While Schumacher and his U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) suffered a first-round defeat to Al Anabi Racing's Khalid alBalooshi at the 27th O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in the Houston suburb of Baytown, Texas, Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR marched through all four rounds of eliminations in dominating fashion and returned the favor by beating the driver of the rival Al Anabi team en route to his second event title in a row.
A broken piston turned out to be the culprit for Schumacher's U.S. Army machine in his first-round matchup with alBalooshi, but the No. 4 qualifier still posted a respectable run of 3.838 seconds at 313.80 mph that was better than three first-round winners in a wild opening session on this hot, humid and windy day. Balooshi crossed the finish line in 3.802 seconds at 321.19 mph and the No. 13 qualifier went on to beat Leah Pritchett and top qualifier Steve Torrence on his way to the final-round meeting with Brown, the No. 2 qualifier.
"Every time we are on the track, this U.S. Army Racing team demonstrates the same attributes the Army looks for in its Soldiers - putting the mission first, a never-quit attitude and a refusal to accept defeat," said Schumacher, whose reaction time of .060 of a second bettered Balooshi's .089 of a second. "That's why we will never settle for what happened here today. Qualifying is so important, but I think just as important is luck. We qualified fourth, which is solid, and I outran both my teammates' cars. I would've beaten Shawn Langdon, the other Al Anabi car. We broke a piston, we hurt it early, but even then we would've won - got beat by seven-thousandths of a second at the stripe. They can pull out these great runs, right? So I knew it was going to be a tough first-round matchup even though they were 13th. Like I said, you need to qualify well and have the right guy in the first round. Look at the other guys today - Langdon smokes his tires but (first-round opponent Troy) Buff red-lights. Really? We haven't had that kind of luck and we need it. Once you go down the track every time, I don't care who's in the other lane. We're getting to the point where we're going down the track every time, but it's not doing the same thing every time. We're making it, but we're not making it fast every time. We're inching toward it and we'll get there soon. The good thing is, we've made a lot of progress."
The early loss combined with Balooshi's run to the final round dropped Schumacher from fifth to sixth in the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel standings, 227 points behind his teammate Brown, the new leader.
For Brown, today's event title was his second in a row, his third of the season, and the 28th Top Fuel win of his career. He has now reached seven final rounds in the last 10 events dating back to St. Louis last September and has won five of them. Since scoring his first career Top Fuel event title at this track in 2008, Brown has been to the final round every other year here.
Today's march to the final round for Brown started with a victory over Clay Millican, followed by his wins over DSR teammate Spencer Massey in the second round and Langdon in the semifinals.
In the final, after light rain passed through the area and presented last-minute setup challenges for the competing crew chiefs, Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster didn't miss a beat as he covered the 1,000-foot distance in 3.793 seconds at 317.72 mph while Balooshi smoked his tires approaching the finish line and crossed it in 4.443 seconds at 184.67 mph.
"It was a great run," Brown said. "We were trying to run a high 70 (3.70 seconds) somewhere in the 77 or 78 range. We knew the track could hold it but, when the rain came, it tightened the track up a little bit. The two previous runs, it was a little gummy, but then it stiffened up and made our car hook up a little better than we wanted it to. But, besides that, it was a great run. With the weather this weekend, you were sweating a lot. It was very draining. It felt like a marathon out there. If the typical weekend feels like an 800-meter run, this weekend was more like a 5,000-meter run out there with all the humidity and sweat. That's what made it tough for all the drivers to stay focused and cut good lights and be on their A-game. I think if you were good here this weekend, you'll be good at all the other races."
Brown's earlier event titles this season came in February at Phoenix and two weekends ago at the Four-Wide Nationals near Charlotte.