U.S. Army NHRA Racing: 17th Annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Friday Qualifying Report

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Date: June 16, 2017
Event: 17th Annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals (Round 11 of 24)
Series: NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway

Provisional Top Qualifier: Doug Kalitta (3.781 seconds at 326.71 mph)
U.S. Army Racing Lineup:Tony Schumacher 5th (3.869 seconds at 310.98 mph)
Antron Brown 15th (4.910 seconds at 151.34 mph)

The U.S. Army driver duo of Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown sit fifth and 15th in the provisional order after a challenging opening day of qualifying Friday for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competitors at this weekend’s 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway.

Schumacher, the eight-time Top Fuel world champion and driver of the U.S. Army Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), was one of just three competitors to get down the track cleanly in today’s opening session. Despite dropping a cylinder not long after leaving the starting line, he crossed the finish line in 3.869 seconds at 310.98 mph to log the third-best run of the session. In the evening session, Schumacher smoked his tires halfway down the track and coasted across the line in 5.004 seconds at 145.34 mph. A vast majority of today’s runs resulted in tire smoke. In the evening session, two competitors topped Schumacher’s run from the opening session, dropping “The Sarge” to fifth in the provisional order.

“I’d say it’s going to be a very difficult next couple of months for every team,” said Schumacher, who’s chasing his sixth career Bristol event title this weekend to go with another final-round appearance and four No. 1 qualifier positions. “This is the time of year when it’s just incredibly hot and greasy. We went out, third-quick of the opening session with a cylinder out. We’ve got to get that cylinder to stay lit and get down the racetrack and win on Sunday. But we’ve had great luck at this racetrack. Bristol has been awfully kind to us. It’s no Atlanta. We’ve gone out and won this race year after year and we do well on Father’s Day. Mike (Green, crew chief) and Phil (Shuler, assistant crew chief) and all the guys are holding their own. We have a new system in the car and it’s working well. We just need to pull it all in. When you have an issue with the car and you make drastic changes like we did last week, it takes a few runs to get back to your norm, and that’s what they’re doing. The night run tonight, a little disheartening, but going down the track in the heat when no one could but two other cars, that’s what the race conditions are going to be like. It’s going to be brutal all weekend. It’s going to be hot and it’s going to be uncomfortable and it’s going to be about which team can rise through the heat and through the misery and get it done.”

Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR, meanwhile, smoked his tires during both his runs today, the first resulting in an effort of 4.910 seconds at 151.34 mph, the second 5.595 seconds at 122.42 mph.

“I believe it’s still going to be good enough tomorrow to definitely move up the ladder,” said Brown, who moved into the Top Fuel points lead with his fifth final-round appearance in eight events last weekend at Englishtown, New Jersey. “It’s not like anybody else ran anything stellar. The good part is we found some things on our car that have been plaguing us, and we found a problem that helped us get off the starting line and our car made really good power. That’s something that’s going to help us in the long run. Today wasn’t a good qualifying deal, but we learned something to move us forward, so that’s the plus part of it. Tomorrow, we’ll just tone her down a little bit, bet down the track, try and run a low 80, might even squeak out a high 70. You never know, we did that at E-town. I feel confident for tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll get into the top half of the field and go from there on race day.”

FS1’s rebroadcast of today’s qualifying highlights is set for 1:30 a.m. EDT. Saturday. The final two qualifying sessions Saturday are set for 1:30 and 4 p.m. with FS1’s same-day-delayed coverage set for 11 p.m. Elimination rounds are set for noon Sunday with FS1’s same-day-delayed broadcast set for 6:30 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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