Both U.S. Army drivers and Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammates were eliminated Sunday by No. 4 qualifier Doug Kalitta – the seven-time champion Schumacher and his U.S. Army Dragster in the opening round, defending series champion Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster in the second round.
Schumacher, who qualified 13th, suffered the consequences of not having lane choice as he was one of seven of the eight first-round competitors who smoked his tires in what turned out to be a hugely problematic left lane. "The Sarge" coasted across the finish line in 5.441 seconds at 133.99 mph while Kalitta, in the right lane, posted a solid run of 3.757 seconds at 328.38 mph.
It brought to an abrupt end a somewhat frustrating second half of the season for the U.S. Army team, which finished with three event titles and three runner-up finishes in the first 12 races, and a seventh-place finish in the season-ending points.
"It's only frustrating because we made some changes that, in all reality, should win you a championship," Schumacher said. "They have in the past but, this year, they just didn't work out. But, with that being said, we've got the winter to figure it out. We've battled through adversity so many times, it's what we do. You can't stay stagnant. You can't just sit there and hope everyone else doesn't go faster. You've got to work on stuff. You work on it and sometimes it doesn't work. We made as many changes as we could up until this very moment. Now, it's the end of the year and it's time to go back to the drawing board and come out with some brand new stuff next year and come out and win. We've got the smartest people in the world and we know how to use them. Each member of this U.S. Army Racing team plays a vital role in the success of the car on the track. Similarly, 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. We got caught behind and it's hard to catch back up. We've got to start out ahead and keep that momentum going."
Brown, who qualified fifth, had the luxury of lane choice for his first-round meeting with No. 12 qualifier Bob Vandergriff and promptly powered his way down the right lane in 3.762 seconds at 324.75 mph. Vandergriff, like so many others, smoked his tires.
In his second-round matchup with Kalitta, Brown appeared to be on his way to victory when his Dragster uncharacteristically dropped a cylinder halfway down the 1,000-foot straightaway. Kalitta was able to make his way by to grab the win light in 3.797 seconds at 325.22 mph.
"You know, it happens," Brown said. "We just had something that went wrong there. It just dropped a hole where normally it doesn't drop a hole. We were way out front. It was one of those 76, 77 (3.76, 3.77) runs, no problem, and that's what we were trying to run. It just dropped a hole, unfortunately, and we just couldn't make it to the finish line. It did it before half-track and that's where Kalitta came by us. We really wanted that round because we wanted to put an exclamation point on the year. It was still a great year for our Matco Tools/U.S. Army team. I'm proud of the job all of our guys did, the way we recovered and rebounded and came to the last race of the season with a chance to win the championship. We'll take that into the offseason and we'll just get ready for next year, and come out strong next year."
Brown, who scored a pair of event titles and a runner-up finish in the three Countdown to the Championship events leading into the Pomona finale, closed the season with four event titles, two runner-up finishes, and second place to new Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon of Al-Anabi Racing in the season-ending points.
Langdon went on to beat Kalitta in today's final to claim his series-high seventh event title of the season. Kalitta finished third in the championship, just one point behind Brown.