INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Army News Service, June 14, 2007) - In previous NHRA drag racing seasons, Army drivers, Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher, Angelle Sampey and Antron Brown, would typically wait until halfway through a 23-race schedule before evaluating their championship hopes.

"It was simple - when you reached the 12th race, we all knew it was time to take a look at where we were at performance-wise and point-wise," said Mr. Schumacher, who pilots the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster. "That doesn't hold true any longer."

Given the NHRA's new Countdown to the Championship, Mr. Schumacher, Ms. Sampey and Mr. Brown will clearly have to take a different approach this year. With the cut off for the eight-driver playoff just eight races away (six for Pro Stock Motorcycles) the grading process is already underway for the trio.

Presently, Mr. Schumacher holds fifth-place in the Top Fuel standings and is 125 points out of the lead. More importantly, he has a 77-point cushion over David Grubnic, who resides in the critical eighth spot.

"Obviously, we're somewhat encouraged by where we're at right now, but we don't want to just settle for that position," offered the Chicago native. "We want to be as high up in the points as possible by the time we get to the beginning of the Countdown so we're not scrambling later."

Mr. Schumacher, who is the defending NHRA POWERade world champion, is still trying to establish consistency nine events into '07.

"We've had our moments, both good and bad, so far," he added. "Hopefully, when all is said and done, the good moments will far outweigh the bad moments."

In Pro Stock Motorcycles, Ms. Sampey and Mr. Brown are on opposite sides of the standings, sitting in second and 11th, respectively.

While Ms. Sampey, a three-time NHRA POWERade world champion, has a firm grip on a spot in the Countdown, Mr. Brown is still trying to get into the fight. He is 35 points removed from the coveted eighth position, currently held by Peggy Llewellyn.

"We definitely need to get Antron into that top eight," said Ms. Sampey. "My Suzuki has been running pretty well of late, but for some reason Antron's bike has not been as quick. I'm confident that Steve Tartaglia (the U.S. Army team's crew chief) will figure things out. We want Antron right there with me."

"We have six races for me to make up less than two rounds of racing," said Mr. Brown. "That's really nothing in the grand scheme of things. But, I certainly don't want to wait until the last couple of opportunities and then have to race in panic mode. I'd like to get into the Countdown in comfortable fashion well before we get to Reading (Pa.)."

The good news for Mr. Schumacher, Ms. Sampey and Mr. Brown is that each has had a decent amount of success over the years at many of the tracks that dot the schedule between now and the Toyo Tires Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in late August.

"I think I can speak for Angelle and Antron when I say that we all hope history does indeed repeat itself," said Mr. Schumacher.

Page last updated Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 15:09