BRAINERD, Minn. (Army News Service, Aug. 13) - U.S. Army NHRA drivers, Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher, Angelle Sampey and Antron Brown, all lost in the first round of eliminations here Sunday in the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

It marks the first time this season that all three drivers departed a race day with opening-round losses.

Pro Stock Motorcycles

Ms. Sampey laid down low elapsed time for the first round (6.959-seconds), but posted a red-light foul (-.004-seconds) at the start against 13th-place qualifier, Chris Rivas, and her day was instantly over.

"I really can't believe it," said a visibly dejected Ms. Sampey. "It's extremely frustrating to throw away such an incredible pass. I really have to stop making mistakes at the start if I want to win another world championship."

It was Ms. Sampey's fourth red-light foul of the season in final eliminations. With that said, she still has a reserved spot in the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship.

While Ms. Sampey will definitely be contending for the world title, Mr. Brown's chances of making the Countdown took a serious hit after he was beaten in the first round by sixth-place qualifier, Matt Smith.

Mr. Brown actually recorded his best pass of the weekend (7.099-seconds at 186.23 mph), but it didn't measure up to Mr. Smith's 7.017-second pass at 188.15 mph.

"Man, I'm really bummed right now," said the New Jersey native. "I thought we might be able to move into the Countdown standings this weekend, but we didn't get it done. I can assure you that we're not going to quit. We'll be prepared to battle it out again next weekend."

Top Fuel

After swiping his seventh pole of the year, Mr. Schumacher could not get by 16th-place qualifier, Cory McClenathan, in first-round action. It was Schumacher's eighth first-round loss in 16 races.

Mr. McClenathan bolted from the starting line first and went on to post a clean lap as compared to Mr. Schumacher's tire-smoking effort.

"I certainly didn't think we would go out and smoke the tires after how we got down the track the last couple of days," Mr. Schumacher said afterwards. "But, things happen and you just have to move on."

Despite his early exit, the Chicago native has already clinched a spot in the Countdown, which begins at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis on Labor Day weekend.

"We'll continue to sort out our new car next weekend and we'll be ready by the time we get to Indy," he added. "Failure is never an option with this U.S. Army team."

Mr. Schumacher, Ms. Sampey and Mr. Brown will travel to Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., next weekend for the Toyo Tires Nationals, which is the cutoff for the Countdown.

Following the Reading event, the top eight point earners in each of the NHRA's four professional classes will make the playoffs.