events. That kind of played out today. We won a couple rounds and certainly had a car good enough to make it to the finals, but we didn’t make it that far.”

Schumacher, the seven-time Top Fuel champion, made four clean runs during qualifying despite extremely hot conditions and continued the consistency Sunday with solid passes against Sidnei Frigo and Bob Vandergriff in the first and second round.

Unfortunately in the semifinal, his run was over almost as quickly as it started when the rear tires of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster lost traction just past the starting line. He would coast to a pass of 8.603 seconds at 78.09 mph.

“We made a change to go faster in the semifinal,” said Schumacher. “There are certain parts you put on the car and the car just doesn’t do what you want it to do. We had that situation in our run against alBalooshi. We had made it down the track six times in a row before that.

With the heat and being on such a tricky track, it was awful hard to make it seven. We’re just disappointed it happened when it did. At the end of the day, only two guys were able to get more points this weekend than we did. If we can continue going rounds and grabbing points, things will work out fine.”

Brown had a difficult time getting the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR down the track cleanly in his first three qualifying runs, but a solid pass to close qualifying Saturday afternoon provided some confidence heading into Sunday. Despite posting an impressive run of 3.871 seconds at 315.49 mph, the reigning Top Fuel champion couldn’t overtake Bob Vandergriff,.

“We had our best pass of the weekend and lost,” said Brown, an Englishtown Top Fuel finalist in 2009 and 2010. “That’s drag racing. Bob Vandergriff put down a good number. We were just on the other end of a good drag race. The thing about this weekend is that we were just one run behind.

We kept getting better and better. Sometimes you can be a run behind and sneak up and get good in eliminations, but you have to get past that first round. We’ll go back and regroup. Our car is now responding to what we want it to do. We didn’t run as well as we thought we would, but the track just stole a little bit from us.

I feel like we’ve got our confidence back where our car is repeating itself now. We’ll head to Bristol and get back to what we’re used to doing, which is being confident in ourselves and running hard each and every lap. You’ve got to be that way out here if you want to compete.”

Shawn Langdon defeated alBalooshi in the first-ever all Al-Anabi Racing final to earn his third Top Fuel event victory of the season. The win also pushed him into the lead of the championship standings. Langdon is four points ahead of Schumacher (746-742) and is 120 in front of Brown (626), who holds third.

U.S. Army Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Tony Schumacher , Bob Vandergriff , Don Schumacher , Shawn Langdon
Article type Race report
Tags brown, nhra, schumacher, summernationals