Considering every member of the U.S. Army Racing team, from the pit crew to the business staff, plays a vital role in the success of its racecar on the track, just like every Soldier, no matter which of the more than 150 career options he or she chooses in the U.S. Army, is vital to the success of the mission, Schumacher and Brown feel all the people and parts and pieces within their organizations are making the right moves to hopefully deliver another world title in 2014.
The seven-time-champion Schumacher and the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster for DSR qualified No. 1 for the second time in three events at this weekend's 27th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals and advanced to the semifinals for the third time in four events with first- and second-round victories Sunday over Jenna Haddock and Steve Torrence.
That set up today's Top Fuel semifinal meeting with Brown, who while Schumacher dominated Friday and Saturday qualifying ended up struggling through all four qualifying sessions in his Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR and started the day in the No. 12 spot - his lowest qualifying position this season. It was the sixth meeting between Brown and Schumacher this season with "The Sarge" winning three of the previous five matchups.
Brown evened the score today, however, laying down a run of 3.883 seconds at 312.13 mph to Schumacher's 3.944 seconds at 295.66 mph to set up a meeting with points leader Doug Kalitta in today's Top Fuel final.
"That certainly wasn't the way we wanted to see it end here but, all you can say is, it was a great weekend when you look at the big picture," said Schumacher, who was the 21st consecutive No. 1 qualifier in the Top Fuel class to fail to win an event, dating back to the Texas NHRA Fall Nationals outside Dallas last September. "This U.S. Army Racing team is honored and takes great pride in representing the more than 1 million Soldiers who protect our freedom and our way of life, and I'm proud to say we continue to be heading in the right direction one weekend at a time. We've now reached the semifinals three of the last four race weekends, which bodes really well for us as we approach the Countdown. Obviously, we should've gone out and won the race this weekend based on how well everything was working up until that run against Antron. But that's the way it goes in this business, as we all know. Antron struggles on Friday and Saturday and ends up qualifying 12th, then almost wins it all. That's what makes it just a little frustrating for us. But, again, looking at the big picture, we have ourselves a great U.S. Army racecar at the right time. On that last run, whatever we did to fix an issue we had down the racetrack here, it didn't quite do it. Generally speaking, when it gets hot out, like it got today, you get nervous, so you back it down early and then, when you get out there and try to get it to move, you're not moving fast enough to see that clutch application. I think it just wore a bunch of clutch. Points-wise, the top four drivers are separating themselves from the rest of the field. We'll make everything perfect by Indy (the final 'regular-season' event later this month)."
Schumacher's appearance in today's Top Fuel semifinal made him the fourth driver to clinch a spot in the 10-driver Countdown, joining Kalitta, Brown and defending-champion Shawn Langdon.
Meanwhile, Brown's hopes of pulling off his sixth event title of the season were ended by Kalitta in a spirited Top Fuel final. He ran a respectable 3.887 seconds at 311.700 mph despite the hottest track temperatures of the weekend. But Kalitta showed he was not about to be denied as he got down the track in 3.844 seconds at 318.840 mph to score just his second event title of the season. It was his eighth final-round appearance through the season's first 16 events.
"All in all, it was a great day for the Matco Tools/U.S. Army team," said Brown, who beat Bob Vandergriff and Richie Crampton in his first- and second-round matchups today. "We threw our best shot out there and we thought it would be good enough to win, but they just threw a monster run out there. They got us this weekend. We'll just keep our heads down and get after it in Brainerd and Indy and see if we can make some points up on those boys and sneak around them before the Countdown starts. We're still in the fight and we're not giving up. We are ready for a heck of a fight. That was a monster blow by them, but that's alright - we'll be back. We just had some trouble in qualifying but we definitely rebounded today. That just shows you the fight to win that we have in this team after struggling in qualifying."