With the momentum following the miraculous runs in Sunday's final qualifying session, the last two winners of the U.S. Nationals (Brown in 2011 and Schumacher in 2012) and their nine-man crews were looking to display a level of engineering and teamwork reflective of the Army's leading-edge technology and powerful, realistic training of its Army Strong Soldiers in pursuit of victory.
The U.S. Army Racing tandem entered Monday's opening round of eliminations as the top two qualifiers, but unfortunately, both were defeated after making clean runs down the track. Brown posted a run of 3.825 seconds at 321.27 mph in the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster of Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), but was defeated by Morgan Lucas, who used a run 3.784 seconds at 320.28 mph to advance. Schumacher was next up in the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster of DSR and had a good launch from the starting line before being overtaken by Clay Millican. Schumacher's run of 3.835 seconds at 314.31m mph was his second-best of the weekend, but Millican's pass of 3.800 seconds at 321.88 mph was his best pass of the weekend.
Schumacher entered Monday's eliminations looking to win the U.S. Nationals a record 10th time. The early upset marked only the third time in 18 career U.S. Nationals that the seven-time world champion lost in the opening round.
"We're all disappointed because this U.S. Army team came out here looking to win another U.S. Nationals," Schumacher said. "With the quality of cars in this Top Fuel class, you can't take anything for granted. We needed to be making a run close to 3.75 (seconds) with the (overcast and cooler) conditions we had first round. Running a 3.83 wasn't going to get it done. Clay and his team went out and ran better than they had all weekend, and they beat us. We were running good, but it was like it just run out and Clay drove around me. Obviously, we had something go wrong. We have a great team and we'll go back and figure out what happened."
Brown was riding high after claiming his second No. 1 qualifier of 2013 and third career No. 1 in the U.S. Nationals. The reigning Top Fuel champion was looking forward to a making a run at a second U.S. Nationals Top Fuel triumph.
"We're really disappointed, especially after how we qualified (Sunday) night," Brown said. "We went out there and threw a shot in the first round. The track was real good, so it sucked a little bit of it up. After running that 3.81 last night, we just built off that and we were going up there hoping to run a 3.77.The track just ate us up a little bit and we couldn't make the number. We knew what Morgan Lucas and his team was capable of and we didn't want to leave anything on the table. They threw a great run out there and put up number that they needed to win."
Shawn Langdon capped an incredible weekend Monday afternoon by winning his first U.S. Nationals. Langdon won the second annual Traxxas Nitro Shootout Sunday and clinched the top spot in the championship standings heading into the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
In two weeks, the NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C., will kick off the Countdown. The Top Fuel standings were reset following the first 18 rounds of the 24-race slate, and for the second consecutive season, Schumacher enters the Countdown in third. Brown will begin his title defense from the sixth position.
"For the U.S. Army and all the people behind us, we're already looking ahead to the Countdown to the Championship," said Schumacher, who finished seven points behind Brown in last year's Countdown. "We'll come at it from the third spot just like we did last year and go out and do everything we can to win the championship. We'll put today's disappointment behind us and head to Charlotte trying to win the next six. That's the mentality of this team. We know how to win, and we need to get back to dominating. That starts with winning rounds, and then ultimately races."
Brown won two of the first three races in last year's Countdown en route to winning his first championship. He scored a pair of wins earlier this season and is excited about getting the Countdown started in Charlotte.
"This is where it counts for the championship," Brown said. We're sitting right in the middle of the field. We have our work cut out for us, but there isn't anything that we can't handle. We have to head into the Countdown with the attitude that we have nothing to lose, and we don't. We're going to go out there give it all we've got and have fun."