I have to begin with an apology. I ended last week's blog by saying I wouldn't be back with you until after the Gatornationals next month. Well, low and behold, I clearly was not accounting for this past Sunday's race at Firebird International Raceway, the Arizona Nationals, outside of Phoenix.
As it happens, it was not a pleasant weekend out in the Valley of the Sun for the U.S. Army Top Fuel team. We were taken out in the quarterfinals by Steve Torrence. Much like Larry Dixon did to me in Pomona, Calif., Steve beat me off the starting line and that spelled the difference in the race.
While I was clearly disappointed in the Arizona result, it was nothing compared to what my Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Antron Brown, had to endure. I'm sure by now most of you know Antron, who drives the Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster, was involved in a horrific crash during the opening round of final eliminations.
Just after Antron left the starting line in his match up with Troy Buff, the left rear tire/wheel on his car broke loose, which sent him into the wall in the opposite lane. Antron's car burst into flames and then slid along the wall for a bit before coming to a stop.
Fortunately, Antron was unhurt in the incident, but the same could not be said of a female spectator who was hit by the loose tire/wheel. Unfortunately, the woman lost her life after being transported to a local hospital.
It ended up being a tragic and emotional day for everyone at Firebird. My second-round loss was certainly put into perspective in a hurry. Frankly, it didn't matter what we had or hadn't done that afternoon. All we could think about was the woman and her family.
To that end, I believe it's important I convey the following statement my dad/team owner, Don Schumacher, put out on Tuesday:
"Don Schumacher Racing would like to offer its condolences to the family and friends of a woman who was fatally injured Sunday at the Arizona NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.
"On behalf of everyone at Don Schumacher Racing, I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the victim in Sunday's tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the woman. There are simply no words to adequately express our feelings, but we can assure you that we are conducting a thorough investigation to determine how this happened.
"Don Schumacher Racing is one of the leading advocates for safety in the NHRA and we will continue to be at the forefront of safety. Safety is and always has been our paramount concern. Therefore, we intend to do everything in our power to carefully investigate this matter as efficiently and thoroughly as possible. We ask for your patience and assure you that we will have more to report as information becomes available to us. In the meantime, we extend our sympathies and ask everyone to keep the victim in Sunday's tragedy, as well as her family and friends, in your thoughts and prayers."
I don't think there's a need to write much more. Please understand the NHRA family is hurting from this terrible incident and that will likely linger for quite some time.
"The Sarge" salutes you all. We'll see you in a couple of weeks after the "Gators" in Gainesville, Fla. Until then, stay well and please remember the victim at Firebird.