Tony Schumacher Is Ready For Indy!

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“It’s Indy.”

Those words say it all for eight-time NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world champion and U.S. Army Racing driver Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher. The sport’s signature event has been a virtual highlight reel for Schumacher, who returned to Indianapolis this week for the 63rd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals as the only 10-time winner of the prestigious event nicknamed “The Big Go.”

Schumacher leads a stout field of drag racing’s best back to Lucas Oil Raceway, located just west of Indianapolis, as not only the defending U.S. Nationals Top Fuel event champion, but also the reigning Traxxas Nitro Top Fuel Shootout winner. Indy is like no other event on the 24-race NHRA calendar. It starts with five qualifying sessions that begin Friday night and conclude Sunday evening. It includes a $100,000 bonus race held in conjunction with qualifying sessions two and three Saturday. And it culminates Monday with the most coveted Wally on the line that can turn any season into a memorable one.

“The Sarge” and his nine-man U.S. Army team led by crew chief Mike Green would like nothing more than to repeat last year’s Indy double aboard the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) and carry significant momentum into the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship six-race playoff.

Thoughts of the Countdown will be distant for most of the weekend for Schumacher and his U.S. Army Racing teammate Antron Brown. It’s winning Indy that takes precedent. The U.S. Nationals brings out the best in every driver and every team. To win, the entire team must be at its absolute best at the most critical moments in order to conquer each opponent and complete the mission by using the key components of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) adapting to each situation and overcoming adversity. It’s why fans from around the world converge on Middle America to witness drag racing at its peak.

Since his U.S. Nationals debut in 1996, Schumacher has not only learned of the Indy mystique, but he has added to its lore. From a miracle run to the final as a rookie to carrying the U.S. Army colors, to his first U.S. Nationals win in 2000, to last year’s historic 10th U.S. Nationals triumph, the son of Don Schumacher, the 1970 U.S. Nationals winner in the Funny Car class, has experienced some of the greatest moments of his illustrious career during the U.S. Nationals. And, this weekend, the all-time winningest driver in Top Fuel history is seeking to add another Indy chapter to his legacy.
For Antron Brown, the U.S. Nationals provides the three-time and reigning NHRA Top Fuel world champion an opportunity to cement his place in the class. The driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster for DSR grew up idolizing “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and, as a New Jersey youngster, dreamed of being part of the NHRA. He’s made that dream a reality and currently is on top of the championship standings coming into the event. He has four wins and has reached 10 of the 17 finals so far this season. But it’s a second U.S. Nationals triumph in Top Fuel that drives Brown and his team led by co-crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald. Brown scored a pair of U.S. Nationals wins early his career racing in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.

 

RECORD SETTER
Not many fans in attendance at the 1996 U.S. Nationals would have guessed Tony Schumacher would someday become a U.S. Nationals icon. The Chicago native was making his debut in Top Fuel driving for the Peak brothers out of Colorado. He made his way to the final before coming up short against Cory McClenathan. That was his first of 12 career final-round appearances in Indy and one of only two times he didn’t turn on the win light. His two most recent U.S. Nationals wins have been historic. In 2012, Schumacher defeated Spencer Massey to break his tie with NHRA legend Don Garlits and became the only nine-time Top Fuel winner and, with his 10th U.S. Nationals victory last year, Schumacher surpassed Bob Glidden as the all-time U.S. Nationals winner.

 

U.S. ARMY COLORS

 

The 17-year relationship between Schumacher, DSR and the U.S. Army has been one of the most successful partnerships in motorsports. Since competing with the first U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster at the 2000 U.S. Nationals, the results have been extraordinary. This week, Schumacher will debut a new U.S. Army scheme that he will run in Indy and throughout the 2017 Countdown to the Championship. The primarily black machine follows the “Unbreakable Bonds” scheme that he competed with during the first 17 races this season, which celebrates the bonds that keep the U.S. Army connected at every level. Within this new scheme, each branch is now clad in a brass insignia pin, all linked by a golden fabric weave that runs across the top of the Dragster. Schumacher is hoping to continue making history four seconds at a time carrying the U.S. Army and all of its branches at more than 300 mph.

 

TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT
By winning his record fifth Gatornationals in March, Schumacher qualified for Saturday’s eight-car field eligible for the $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout. He has competed in all five previous Shootouts and the results have been either feast for famine for “The Sarge.” In 2012, he lost an opening-round matchup with Morgan Lucas. In 2013, he was knocked out in the first round by Steve Torrence and, in 2015, he lost to Clay Millican in round one. In 2014 and 2016, he captured the hardware and the cash by winning three consecutive races.

Brown, winner of the 2015 Shootout, will be looking to join Schumacher as the only driver to win the event more than once.
COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Brown enters the weekend with a 31-point advantage over Torrence and is 60 points in front of DSR teammate Leah Pritchett. Schumacher ranks fourth, trailing Brown by 392 markers. The U.S. Nationals is the final regular-season event and will offer special world championship points. Drivers in the Mello Yello Series categories will earn points based on a point-and-a-half system (150 points to win). A single racer in each category can earn a maximum of 188 points at this event. Following the results of the weekend, the championship standings will be reset heading into the six-event Countdown to the Championship, which begins in Charlotte, North Carolina in two weeks.

 

TELEVISION COVERAGE

 

The FOX network and FS1 will televise weekend’s Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals action, starting with qualifying Sunday on FS1 at noon and 5 p.m. EDT. The broadcasts continue on FS1 with two hours of live coverage of eliminations Monday starting at 11 a.m. and concluding on FOX at 1 p.m.

 

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

Last year at Indy was an historic weekend for you and the U.S. Army team. What do you remember about doubling up, getting career Nationals win No. 10, and how do you try to top that this year?

 

“It was certainly an incredible weekend for the U.S. Army team and, honestly, I’m not sure we can top it. We have the opportunity to match it, but going out last year and being a machine Saturday and winning the Traxxas Shootout and then coming back Monday and winning our 10th U.S. Nationals. It was a complete team effort and the result of a tremendous amount of work. We had been hearing about winning the 10th one since 2012, when we were able to win our ninth. Winning that many U.S. Nationals just shows we have success because of the people around us. After winning the first eight with (crew chiefs) Dan Olson (2000) and Alan Johnson (2002-2004, 2006-2009), we’ve won the last two with Mike Green, who has been a terrific leader of this team and he’s surrounded himself with a very talented group. The weekend in Indy last year was great and you remember the little things the most. The look in the eyes of the guys who won Indy for the first time. Everyone works so hard to have that feeling and to be able to experience it with them is something that’s very hard to describe. It’s just one of the many things that makes Indy so special. We’re excited to get out there and see if we can do it again.”

 

You’ve always raced so well in big events. What is it about moments like Indy that you enjoy and brings out the best in you?

 

“This U.S. Army team lives for the big moments. The times when your back is against the wall and you absolutely have to perform. That’s what it’s all about. The U.S. Nationals brings out the best in all of us because it’s the event everyone points to. I want to be the guy standing at the plate in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and I have to get a hit. I have to deliver if we are going to win. I have been extremely fortunate during my career not only to be in big moments, especially at Indy, but to be surrounded by a team capable of that moment. We always have positive feelings when we come here, and we’ve had so much luck here. And there’s no better feeling, than being the last one standing on Monday afternoon knowing you just won Indy. That’s what motivates us. That’s what drives us to be as good as we can be.”

 

The focus is obviously on this weekend, but there still is a championship out there to be won. Indy is your last chance to make a final move heading into the Countdown. What gives you confidence that this team will be at its best in Indy and the playoffs?

 

“The U.S. Army team is a pressure driven team. We’ve been through so many battles together. We know what it takes to win and, right now, winning Indy is the most important thing. If you can win Indy, chances are you have a car and team capable of doing some damage in the Countdown. It’s been proven that you have to win in the Countdown to be the champion. It’s that simple. We brought out a new car in Brainerd and knew we wouldn’t miss a beat because of the quality work of our DSR fab shop. We’re ready to come out with our best showing Friday night and be prepared to make a run at the Traxxas Shootout Saturday. If things go well Friday and Saturday, we should position ourselves to be in the mix Monday for the biggest trophy of the season.”

 

ANTRON BROWN, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
With a season that includes 24 weekends of racing all across the country, what makes the U.S. Nationals special to you? 

 

“This is one of the most exciting weekends of our season. Living here (in Brownsburg, Ind.), it’s something people talk about all year. If you can win this race, you get to have that special feeling for a whole year. It’s a big deal and having my family being able to be there just adds to it. We attack it a little different. First, we start with doing well Saturday in the (Traxxas) Shootout and hopefully at the same time get a good qualifying spot for MondaySunday is typically a chance to work on things forMonday and really zero in on what we want to do Monday. When we get to Monday, we want to win our fourth Indy Wally. We know how tough the competition is and that starts right here at DSR with Tony (Schumacher) and his Army team that has been so good at Indy over the years. And Leah (Pritchett) and that Papa John’s team just took us out in the final at Brainerd. That’s just the start of it. This entire Top Fuel class is stacked top to bottom. It’s going to be a great battle in Indy, for sure.”

 

The U.S. Nationals ends the 18-event regular season. What are you trying to accomplish before the playoffs start in Charlotte?

 

“Our goal all season was to get into the Countdown as the No. 1 seed. That’s been our game plan. Those extra points for being first in the regular season can be crucial. We see the U.S. Nationals as the first race in the Countdown. Resetting the points will make the points tighter but it already is pretty tight. It will make it even more exciting and fun for fans. I’m just pumped up because, the tighter it gets, the harder our Matco Tools/U.S. Army team digs.”

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

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