It was only the second time during this oftentimes frustrating season for the U.S. Army team the seven-time Top Fuel world champion advanced beyond the second round. The only other time was March 30 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway en route to his 73rd career event title that was also capped by a final-round victory over Kalitta. His march to the event title today was a prime example of how the mental, emotional and physical strength like no other displayed by our Soldiers is inspiring and plays a huge part in the U.S. Army Racing team's drive to be successful.
Schumacher's triumph over Kalitta today came on a holeshot as he beat Kalitta off the line with a reaction time of .051 of a second to Kalitta's .071 of a second. Schumacher beat the Top Fuel points leader across the finish line despite covering the 1,000-foot distance in 3.817 seconds to Kalitta's 3.813 seconds. Schumacher's miles per hour was 322.85 while Kalitta reached 323.89.
"You know, we've just got a good car and we just keep getting better," said Schumacher, who beat Steve Torrence in the first round, DSR teammate and fellow U.S. Army driver Antron Brown in the second round, and Clay Millican in the semifinals. "We've struggled for so long. Mike Green (crew chief) and Neil (Strausbaugh, assistant crew chief) have really worked so hard working on the six-disc clutch. It's difficult, getting it figured out. But I think it's coming along at the right time. I couldn't have have asked for a better week. My son Michael is here after his U10 (baseball) team from Buffalo Grove (Illinois) won their whole tournament in Cooperstown (New York) and I said, 'You've got that big trophy, I've got to go out and match that. I've got to go out and get a Wally to put next to that thing.' But for the Army and Matco Tools and all the guys who've worked so hard, and to the fans to get through all the adversity and sticking with me, this is absolutely great. The fans here at Epping have been outstanding. We love coming here. And I just knocked one of the last two off the list of races we haven't won. I've just got Atlanta left, there. You know, we're Army Strong. We take the rough road and we go and battle on. 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."
Schumacher's second-round win over Brown was his third in three meetings this season over the 2012 Top Fuel world champion. One of those came in the semifinals en route to the event title in Las Vegas. "The Sarge" had an incredible .006 of a second reaction time against Brown's .107 of a second. He clocked a run of 3.787 seconds at 324.28 mph en route to the win light as Brown stopped the clocks at 3.794 seconds at 320.66 mph.
"We just lost a good race," said Brown, who was the No. 1 qualifier here this weekend and beat No. 16 qualifier Todd Paton handily in the opening round. "We're just going to get ready for the next race. We just keep on getting beat, right now, so we're just going to suck it up and go to the next race and we're gonna push even harder. We don't need luck. We've just got to stay persistent with it. That's our take and, eventually, if you keep on pushing and pushing, things will start falling your way. Right now, it's going in the other direction but we're going to keep after it."