Sunday's outcome for both Schumacher and Brown at the 26th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals was far from what both former NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world champions had hoped for. But following their respective first-round exits from the eighth round of the 2014 NHRA campaign, both are ready to get back on track and continue their march toward another season-ending title.
Schumacher, the seven-time Top Fuel champion, 2010 Kansas event title and a Top Fuel finalist last year, suffered his first-round defeat at the hands of his Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammate Spencer Massey, who ran the table for the second weekend in a row today in scoring back-to-back Top Fuel even titles. Schumacher, who qualified fifth in the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster for DSR, got a clean start but smoked his tires 330 feet down the 1,000-foot dragstrip while Massey ran a relative clean run and earned the first-round win with a pass of 3.862 seconds at 319.82 mph. Schumacher coasted across the finish line in 4.826 seconds at 151.10 mph.
"There's really no good way to wrap a nice bow around this - we just got beat," Schumacher said. "We are so much better than that result shows. Only the strongest wear our colors, and the Army NHRA partnership provides Americans a platform to experience the speed, power, teamwork and technology that drives that strength. Bottom line, we shouldn't have smoked the tires. It was one of those difficult losses. And you look at your potential second-round matchup and it makes it that much more tough to stomach. But it's times like these that win championships, getting through this, because we're onto something great. We've got to keep telling ourselves that. We're not racing well. We're running well right now but we're just not racing as well as we should be right now. When those two things come together, we'll have a great car. That's what makes it more irritating than anything. We've got a car too good for a result like this. It's frustrating. There's nobody on this U.S. Army team who's not frustrated. This is not an easy sport. This is not an easy task. We know what we want to do and we know it's right there. It's just hard to wait another week to show it. But it'll come."
Brown, who qualified ninth in his Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR actually made it down the racetrack relatively cleanly in stopping the clock at 3.844 seconds at 317.34 mph against alBalooshi. But the Al Anabi Racing driver clipped him at the finish line by a mere 8 inches with a run of 3.806 seconds at 292.71 mph.
"It's racing," Brown said. "If you think you're going to every race and win, that's not realistic. So, we lick our wounds from this one and we go into Englishtown with spirits high and we learn from everything that happened this weekend. We just feel confident going into Englishtown and we're going to go in there and stomp on it. That's a race we've been wanting really, really badly. We're hungry right now, and we won't let what happened today get this team down. The positive thing is that we learned a lot this weekend about a lot of the new things we have on this car, so we'll keep building on that."