Schumacher and his nine-man Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) team showcased why only the strongest wear the U.S. Army colors and each one of them played a vital role in the success of the team similar to how every Soldier, no matter which of the more than 150 career options he or she chooses in the Army, is vital to the success of the mission.
"The Sarge" advanced to his fourth semifinal of the season, but a part malfunction closed the door on his run toward a 75th career Top Fuel triumph. After defeating Terry McMillen in the first round and beating Steve Torrence in round two, the U.S. Army dragster went up in smoke just after launching from the starting line in the semifinal. The seven-time Top Fuel champion tried to pedal the car down the track, but Shawn Langdon had too much of an advantage, and Schumacher's run of 6.123 seconds at 127.41 mph ended his day.
"We needed to win that round," admitted Schumacher following his 999th career elimination round. "It's a rough one. We don't exactly know what happened, but something had to malfunction for it to go up like that. It would have been cool to be in a final for my 1,000th round, but all you can do is stage your car and do your best. I feel like I did a good job driving today. The car did a great job all weekend long. I'm really proud of this entire U.S. Army team led by (crew chief) Mike (Green) and (assistant crew chief) Neal (Strausbaugh). Those guys just keep demonstrating the same attributes the Army looks for in its Soldiers – putting the mission first, a never quit attitude and a refusal to accept defeat. Malfunctions will bite you and there isn't anything you can do about it. This U.S. Army dragster is a great race car. We're on to something pretty big."
"The Sarge" remains fourth in the championship standings with three events remaining before the championship points are reset for the top-10 drivers in the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoff.
Brown was looking to become a four-time Sonoma winner Sunday. He put the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR up against his DSR teammate Spencer Massey in the opening round. The 2012 Top Fuel champion's machine lost traction early in the run and wasn't able to recover with his run of 4.522 seconds at 182.58 mph. Massey posted his best pass of the weekend (3.796 seconds at 322.73 mph) to turn on the win light. Brown continues to rank second in the in the championship standings heading into next week's Western Swing finale in Seattle.
"They earned it today," said Brown, who leads the Top Fuel class with five wins. "We got a little greedy out there and sometimes when you get greedy, that's what happens to you. We went out there and we were pressing hard. We thought the track could hold a little more and we could run better, but obviously it didn't. We couldn't take a chance. We had to go for it, because Spencer put up like the second- or third-best run of the session. The track obviously got hotter, but at the end of the day we were trying to go out there and go fast. We were pressing hard and they were the better team today. Hats off to the Battery Extender team. The Matco Tools/U.S. Army team had a good weekend, but we just didn't have the results on race day. We'll lick our wounds today, and we get to do it again in a couple days."