Date: Feb. 26, 2017
Event: 33rd Annual NHRA Arizona Nationals (Round 2 of 24)
Series: NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
Location: Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona
Winner: Leah Pritchett of Don Schumacher Racing
U.S. Army Racing Finish: Antron Brown qualified 2nd, lost to Brittany Force in the second round.
Tony Schumacher qualified 3rd, lost to Force in the semifinal round.
Optimism was high for the U.S. Army driver duo of Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown entering Sunday’s elimination rounds of the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix. Despite both drivers posting career-best qualifying runs Friday andSaturday, respectively, the decorated champions couldn’t overcome misfortune and were knocked out prematurely in the second NHRA Mello Yello Series event of the 2017 campaign. Schumacher reached his second consecutive semifinal round before losing to Brittany Force, who also upended Brown in round two.
After taking out both U.S. Army cars, Force was looking to sweep the Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Top Fuel trio en route to victory, but lost on a holeshot to DSR’s Leah Pritchett, who made it two consecutive wins in Phoenix and back-to-back victories to start the 24-race NHRA campaign.
Schumacher entered Sunday’s eliminations with an aura of confidence following stout performances behind the wheel of the U.S. Army Dragster for DSR in qualifying both Friday and Saturday. The eight-time champion wasted little time flexing his muscle racing away to victory over Terry Haddock in the first round with his pass of 3.684 seconds at 329.91 mph. He’s was just as machine-like in the second round discarding Scott Palmer with a lap of 3.701 seconds at 326.95 mph. In the semifinals, Schumacher had lane choice over Force and for the third time Sunday chose the right lane. The five-time Phoenix winner beat Force off the line with a .066-second reaction time, but his machine began slowing at mid-track and he couldn’t keep up with Force, who posted a run of 3.701 seconds at 329.26 mph bettering Schumacher’s pass of 4.722 seconds at 154.21 mph.
“That was a tough way to go down today,” said Schumacher. “We had a killer light, but lost a cylinder and also had an ignition problem. You can’t tune around problems. Malfunctions like that are malfunctions that are going to come and go. And sometimes you can’t catch a break that way. We know it’s a cyclical season where you go up and down. We’ll take this in stride and look forward to coming back ready to go in Gainesville where we’ve been incredibly successful in the past. I know we are going there with an outstanding U.S. Army car. We’ve got tremendous leadership on this team in (crew chief) Mike Green and (assistant crew chief) Phil Shuler and they are doing a tremendous job leading this nine-man U.S. Army team. And it’s not just the Army team. It’s the entire DSR organization. Look at the results of DSR through two races. Sweeping Top Fuel and Funny Car in both events just shows how good of an organization we have. That’s a real positive for all of us.”
Brown, who qualified second behind the wheel of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR, was on a mission from the start with a run of 3.711 seconds at 324.28 mph in the first round ousting Steve Chrisman for the second consecutive race. Trouble struck Brown early in his second-round matchup with Force. The three-time and reigning champion lost traction and hazed his rear tires in the left lane midway through his run. Force pulled away to win with a lap of 3.707 seconds at 327.90 mph compared to Brown’s run of 5.732 seconds at 103.26 mph.
“That’s how racing goes,” said Brown. “It was just one of those weekends. We did exceptionally well in qualifying and felt really confident coming into the day. It just wasn’t our day out there. I think there was a little something on the track during our run. Our tires just got a little bit over aggressive. We were never that aggressive all weekend for it to do what it did where it did it. I really think some of the cars before us left something on the track there. I know (co-crew chiefs) Brian (Corradi) and Mark (Oswald) along with all the Matco Tools/U.S. Army guys will have us ready for Gainesville in a couple of weeks. The season is still a grind and the good thing coming out of here is that we are doing better than we did at the beginning of last year. We’re just going to keep pushing and hopefully we’ll get it turned around for Gainesville and be right where we want to be.”
After two rounds of the 24-event NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series for 2017, the top-10 drivers the
Top Fuel standings are:
1. Leah Pritchett (265 points)
2. Tony Schumacher (173 points, -92)
3. Brittany Force (171 points, -94)
4. Antron Brown (163 points, -102)
5. Doug Kalitta (160 points, -105)
6. Steve Torrence (130 points, -135)
7. Shawn Reed (119 points, -146)
8. Troy Coughlin, Jr. (109 points, -156)
9. Scott Palmer (104 points, -161)
10. Clay Millican (100 points, -165)
Terry McMillen (100 points, -165)
Next up is the 48th annual Amaile Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, March 16-19. FS1 will carry Sunday’s elimination rounds live in a three-hour show beginning at 1 p.m. EST.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!