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U.S. Army NHRA Racing: O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals Race Report

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Schumacher and Brown Lose Traction on Difficult Houston Surface

Date: April 28, 2013
Event: 26th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals (Round 6 of 24)
Series: NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
Location: Royal Purple Raceway in Houston, Texas

Top Fuel Winner: Bob Vandergriff of Bob Vandergriff Racing U.S. Army Racing Finish: Tony Schumacher - started 14th, lost to Shawn Langdon in the first round.

Antron Brown - started 4th, lost to Bob Vandergriff in the first round.

Track conditions were the great equalizer Sunday in the 26th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston. Unfortunately for U.S. Army Racing drivers Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher and Antron Brown, the surface got the best of them in the first round and derailed their mission to conquer the Houston track once again. Despite possessing mental, emotional and physical strength reflective of the more than more than 1 million Army Strong Soldiers they represent, both Schumacher and Brown, like a majority of the field, smoked the tires trying to reach the finish first. Schumacher, a two-time Houston winner (2005 and 2009), pushed Shawn Langdon early in the run, but he glazed the tires 750 feet down the 1,000-foot strip, and the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster of Don Schumahcer Racing (DSR) wasn't able to recover. His run of 4.666 seconds at 169.17 mph couldn't eclipse Langdon's pass of 3.846 seconds at 319.98 mph.

"Today was more about breaks than performance," said Schumacher, who came into Sunday as the 14th qualifier. "The right lane was not the place to be. It just didn't have what it took for a 10,000-horsepower car to get down it. We didn't perform well enough qualifying Friday to get lane choice, and that really hurt us today. This U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster is too good of a car to go out in the first round. With as tough as the competition is right now, I'm guessing everyone will have a weekend like this at some point. We struggled a little bit Friday, didn't get to run on Saturday, and we're going home earlier than we hoped."

Brown returned to Houston, the site of his first career Top Fuel victory in 2008, looking to claim his second Top Fuel triumph of the 2013 season. The reigning Top Fuel champion earned the fourth slot in the ladder with Friday night's qualifying pass in the Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster of DSR. His run Sunday ended quickly after smoking the tires halfway through his match-up with Bob Vandergriff. Brown's pass of 4.902 seconds at 158.19 mph wasn't enough to defeat Vandergriff, who reached earned the win light with a run of 4.181 seconds at 260.71 mph.

"We're really disappointed," said Brown, who lost in the first round for the second consecutive weekend. "The track got really tricky for everybody. We went out there and thought we had slowed it down enough to run like a mid to high 3.80, which we were confident would get the job done. You can't take Bob Vandergriff or anyone in this class lightly. The car was trying to go way faster than we thought it would go. It left the line and felt like it was trying to go a high 3.70 instead of high 3.80. That's just what happens sometimes. The track just didn't come around and we just got beat."

Vandergriff defeated Langdon in the final to earn his first Top Fuel event victory of the season.

Despite the early exit, Schumacher continues to lead the Top Fuel point standings. He leads Brown by 70 points (510-440).

With six events complete on the 24-event NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series calendar for 2013, the top-10 drivers in the Top Fuel standings are:

1. Tony Schumacher (510 points)
2. Antron Brown (440 points, -70)
3. Shawn Langdon (423 points, - 87)
4. Spencer Massey (413 points, -97)
5. Morgan Lucas (347 points, -163)
6. Doug Kalitta (333 points, -177)
    Khalid alBalooshi (333 points, -177)
8. Bob Vandergriff (295 points, 215)
9. Brandon Bernstein (281 points, -229)
10. David Grubnic (250 points, -260)

The next event is the 33rd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga.