Meanwhile, his fellow U.S. Army Racing driver and DSR teammate Antron Brown left Las Vegas with a mathematical chance of winning his second consecutive Top Fuel title at the season finale two weeks hence after running the table today and emerging with his fourth event title of the season and second of this year's Countdown to the Championship.
Schumacher qualified third and started the day on a high note by disposing of No. 14 qualifier Khalid alBalooshi of Al-Anabi Racing in the first round with a run of 3.824 seconds at 325.37 mph. Brown, the No. 6 qualifier in the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for DSR, opened with his fastest run of the weekend to that point, a stout effort of 3.790 seconds at 323.19 mph in easily outdistancing No. 11 qualifier Bob Vandergriff, who badly smoked his tires shortly after launching from the starting line.
That set up a second-round matchup between Schumacher and Brown, during which Brown laid down a run of 3.808 seconds at 323.58 mph while mechanical issues a short distance down the 1,000-foot straightaway plagued Schumacher's effort. He crossed the finish line in 4.260 seconds at 212.73 mph and was mathematically eliminated from championship contention, 167 points behind Top Fuel leader Shawn Langdon of Al-Anabi Racing with only the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., left on the schedule. A maximum of 150 points can be scored on any given race weekend.
"It's definitely not the year we hoped for," said Schumacher, who started the weekend sixth in the standings, 139 points behind Langdon, who was eliminated in today's semifinal round. "We had a good chance to make up some massive ground today. Those are the runs we are usually best at. But that one (in the second round today) is going to hurt. We had a chance to go and win two more rounds and leave here second in the points. But, no matter what happens, we'll go to Pomona with five or six cars all within a round (win) or so of each other. We'll go get it done there. We may not be able to win a championship, but we still have a shot at number two. Tomorrow, the car will be out here testing. The guys will be working hard and getting us one step closer to Pomona."
The Schumacher-Brown matchup was the seventh meeting of the season for the U.S. Army duo. Schumacher emerged victorious in the first five - including semifinal-round wins en route to event titles at Phoenix and Chicago, and the final of the April race here at Las Vegas. Brown scored his first victory of the year over his teammate last month en route to his third event title of the year at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis.
After getting past Schumacher in today's second round, Brown improved upon his weekend best with a run of 3.788 seconds at 326.16 mph in the semifinals that eliminated Brandon Bernstein, who crossed the finish line in 3.921 seconds at 288.77 mph. It put Brown in the Top Fuel final for the third event in a row and vaulted him all the way to second in the point standings even before his final-round meeting with Clay Millican, who eliminated Langdon in the other semifinal.
In the final, Brown laid down his best run of the weekend yet again with a pass of 3.782 seconds at 324.51 mph to Millican's 3.822 seconds at 322.50 mph. It was Brown's second career Las Vegas victory and his first in the fall event here. It also vaulted him from fifth to second in the standings and pulled him within 102 points of Langdon headed to the Pomona finale. Doug Kalitta (138 points back) and DSR's Spencer Massey (142 points back), both of whom were eliminated in the first round today, also are still mathematically eligible for the Top Fuel title.
"Hats off to all of our boys," said Brown, who has springboarded from ninth to second in the last four Countdown events behind two event titles and a runner-up finish. "We've just been working hard. We struggled during the middle of the year but what I'm most proud of is just the way we kept our heads down and we never gave up. When mishaps were happening in the middle of the season, we just put our heads down and we worked harder. We went testing every Monday. Let me tell you, we won the 'Monday Nationals' a lot of times this year, and it made us better and it made us learn a lot of new things. Going to Pomona, we'll stick with our usual mindset that it's never done until the last race of the year and we're going to give it all we've got. We'll try and get all the qualifying points we can, qualify in the top half, take it one round at a time and see where we end up. There's still a lot of rope out there. This just couldn't have been a better weekend, and we just have to keep doing what we've been doing and see if we can with this championship."