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NHRA Top Fuel - U.S. Army NHRA Racing Arizona Nationals Advance

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CHANDLER, Feb. 15, 2012: After knocking on the door in the 2012 season opener, U.S. Army NHRA Racing Top Fuel drivers Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown will be attempting to bust through this weekend in the Arizona NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway outside of Phoenix.

Schumacher, who directs the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster, advanced to the semifinals in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals last Sunday at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., while Brown, in his Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster, reached the final round before losing to his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey.

Each driver has had his share of success in the Valley of the Sun. Schumacher, with three career wins at Firebird, is tied with Cory McClenathan and Larry Dixon for the most class victories. A New Jersey native, Brown captured his first Arizona Nationals trophy in 2009.

Last season, Brown beat Schumacher in the semifinals before losing to Dixon in the final. He used that effort to briefly claim the Top Fuel points lead with two races remaining in the Countdown to the Championship.

Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster:

How would you assess your team’s effort last weekend in Pomona, Calif.?

“I thought we performed very well. There’s no doubt we wanted to walk away with a win, but we made some strides in terms of getting the car to run quick and fast. The most important thing is we showed consistency. With the exception of one qualifying pass when we smoked the tires, we got down the track without any issues. It’s just a matter of tweaking a couple of things going into Firebird and then we should be golden.”

How did you feel getting back in the cockpit to begin your 16th professional season?

“Man, I didn’t realize it’s been that long. You’re right – even though I competed in only four races, I started way back in 1996. I guess I’m one of the old dudes, now. To be honest, it seems like yesterday when I began my pro career. Time does have a way of passing by in a hurry. But, I totally enjoy what I do. I love the competition and driving for the U.S. Army. I’m all about winning races and world championships for our Army Strong soldiers.”

Speaking of the competition, it appears your Don Schumacher Racing teammates are going to be right there with you contending for the title. Agreed?

“If last weekend is any indication, Antron (Brown) and Spencer (Massey) have picked right up where they left off last year, when they were challenging for the title right into the season finale. I wouldn’t want it any other way. They are both great drivers with great teams. I’m looking forward to going head-to-head with them all year long.”

What are your thoughts about returning to Firebird International Raceway?

“One thing is certainly different this year than last – we are back to what was our usual February date on the schedule instead of an October weekend during the playoffs. That said, I’m sure the crew chiefs will have to go back to the 2010 book to get data for this weekend. That track can be quite challenging. We’ll have to see what the weather gods deal us in a few days.”

Antron Brown, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster:

Same question as Tony’s – how would you assess your team’s effort in Pomona, Calif.?

“We were so close in Pomona that we could taste it. So, naturally, we want more this weekend. My team and I are very hungry. Don’t forget that we came within a round of winning the championship last year. We don’t want to leave any stones unturned this time around.”

After seeing the quality of the Top Fuel field at the first race, do you feel like you’re in for even more of a battle this year?

“There are a lot of cars capable of being good this year. It’s going to be tough, there’s no doubt about that. Last weekend definitely proved that. It’s like a horse race. You have the ones who get out of the gate real quick, but then you have the thoroughbreds who come up and sneak around everyone. That’s what it could be like out here.”

Given a win in 2009 and a final-round appearance last season, you seem to like racing at Firebird. Is that correct?

“We’ve had a good car there in the past. So, hopefully, that carries on. It would be good to get these Matco boys and Army Strong soldiers in the winner’s circle early in the season and get that momentum going.”