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Date: June 3, 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
Top Qualifier: Leah Pritchett (3.673 seconds at 328.86 mph)
U.S. Army Racing Lineup:Tony Schumacher 3rd (3.703 seconds at 327.70 mph)
Antron Brown 4th (3.721 seconds at 328.70 mph)
Tony Schumacher and his U.S Army Racing team bounced back Saturday with a pair of strong qualifying runs in front of a sellout crowd at New England Dragway near Epping, New Hampshire to secure the third qualifying position in the Top Fuel class for the Fifth annual NHRA New England Nationals. His U.S. Army Racing and Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammate Antron Brown qualified fourth and positioned himself to challenge for a second consecutive New England Nationals victory and fight to continue DSR’s stranglehold on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ newest event.
Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army Dragster for DSR, wasn’t able to make a clean pass in either of Friday’s qualifying sessions, but the eight-time Top Fuel champion was a machine in both runs Saturday. He earned qualifying points in Saturday’s first session with a pass of 3.721 seconds at 315.49 mph to jump from 11th to third despite blowing a head gasket just as the U.S. Army machine reached 1,000 feet. The U.S. Army team replaced the powerplant between runs and a short rain shower provided crew chief Mike Green and assistant crew chief Phil Shuler a few extras minutes to make final adjustments prior to Schumacher’s last pass. It seemed to payoff as “The Sarge” posted his best run of the weekend at 3.703 seconds at 327.70 mph to claim the No. 3 position on the ladder.
“To end up third overall is a good spot to be in after how things went yesterday,” said Schumacher. “Obviously, we would have liked to have been a couple spots better, but today was a good day. We made two really runs and are ready for tomorrow. I said yesterday that this Army team would bounce back today and put up some good times and we did it. Now the focus turns to Sunday. They are only giving away one trophy in Top Fuel tomorrow and we really want it. DSR has won every (Top Fuel) race here, so we’d like to keep that going. I know Mike, Phil and all the Army guys will do everything they can to make sure we have a shot at it. They did a great job between rounds today and everyone on this U.S. Army team will be ready to battle tomorrow.”
For the ninth event this season, Schumacher has qualified inside the top half of the field and for the sixth time landed inside the top three. It’s his second-best qualifying effort in five NHRA New England Nationals, the pole in 2015 was his best. Schumacher will face Smax Smith in Sunday’s opening round. It will be the second-ever race between the two. Schumacher scored an opening round victory over Smith in the Gatornationals earlier this year en route to his 83rd career Top Fuel victory.
Saturday played out as a carbon copy of Friday for Brown, the three-time and reigning Top Fuel world champion. After failing to make a complete run in the first session of the day, Brown followed it up with an impressive lap aboard the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR. Brown equaled Schumacher’s time from Saturday’s opening session of 3.721 seconds, but his speed of 328.70 mph prematurely gave him the third position. Following the session, Brown admitted that he and his team led by co-crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald have been working through an issue early in runs.
“We wanted to go better, but we’re having trouble getting off the starting line and sticking the tire early,” said Brown. “If we could get it going, we would be on the top of the page like everyone else. We’ve been having this issue the last couple of races, but Brian and Mark are sticking with it and we’re working hard. The good news is we’re still running good laps and putting up numbers on the board that can win the race. We just want to get back to where we know we can be. You know we have to just get a little versatile with this right now and we’ve been adapting to the situation, but we just haven’t got it where we want it at just yet. When we do, look at out. We qualified number four and are in the top half of the field where we want to be at, but we want to get some number ones. That’s what we are missing right now. We’re set up for a good day tomorrow and we’ll just keep on pushing forward.”
Brown will take on Shawn Reed in the first round Sunday. He has won all eight of his first round appearances in 2017 and he’ll be looking to join Schumacher as the only back-to-back winners of the NHRA New England Nationals.
Elimination rounds are set for at 11 a.m. Sunday with FS1 providing three hours of delayed coverage beginning at 4:30 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
www.TrueSpeedCommunication.com ● Online Media Kit Available at www.TrueSpeedMedia.com