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Brown Races to Final in New England Nationals
While Schumacher Smokes Tires in Early Exit
Date: June 4, 2017
Event: Fifth annual NHRA New England Nationals (Round 9 of 24)
Series: NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
Location: New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire
Winner: Brittany Force of John Force Racing
U.S. Army Racing Finish: Antron Brown qualified fourth, lost to Force in the final round. Tony Schumacher qualified third, lost to Smax Smith in the first round.
They call it racing for a reason. You just never know how things will play out. And Sunday in the Fifth annual NHRA New England Nationals, the U.S. Army Racing duo of Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown experienced the gamut of emotions in their quest to deliver Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) a fifth consecutive NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel triumph at New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire.
Schumacher and his U.S. Army Dragster for DSR entered the weekend looking to score a third New England triumph and a pair of solid qualifying runs Saturday provided a sense of optimism. The eight-time Top Fuel world champion landed third on the ladder and would face Smax Smith for the second time in his career in Sunday’s opening round of eliminations. Unfortunately, the day, and a run at career win number 84, was over early for Schumacher, the 2014 and 2015 New England Nationals champion, when his machine lost traction almost immediately in his first round matchup. Brown, the defending New England Nationals champion, overcame a less than perfect first round run versus Shawn Reed before storming his way to his fourth final of the season where he came up agonizingly short in his bid to repeat against Brittany Force.
Things got off to an ominous start for the Top Fuel class when the second pair of cars faced off. Terry McMillen exploded his powerplant early in the run requiring NHRA’s Safety Safari to spend extensive time reworking the left lane. Following a delay of more than 45 minutes, action resumed with Brown advancing and DSR’s Leah Pritchett, the No. 1 qualifier, making a solo pass in the right lane. Force was the first to make a clean run in the left lane prompting U.S. Army Racing crew chief Mike Green and assistant crew chief Phil Shuler to put Schumacher in the left lane. “The Sarge” was quick on the light, but he found himself pedaling the U.S. Army Racing Top Fuel Dragster for DSR before the 60-foot mark. He was able to regain traction, but Smith made a clean pass and won the race to 1,000 feet with his a lap of 4.200 seconds and career-best speed of 285.17 mph. The Sarge reached the finish line in 4.740 seconds at 270.86 mph following his third consecutive elimination run where he battled traction issues.
The victory for Smith was the first round win of his NHRA career and he joins a long list of NHRA competitors that have earned their first win light, either in a round win or an event title, over Schumacher.
“Smax was so excited,” said Schumacher. “You hate losing, but there is some silver lining seeing how they were reacting after the race. It put a smile on my face watching him do the interview at the top end. That’s the first round win he ever had and it seems like everyone’s first is against me. That’s racing and things happen so quickly. The car kind of gave me a quick quiver. It just stuck in and then went up in smoke. I thought, ‘I got this’ and I hit it again. It pulled me over to the left and I stopped and let it calm down and then I squeezed it again. He went around me after I stopped and I saw him way out there. When I got back into it, I just couldn’t catch him. The car just smoked to early. When it does that early, that is about as quick as you are going to get down the track. I shut it off early once I saw him at the finish line because there is no reason to compound the loss by oiling down the track. When you smoke the tires, you just have to do your best and get down the track, but when he crosses the finish line, it’s game over. We tried something so we could get down the track and make a good first run and it didn’t work so we’re going home. We’ve got an incredible U.S. Army team and we’ll head to Englishtown ready for the next battle.”
Brown drove the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragsters for DSR to victory at Heartland Park Topeka two weeks ago and the three-time and reigning Top Fuel world champion won his 13th consecutive opening round despite making a run of 4.579 seconds at 170.47 mph. He was on his game in round two posting a pass of 3.733 seconds at 330.07 mph, the best run of the round, to take out Scott Palmer. In the semifinals, Brown defeated Pritchett with the best pass of the day, 3.707 seconds at 331.28 mph, to set up the sixth career final meeting for Brown and Force. In the final, Brown left first, but Force grabbed the lead just past the starting line and stayed out front with a run of 3.716 seconds at 328.62 mph, compared to Brown’s lap of 3.728 seconds at 327.98 mph, to score the win by 0.0071 seconds.
“It was a great drag race with Brittney and we just got beat,” said Brown. “It’s always a good weekend when you get to the finals. We’re growing, especially with the new front half of our chassis that the boys back at our (fabrication shop) put together for us. Our Matco Tools/U.S. Army guys did an incredible job. When you get to the finals you just want to win. The team adapted to so many things over the weekend and we just kept improving and got better and better. We gained a lot of points and moved up to No. 2. I can’t wait until we go home to Englishtown next week.”
After nine of 24 events on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour for 2017, the top-10 drivers in the Top Fuel class are:
1. Leah Pritchett (809 points)
2. Antron Brown (775 points, -34)
3. Steve Torrence (746 points, -63)
4. Tony Schumacher (712 points, -97)
5. Doug Kalitta (571 points, -238)
6. Brittany Force (528 points, -281)
7. Clay Millican (466 points, -343)
8. Troy Coughlin, Jr. (379 points, -430)
9. Terry McMillen (369 points, - 440)
10. Scott Palmer (328 points, -481)
Round 10 for the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competitors is the 48th annual NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway in Englishtown, New Jersey next weekend. FS1’s will broadcast live coverage of early elimination rounds Sunday, June 11, between 11 a.m. EDT and 1:30 p.m., and provide same-day-delayed coverage of the final rounds from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Contact Bill Klingbeil or Laz Denes with True Speed Communication
Klingbeil: (704) 875-3388, ext. 804 or Bill.Klingbeil@TrueSpeedCommunication.com
Denes: (704) 875-3388, ext. 806 or Laz.Denes@TrueSpeedCommunication.com
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