Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), continued his solid weekend Sunday with victories over Terry McMillen and Morgan Lucas in the opening two rounds. His pass of 3.784 seconds at 322.88 mph in the second round was the fastest in Top Fuel and set the stage for his duel with Brown. It was the sixth time this season the Army teammates met, and "The Sarge" had come out on top in the previous five. The seven-time Top Fuel world champion made a good run, 3.834 seconds at 322.42 mph, but he needed a great run to beat the reigning Top Fuel world champion.
"The U.S. Army dragster ran really well this weekend, but we're extremely disappointed in that semifinal run," Schumacher said. "We had a phenomenal run against Morgan (Lucas) and obviously needed to match that against Antron. It didn't happen. We've got a great car and we needed to win the race today."
By advancing to the semifinal, Schumacher cut into Shawn Langdon's lead in the championship standings. He still ranks fifth overall, but now trails by 72 points with three events remaining.
"We're closer to the leaders in the championship standings, but we left 40 points sitting out there today," Schumacher said. "The guys in front of us (in the standings) were all out. We could have cut the lead in half and we didn't. That's not the way to win a championship. We'll come back at them next weekend and try to do our best. These U.S. Army guys are extremely tough under pressure. They'll reflect the strengths of the U.S. Army Soldiers by possessing mental, emotional and physical strength like no other next week in Reading."
The weekend was just what Brown needed in order to maintain his shot at scoring a second consecutive Top Fuel world championship. After qualifying the Toyota/Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster for DSR sixth, he advanced to the semifinal with wins over Billy Torrence and Clay Millican, but saved his best two runs of the weekend for last. Brown shot out of the box quickly in the epic semifinal versus his U.S. Army Racing teammate and posted a pass of 3.783 seconds at 322.88 mph to advance to his fourth final of the season. In the final, he surged away right from the start and earned his fourth victory of the season with a lap of 3.788 seconds at 323.97 mph.
"Every race is a dog fight right now with as tough as this Top Fuel class is," said Brown, who joined Doug Kalitta and Gary Scelzi as a three-time Top Fuel winner at Gateway. "It doesn't get any tougher than having Tony and the U.S. Army car sitting next to you. They put up a monster run in the second round and we ran a 3.80. (Co-crew chiefs) Brian (Corradi) and Mark (Oswald) felt like we simply needed to speed the car up in the middle a little bit. We knew we had to step it up if we were going to take them out. We sped up our car and it was flawless. That really helped us have a plan for the final. We knew that we were in for another fight with Khalid and those Al-Anabi Racing guys. Brian and Mark softened it up in a couple of areas where it was real edgy in the run versus Tony, and it went right down the track. They gave me a great race car all weekend, and I'm really excited about this win."
Brown jumped from eighth to sixth in the championship standings with his 24th career Top Fuel triumph. He trails Langdon by 102 markers heading into next week's 29th annual Auto Plus NHRA Nationals.
"Our goal from here on out is to go race like every race is the last race out here," said Brown. "We're going to push really hard. Hopefully, we can go out and qualify in the top half of the field again next weekend and just take it one round at a time. If we can plug off and creep up with some points here the next two races in a row, we can go into that last race in Pomona with a shot. That's all we want is to have a shot at winning the championship again. It's still in our scope, so we're going to give it everything we've got."