Don Schumacher Racing Is Ready For The Valley Of The Sun

Image result for tony schumacher and antron brown

With a combined four victories in the previous five trips to “The Valley of the Sun,” the optimism for success this weekend is almost palpable by those surrounding the U.S. Army Racing tandem of Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown. The decorated Top Fuel champions headline the field of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competitors chasing victory in the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix.

Schumacher, the eight-time world champion, returns to the desert as the winningest driver in the category at the facility with five career triumphs. His mission behind the wheel of the U.S. Army Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) is to follow up a successful season opener two weeks ago in the Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, with a machine-like weekend similar to their 2015 output, which resulted in top qualifying honors and the Top Fuel victory.

Over the past 16-plus seasons while carrying the U.S. Army colors, Schumacher has been surrounded by an incredible group of people. He claimed his most recent two Phoenix victories in 2013 and 2015 with crew chief Mike Green leading his nine man U.S. Army team. The crew goes into battle this weekend again with Green in command, and Schumacher is hoping to win for the first time with new assistant crew chief Phil Shuler behind him. The newest member of the team has been with DSR for more than a decade and a brings a fiery spirit to the crew that all had a feeling of accomplishment following the opener where Schumacher reached the semifinals.

The influential people surrounding “The Sarge” reaches beyond his crew and fellow DSR teammates. Inspiring individuals from each of the 29 branches of expertise in the Army attend events throughout the 24-race NHRA campaign each season. To recognize the expertise of each of those branches, the 10,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster Schumacher will pilot this year during the NHRA’s regular season will include 29 insignias. Several of those branches will be highlighted as the season goes on.

While Schumacher has set the standard with 82 wins during his illustrious career, it’s been Brown and his Matco Tools/U.S. Army team that have won three of the previous five championships in Top Fuel. Since winning the Phoenix event in 2012, the three-time and reigning Top Fuel champion has won 26 times. His team led by co-crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald has been the model of consistency and come into the weekend with a full notebook following successful testing at Wild Horse prior to opening the season in Pomona.

Last February, the U.S. Army tandem entered the event having won the previous four Phoenix races with Schumacher claiming the odd years and Brown winning in even years. Brown qualified second, but lost to eventual winner Leah Pritchett in the second round, while Schumacher qualified third and was defeated by Clay Millican. Both drivers reached the semifinals two weeks ago in the 2017 season opener, but each came up short despite very strong runs. Schumacher lost to eventual event winner Pritchett and Brown was defeated by Doug Kalitta.

Qualifying for the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals begins Friday with FS1 providing delayed coverage at 12 midnight EST that evening and continuing qualifying coverage Saturday at 12 midnight EST. Sunday’s elimination rounds will be broadcast on FS1 network beginning at 6 p.m.

TONY “THE SARGE” SCHUMACHER, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
 

Everyone looks forward to a new season and the opportunity of beginning a quest for a championship.With one event under your belt, can you gauge the level of excitement you have for the 2017 campaign?

 

“I’m extremely excited. Sunday afternoon in Pomona I was ready to start racing at Phoenix the next day. That’s just the kind of weekend we had and the kind of start that gets everyone pumped up for the year. Our stated goal from day one is to be in a position when we come back to Pomona either already being crowned the 2017 champions or in a position to win it there. It’s a long season, but we got off to a great start. The focus now turns to Phoenix where we’ve had our share of success. That doesn’t mean anything this weekend if we don’t bring an A+ effort. There is only one winner and with the level of competition in the NHRA right now you can’t bring anything but your best. That’s where having a team like these U.S. Army guys is so key.”

 

Your success rate at many of the facilities sets the standard. Wild Horse is one of the tracks where you have the most wins. Why have you been successful in Phoenix?  

 

“There is a simple answer. It’s about having a great team around you. It takes everyone one of us to have a chance on Sundays. From all the people at DSR working on building pieces that my guys use to put these racecars together to all the personnel of the U.S. Army backing us for all of these years, it takes everyone and everything working together. Being surrounded by a group of people capable of the moment is what I live for. Over preparing and going with the flow. That’s what we do. Racing in Phoenix has always been fun for me. The last several years its an early-season race and everyone wants to get that first win. We spent a few days testing there before we went to Pomona and that’s something I think helps us. Again, it’s that preparation. We have two days of qualifying sessions to get us ready for eliminations on Sunday. I know Mike (Green) has a plan and we’re going to do everything we can to execute it this weekend.”

 

ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
 

Over the past two seasons your Matco Tools/U.S. Army team has been extremely consistent. How do you continue that from season to season in a class that just seems to be getting tougher and tougher each year?
“You’ve got to put in the work. You keep your head down and know what you are doing. When our season ended in November, we were already well into planning our approach for the next season. Celebrating a championship is nice, but you have to keep your focus on the big picture or you won’t be the champ long. Just look at Pomona, where we saw a lot of 3.6-second runs. That level is here to stay. We’ll just have to keep pushing hard. If you want to win, you have to run in the .60s. I know the guys I have in my corner are driven to stay on top.”

 

Things have gone well for you and your team at Wild Horse the past five years. What’s the game plan coming into the weekend?

 

“Our plan is to outwork everyone. We put in the work three weeks ago with our preseason testing in Phoenix before we went to Pomona. Conditions always change, but we have accumulated a lot of data. We know that we could have a totally different racetrack from what we saw in testing out there these next couple of days, but that’s part of the challenge. I know Brian (Corradi), Mark (Oswald) and the entire Matco Tools/U.S. Army team will be ready. I’m looking forward to it. I felt like we had the car to win in Pomona. We made it to the semifinals, so we are looking forward to getting the job done this weekend.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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