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Squeezing out his eighth consecutive top-10 finish of the season two weeks ago at Iowa Speedway, SCOTT Rookie of the Year leader Gus Dean (@gusdean) returns to Lucas Oil Raceway (LOR) looking to earn his fifth top-five run in Friday night’s Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200.

In his ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards debut at Iowa, Dean qualified his No. 32 GREE Cooling Products Toyota 11th but quickly hustled towards the front.

Racing inside the top-five with the checkered flag quickly approaching, Dean experienced a flat tire under green flag conditions sending the GREE Racing driver to pit road for a new tire. The setback plummeted him through the running order to 15th and two laps off the pace.

Over the final 40 laps of the race, however, Dean rallied to earn one of his lost laps back and climbed the running to 10th when the checkered flag flew.

Hoping the bad luck is behind him, the Win-Tron Racing development driver sets his sights on Lucas Oil Raceway hoping to earn his ninth consecutive top-10 finish.

“We’ve had some really fast No. 32 GREE Toyota Camrys the last couple of races, unfortunately, we don’t have the results to really show for it,” said Dean. “At Madison, we had a car capable of winning, but tire strategy worked against us. At Iowa, just cut down a tire and ran out of time to recover for a better finish.

“Through the bumps in the road, we’ve kept our eye on the prize and that’s bringing good enough cars to the race track where we can contend for wins. With a little luck, I think our first win is not too far off the horizon.”

The 22-year-old driver returns to Lucas Oil Raceway looking to better his ninth-place result last July.

Dean qualified his GREE car 15th and despite being spun early in the race, he recovered to post his third top-10 finish during the 2016 season.

“I learned a lot about Lucas Oil last year,” said Dean. “It originally was not a race on my schedule, but the opportunity came about to race and we did. I learned that you really need to have the car rotating off the corner so you can carry the speed on the straightaways.

“Todd (Myers, crew chief) has a good feel on where he wants to be for the race and we’ve spent a lot of time in the shop working to make our cars faster for the second half of the season. I’m really encouraged and can’t wait to see what kind of results we can put together.”

During the week off from competition, Dean spent time with his teammate Justin Fontaine and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Austin Wayne Self. On July 12, the three drivers bonded during a day of fun at Carowinds Amusement Park in Charlotte.

“We spend a lot of time together at the race track, so it was nice to get away from that scenery and just hang out and not really talk about racing – but discuss everyday stuff,” added Dean. “It was cool. I learned a lot more about Justin and Austin and we had a lot of fun. Definitely a good team-building moment.”

For the fifth time this season, Dean will carry the GREE onboard camera offering an exclusive look from aboard his Kevin Cywinski-owned machine.

In 17 career ARCA Racing Series starts, Dean captured his first career victory in his second ever start at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway after starting second in Apr. 2016. Overall, Dean has five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes and has led 37 laps in ARCA competition.

The Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 (200 laps / 137 miles) is the 11th of 20 races on the 2017 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards schedule. Practice begins Fri., July 21 with an hour and forty-five-minute practice session planned from 12:15 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. General Tire pole qualifying is set for later in the day at 5:00 p.m. The race is set to take the green flag later shortly after 9:00 p.m. The event will be broadcasted live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), while ARCARacing.com will stream live timing and scoring throughout the week’s activities. All times are local (ET).

Gus Dean PR

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race from NASCAR champion Tony Stewart’s dirt track at Eldora Speedway aired on FOX Business Network on Wednesday night, and the 9:30-11:45 PM ET race window averaged 660,000 viewers, up 2% from last year’s race on FS1 (644,000), according to Nielsen Media Research.

On FOX Sports GO, the telecast had an average minute audience of 4,304, an increase of 361% from last year’s Eldora race. It is the third-best streaming performance of an NCWTS race this season, behind Daytona and Atlanta.

Earlier in the day, Eldora Qualifying on FS1 scored 258,000 viewers, 11% above last year’s qualifying session (233,000).  

The next NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race of the season is Saturday, July 29 (1:00 PM ET) from Pocono, airing on the FOX broadcast network.

FOX Sports PR

Current NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Austin Cindric will return to Cunningham Motorsports this weekend for the Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway (LOR). The 18-year-old will return to the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards for the first time in 2017, driving the No. 99 PIRTEK Ford Fusion this Friday night.

“When I looked at the ARCA schedule and looked at some races we might want to do if it worked with our schedule, I circled LOR (Lucas Oil Raceway) right away,” said Cindric. “I think we’re right on par with the other cars and I’d expect us to be fighting up front with the leaders and fighting to win. Last year we had really strong runs in the ARCA races we ran and hopefully we can come out this year and get the No. 99 PIRTEK Ford Fusion into victory lane.”

That success Cindric saw last season spanned over four races and included a win at Kentucky Speedway, two second-place finishes (at Pocono Raceway and Kansas Speedway) and a pole award. Being able to come and run a few races in the series has proved helpful to Cindric, who is still learning and soaking up any and all information he can get.

“I don’t have a lot of short track experience, so I knew this race would be one of the most beneficial ones to be able to run this year,” said Cindric. “It’s a fun race because there’s so many different lanes you can use. I’ve learned a ton on how to drive stock cars thanks to my time in ARCA. It’s a great environment to be able to learn and still have competitive teams and drivers run at the same time, so I’m really excited to see what we can do here on Friday.”

Even though he has raced at LOR before, it was with an open-wheel series, which is an entirely different beast than stock cars. To get reacquainted with the track, the No. 99 team tested at the track last Sunday throughout the day and into the night.

“I thought about if I was going to be able to use anything from those two races I ran in 2013 and 2014 to the race now, but I don’t think I’ll be able to so the test was extremely important,” said Cindric. “Being able to test at the same time as the race is a crew chief’s dream. Being able to go out and do long runs is really helpful and we can directly correlate what we learned during the test to the race with what we want to do to the car.”

Coming off of a busy few days at Eldora Speedway, when he finished 10th in the NCWTS race, Cindric will move right over to Indianapolis for Friday night’s race. The Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 will kick off with practice from 12:15-2 p.m. followed by General Tire Pole Qualifying at 5. The 200-lap feature is slated for a 9 p.m. start and will air live on FS1. All times are local (Eastern).

Keep up with Cunningham Motorsports on Facebook and Instagram (@CunninghamRace) and on Twitter (@Cunningham_Race). Head to www.cunninghamrace.com for more news. You can follow Austin on social media as well. Follow Austin on Facebook (@Austin.Cindric) and on Twitter and Instagram (@AustinCindric).

Cunningham Motorsports PR

For the seventh time this season, ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards newcomer Justin Fontaine (@driverFontaine) is set to tackle a new track as the series makes it annual stop at Lucas Oil Raceway Park (LORP), site of Friday night’s Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200.

For Fontaine with the support of AM Racing and their development team Win-Tron Racing, they head to Lucas Oil Raceway looking to bounce back from a disappointing finish at Iowa Speedway where a mechanical failure robbed them of a top-10 finish.

At Iowa, Fontaine showed that he had a car capable of earning him his career-best finish in his sixth race, but 65 laps into the Fans with Benefits 150, a gear failure sent him to the garage and out of the race.

Still, Fontaine and crew chief Bill Henderson were encouraged by their performance.

“We’re going in the right direction,” said Fontaine. “I can’t thank the AM Racing, Win-Tron Racing and ProMATIC team enough for giving me good race cars. It’s unfortunate that we had a mechanical failure, but we’ve put that behind us and we’re focused on Lucas Oil Friday night and Pocono next weekend.”

Despite the Iowa finish, comfortable seems to be the norm for Fontaine, a native of Asheville, N.C.

In the past three races, the driver of the No. 33 ProMATIC Toyota has improved his qualifying game earning his best career-start of eighth two weeks ago at Iowa Speedway. Previously, it was a 10th at Madison International Speedway. Before then, it was a 12th at Michigan International Speedway.

“Our qualifying efforts have been solid,” added Fontaine. “I think we still have some work to do to get better – but we’re making progress every week and we’re able to find more speed from practice. Now, we just need to complete the circle.”

Even though Fontaine has never been to Lucas Oil Raceway, the 19-year-old is relying on his prior short track experience to play dividends.

“Yeah, I’ve never been to Lucas Oil, but I’ve been studying the track by watching old races and looking at photos and stuff,” Fontaine added. “Gus (Dean), my teammate has been to Lucas Oil before so I’m hoping if I have any questions – I can pick his brain and see if there’s something he can help me with.”

No matter what Friday night brings, Fontaine hopes the outcome brings him momentum he can carry in the second half of the ARCA season.

“You know after the Daytona crash that kept me out for a couple months, I’m just blessed to be able to go to the track and race every weekend,” he said. “I go to the race track every weekend thinking we have a chance to have a good finish. Under the right circumstances and a good handling No. 33 ProMATIC Toyota, I think we can win. We just have to keep digging.”

Currently 14th in the series’ standings (+2 positions from Iowa), Fontaine has a career best finish of 11th twice at Elko (Minn.) Speedway and Madison (Wisc.) international Speedway respectively.

While sticking with a heavy ARCA schedule for now, Fontaine’s focus is expected to turn towards the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where he’ll compete in a limited schedule this summer in an AM Racing entry.

The Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 (200 laps / 137 miles) is the 11th of 20 races on the 2017 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards schedule. Practice begins Fri., July 21 with an hour and forty-five-minute practice session planned from 12:15 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. General Tire pole qualifying is set for later in the day at 5:00 p.m. The race is set to take the green flag later shortly after 9:00 p.m. The event will be broadcasted live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), while ARCARacing.com will stream live timing and scoring throughout the week’s activities. All times are local (ET).
 
To learn more information on AM Racing please visit amracingteam.com.

For more on Justin Fontaine, please like his Facebook page (Justin Fontaine) or follow him on Twitter @driverFontaine.

AM/Win-Tron Racing PR

Venturini Motorsports (VMS) and sixteen year-old driver Christian Eckes are proud to announce they have come to terms to extend their partnership through the 2018 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season.

Eckes, a native of Middletown, NY and a cornerstone figure of Venturini Motorsports’ potent Toyota Development Driver multi-driver lineup since joining the team at the age of 15, will continue his career development over the course of 15-races during the 2018 season. Specific race details will be announced once the official ARCA schedule is released later in the year.

“I’m excited to share this news today. I’ve found a good home here in the ARCA Series with a great team,” says Christian Eckes. “The level of competition in series the last couple of years has been awesome. It’s a good fit for me at this stage in my career – I really feel I’m at the right place at the right time.”

“It’s especially nice knowing next year’s plan so early – it allows me to concentrate my efforts 100% on racing. The support I’ve received from my sponsors, Venturini Motorsports and everyone at Toyota Racing is just incredible – I’m so thankful. I’m really proud to be a part of all this,” added Eckes.

Quietly emerging as one the top driver prospects in the country, Eckes is also recognized within the Toyota Racing Development family under the TD2 program, featuring the talented teen as part of their official Toyota Development Driver lineup.

“Saying I’m proud and excited to welcome Christian back into the fold for next season is an absolute understatement,” says Billy Venturini, Co-owner and competition director at Venturini Motorsports.

“He walked into the shop last year with a fresh face and immediately went to work – in a short amount of time he’s done his part on and off the track to stand out among a crowded group of young drivers in the ARCA garage. He is a genuine kid and everyone on the team loves working with him. I see a ton of potential – Christian is one of those special drivers that comes along with a high ceiling and will continue to get better and ultimately move onto the next level.”

Despite only competing in a limited ARCA schedule over the last two seasons, Eckes, with 10 career starts under the Venturini Motorsports banner, has joined the conversation as one of the series’ top young rookies, evolving into a legitimate contender each and every week.

So far this season, in the midst of an abbreviated nine race season schedule driving the No.15 New York Bus Sales Toyota Camry for Venturini Motorsports, the high school honors student has strung together six-consecutive top-10 finishes in as many races. Highlighted with a runner-up finish at Elko Speedway, Eckes has notched three top-5’s and led an impressive 272-laps during his first six season starts.

Eckes with three-races remaining on his 2017 ARCA Series schedule will make his next appearance tomorrow night at Lucas Oil Raceway. After Indianapolis he will rejoin the team at Winchester Speedway on August 6 and complete his year at Salem Speedway on September 9.

Follow Christian Eckes on social media by visiting @ChristianEckes on Twitter and Instagram, @ChristianEckesRacing on Facebook or visit his official website at www.ChristianEckesRacing.com.

VMS PR

Bad luck struck Raphaël Lessard at the Seekonk Speedway as the young driver from St-Joseph-de-Beauce was obliged to abandon mid-way during the 200-lap race. Raphaël called it a night at the 112th lap of the U.S. Pro-Stock/Super Late Model National Championship, a race recently added to his schedule. The Seekonk Speedway race was the first of two races in three days for Lessard this week.

Originally scheduled to take place last Wednesday, the race was postponed by a week due to rain in Seekonk. In any case, success was not on the agenda. The 16-year-old driver from St-Joseph-de-Beauce had two 100-lap segments ahead of him. Lessard started the race from 12th position despite a relatively good performance during the qualifications. A problem with his differential led Raphaël to complete the first 100 laps in P13. Seeing that the Toyota Camry #99 FRL Express/Toyota-TRD/JBL Audio prepared by David Gilliland Racing was not doing well, the team made every attempt to fix the issue during the pause between the two segments.

Resuming the race in 13th place for the second 100-lap segment, it was decided after the 12th lap that calling it quits was the only option. “The differential broke during the first half of the race, we tried to fix it during the break but it didn’t work,” explains a disappointed Lessard. “We opted to stop the car rather than taking the risk of damaging it further. I want to thank the team for their excellent work last Wednesday and today. I have no doubt that we will win in North Carolina!”

The Toyota Development Program (TRD) driver was racing a teammate's car tonight in order for the team to have Lessard's regular car ready for the next race to be held July 21-22, for the CARS Tour's Mid-Atlantic Classic race in Rougemont, North Carolina.

RLR PR

Lucas Oil Raceway located in Brownsburg, Ind., is the site for this weekend's ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards (ARS) Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200. MDM Motorsports will field two entries in the competition with drivers Michael Self and Sheldon Creed.

Self will return to the seat of the No. 28 Chevrolet with sponsorship from Sinclair Oil Corporation. Creed will return to the No. 12 United Rentals Toyota sporting the Davey Allison ARCA throwback scheme. MDM Motorsports has scored three ARS wins this season. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver, Justin Haley scored the victory in the General Tire 200 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on May 6. Current NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (NKNPSE) championship points leader Harrison Burton, scored the victory in the Menards 200 at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway on May 21. NASCAR XFINITY Series regular Brandon Jones won the June 16, ARS Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan International Speedway.
 
Michael Self, driver of the Sinclair No. 28... Self, an accomplished road racer, currently racing full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (NKNPSW), will make his fourth ARS start of the season. He has two top-five finishes in three starts driving the No. 28 Sinclair Chevrolet. The Utah native sits sixth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West point standings despite missing the first race of the season.
 
Self on Lucas Oil Raceway: "I'm looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the No. 28 Sinclair Chevrolet at Lucas Oil Raceway this weekend," said Self. "It is one of those tracks that always puts on a great show. Being behind the wheel of an MDM Motorsports car is exciting. They have been on a roll all year long. We'll be looking to take Dino to victory lane on Friday night. I can't wait to get on track."
 
Sheldon Creed, driver of the United Rentals No. 12... Creed, the two-time Speed Energy Stadium Super Truck Champion, will pilot the No. 12 United Rentals Toyota this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway looking to improve on a career-best ARS weekend at Iowa Speedway where the 19-year-old driver led 11 laps en route to a third-place finish. He backed that performance up in the NKNPSE event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 16, finishing fifth. Creed will travel to Lucas Oil Raceway after competing in the Eldora Dirt Derby 150 on July 19.
 
Creed on Lucas Oil Raceway: "Lucas Oil Raceway is one of those tracks that you hear really good things about," said Creed. "The ARCA Racing Series goes to some very cool short tracks, and I think this is one for sure. As a team, we have really started to pick it up. The speed has been there all season, but finally our results are starting to show that. I'm excited to get on track and see what we have."
 
The Sioux Chef PowerPEX 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway is scheduled for 9 p.m., ET and will be broadcast live on FS1.
 
MDM Motorsports PR

With the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season reaching the halfway point, Cunningham Motorsports drivers Shane Lee and Dalton Sargeant have experienced a dramatic first 10 races, ranging from visits to victory lane, General Tire Pole Awards and career-best finishes. Now looking ahead to Lucas Oil Raceway, a track where Cunningham claimed a win last year, Lee and Sargeant go into the Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 keeping in mind what they’ve already accomplished but not forgetting what they still hope to achieve during the second half of the 2017 season.

In the first 10 races of the year, Lee started off strong earning a career best finish with third-place in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. The 24-year-old has since collected four top-five finishes as well as one General Tire Pole Award, but hopes that Lucas Oil (LOR) can bring him his first win of his ARCA career.

“We’ve had some bumps along the way, but we’ve also had some really strong runs,” said Lee. “Those strong runs show the potential that this 22 team has and I have some pretty high hopes for the rest of the year. I think over the past 10 races I’ve grown a lot as a driver…I’ve become more comfortable going into places that I’ve never been to and Paul (Andrews) and I have worked really well together. Even though we’ve had a few races that haven’t gone our way, we’ll put those behind us and move on to Lucas Oil and hopefully we’ll be able to get this No. 22 Big Tine Ford Fusion a win and start the last half the season off right.”

Teammate Sargeant has also received accolades for his performance during the first 10 races, coming away with two wins, five top-five finishes and his first General Tire Pole Award of his career. Sargeant’s second half checklist, though, contains earning more wins while focusing on consistency.

“I’m pretty happy with the first half of the season,” said Sargeant. “There are a lot of expectations that come with driving the 77 car after last year’s championship run and I’ve still got a lot of work to do to fulfill those expectations. We’ve had two good wins so far this season and while the goal every week is to win, consistency is also key to staying up in the championship points and that’s something I want to work on as well. Getting that last win at Iowa was definitely good for momentum and team morale and I think we’ll have a shot at defending another Cunningham win this week with our No. 77 Big Tine Ford Fusion.”

Sargeant and Lee were both able to get familiar with the track during a test last Sunday. Lee took his first laps around the .686-mile oval, while Sargeant got reacquainted with the track he raced on last year.

“I think the test went pretty good,” said Lee. “Anytime we test at these places, it gives us a chance to pick up on small details and really work on how we want the car set up. I’ve never raced at Lucas Oil so to be able to test during the day and into the night was extremely valuable. I really like the track so far and I’m excited to get to the race Friday.”

The Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 will kick off with practice from 12:15-2 p.m. followed by General Tire Pole Qualifying at 5. The 150-lap feature is slated for a 9 p.m. start and will air live on FS1. All times are local (Eastern).

Keep up with Cunningham Motorsports on Facebook and Instagram (@CunninghamRace) and on Twitter (@Cunningham_Race). Head to www.cunninghamrace.com for more news. You can follow Shane and Dalton on social media as well. Follow Shane on Facebook and Twitter (@ShaneLeeRacing) and on Instagram (@Shane_Lee00). Follow Dalton on Facebook (@DaltonSargeantRacing) and Twitter and Instagram (@DaltonSargeant).

Big Tine is manufactured in Rockville, IN and was introduced to the market in 2010. Big Tine is the only feed supplement on the market that utilizes the power of Whitetail InstitutesTM 30-06 mineral and vitamin supplement for year-round support management of a healthy, flourishing herd. For more information on Big Tine, products or where to buy visit us at www.bigtine.com on Facebook @BigTine and on Instagram @BigTineOfficial.

Cunningham Motorsports PR

International race teams and Pro-Am driver lineups have been part of the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida throughout each event’s long and storied history.

 

Through a new incentive program confirmed by the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), the “36 Hours of Florida” may see an uptick in both categories in 2018. Teams with Pro-Am driver lineups in the Prototype class at Daytona and Sebring will be eligible for the Trueman Pro-Am Team Endurance Award, recognizing the highest-finishing LM P2 Pro-Am lineup in each race.

 

The Trueman Pro-Am Team Endurance Award winners will receive Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watches at the Rolex 24 to commemorate their achievement, and will receive specifically designed trophies for the Trueman Pro-Am Team Endurance Award at Sebring. These teams also will compete head-to-head for overall race victories in the Prototype class against world class Daytona Prototype international (DPi) and LM P2 race teams*.

 

The season-long Jim Trueman Award, which recognizes the top-finishing Pro-Am team entrant in the Prototype class with an automatic invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, still applies.  

 

The International Team Incentive Program is open to all new IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship entrants in the Prototype and GT Daytona (GTD) classes competing in the Rolex 24 and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The program offers each eligible team the following:

 

  • Discounted premium entry fees
  • Fuel credit of $1,000 per event
  • Continental Tire credit of two free sets for Daytona and one for Sebring
  • Two free hospitality passes for each event (WeatherTech Paddock Club or equivalent)
  • Travel benefits from IMSA partners and Chateau Elan Hotel Sebring discounted room rates

 

Eligible teams for the International Team Incentive Program include any internationally based team that did not enter and compete in 2016 or 2017 events at Daytona or Sebring.

 

“If you’re an international team or driver who regularly races an LM P2 or GT3 car, this program is tailor made for you.” said IMSA President Scott Atherton. “For those already considering the possibility of competing in the 36 Hours of Florida, which represents two of the world’s most prestigious endurance races, these new incentives could provide the additional boost needed to make that commitment.”

 

*Should a Trueman Pro-Am Team achieve the overall victory at the Rolex 24 At Daytona only one watch will be awarded to each winning driver.

On July 8,  motorcycle racing fans from around the world walked onto the 2.238-mile racing circuit in honor of the late Nicky Hayden, who won his first ever MotoGP race in 2005 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. More than 800 visitors joined together after the second day of racing and raised a total of $4,015. All proceeds go directly to the Nicky Hayden Memorial Fund that will benefit charities in Hayden’s hometown of Owensboro, Kentucky.

 
The track walk was part of the myriad activities at the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship GEICO Motorcycle U.S. Round that features MotoAmerica Honda Championship of the Monterey Peninsula.
 
Earlier in the day, the Hayden family was present to receive a special commemoration from California State Senator Bill Bonning, which was presented by Monterey County Supervisor, and seventh generation Kentuckian, Mary Adams. The large number of Nicky “The Kentucky Kid” Hayden fans who swelled around the Paddock Stage came to show their respect for their American racing hero.
 
“Nicky was very near and dear to us at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca,” commented Gill Campbell, CEO and general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “His infectious smile and enthusiasm for the sport, and especially for the fans, will always be with us.”
 
The Nicky Hayden Memorial Fund was set up by his family to help local children in his hometown. For additional information or to make a contribution, please visit https://cflfund.net/netcommunity/hayden

The goal entering the 20th annual NHRA Route 66 Nationals for the U.S. Army Racing tandem of Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher and Antron Brown was to continue their five-year run of Chicago success. Despite a valiant effort by Brown aboard the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), the winning streak came to an end at five when he lost Sunday’s NHRA Mello Yello Racing Series Top Fuel final by .0055 seconds to Steve Torrence at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois.

 

“The Sarge” raced the U.S. Army Dragster for DSR to Route 66 wins in 2003, 2005, 2008, 2013 and 2015 and was looking to become the first six-time Chicago winner in Top Fuel, but had his hopes for victory dashed in the first round.

 

It was a homecoming weekend for Schumacher at Route 66 Raceway. The Chicago native now calls Austin, Texas home, but after spending more than 40 years of his life in the Windy City, the eight-time Top Fuel world champion was looking forward to some home cooking at the state-of-the-art facility. He and his U.S. Army team led by crew chief Mike Green and assistant crew chief Phil Shuler were positioned in the top half of the ladder after qualifying fifth with Friday night’s impressive run of 3.758 seconds at 325.37 mph. A solid qualifying run Saturday afternoon provided the team a template to follow in Sunday’s opening round that started just after 12 noon local time.

 

Schumacher and Blake Alexander were the seventh pair to race in the first round and Alexander pulled off a stunning upset in the first-ever meeting between the two. He earned a holeshot triumph after clocking an .020-second reaction time and his pass of 3.9540 seconds at 301.54 mph was enough to hold off Schumacher, who posted a lap of 3.883 seconds at 306.26 mph, following his .114 at the tree.

 

“That was a terrible way to end a weekend at home,” said Schumacher. “The game has always been a timing thing and you can push blame off or make excuses, but ultimately it comes back to me. I had a terrible light. I thought he red lit, but I still should of had a much better light. The bottom line is that I need to get better. I need to do a better job and the car needs to run faster. As a team, we just have to be better and I have all the confidence that we will get it together. I am surrounded by an incredible group of people and this U.S. Army team will be ready when we show up on the mountain in a couple weeks. This sport makes you adapt and overcome so that’s the only option we have. There are still a lot of rounds to win and a championship to contend for. I’ve got from now until we get to Denver to work on getting better and I know I won’t be the only member of the U.S. Army Racing team showing up with a chip on their shoulder.”

 

Chicago feels like a second hometown for Brown because of the relationship he has with the Schumacher family. And he’s owned Route 66 Raceway the past few years. When asked to describe what it’s like to compete in the one-of-a-kind stadium-like facility, the former Pro Stock Motorcycle champion compared it to being what the old gladiators felt like. He looked the part through his run to the final starting with his triumph over Doug Kalitta in the opening round. Brown posted a lap of 3.776 seconds at 322.42 mph to defeat Kalitta and followed that with a pass of 3.853 seconds at 305.29 mph to knock out fellow DSR driver and three-time 2017 Top Fuel winner Leah Pritchett. In the semifinal, he laid down another consistent lap of 3.784 seconds at 325.53 mph to defeat recent winner Clay Millican and advance to his sixth final of 2017.

 

In the final, Brown was able to leave on Torrence with a .046-reaction time, but his pass of 3.786 seconds at 326.08 mph wasn’t enough to hold off Torrence’s lap of 3.779 seconds at 326.71 mph. Brown has three career Top Fuel wins at Route 66 (2012, 2014, and 2016) and now a pair of runner-up finishes (2009 and 2017). The three-time and reigning Top Fuel champion raced with a heavy heart this weekend following the passing of long-time DSR benefactor Terry Chandler earlier last week.

“This race was for Miss Terry (Chandler),” said Brown. “We just wanted to race hard and it would have been nice to win again here in Chicago where we have had so much success. Our hearts go out to the Chandler and Gray families. I wish we could have brought this win home for them, but she’s up there smiling down on us and I’m going to smile right now. That was just a great drag race. We were trying to step it up. The track got better and just ate it up a little bit. The good thing is our Matco Tools/U.S. Army car is definitely on the right track and we’re coming. Hopefully once we get it, we won’t let up. We ran well today. Hats off to Steve and his team. They earned it today. The Western Swing is coming and we’re hungry right now.”

 

After 13 of 24 events on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour for 2017, the top-10 drivers in the Top Fuel class are:

1. Steve Torrence (1168 points)

2. Leah Pritchett (1,087 points, -101)

3. Antron Brown (1,085 points, -103)

4. Tony Schumacher (894 points, -294)

5. Doug Kalitta (813 points, -375)

6. Brittany Force (795 points, -393)

7. Clay Millican (773 points, -415)

8. Terry McMillen (509 points, - 679)

9. Scott Palmer (496 points, -692)

10. Troy Coughlin, Jr. (480 points, -708)

 

Round 14 for the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competitors is the 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway near Denver July 21-23. FS1’s will broadcast live coverage of qualifying Friday, July 21 at 8 p.m. EDT and FOX network will provide live coverage of eliminations Sunday, July 23 beginning at 3 p.m. EDT.