BROWNSBURG, Ind. – On a weekend when Antron Brown was winning the 32nd National Hot Rod Association national title of his career near Phoenix, his father and brother were accepting an award on the other side of the country that meant as much to him as the trophy he received at the track.
The most successful African-American racer in motor sports history and 35-year-old native of Chesterfield, N.J., was honored Saturday night (Feb. 18) at the second annual Circle of Achievement Awards Gala at New Brunswick, N.J. by the African-American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey Inc. for contributions to the community and accomplishments as an athlete.
The African-American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey is dedicated to economically empowering and sustaining African-American communities through entrepreneurship and capitalistic activities within the State of New Jersey and via interaction with the National Black Chamber of Commerce Inc.
“That was such a big honor,” said Brown, whose father Albert Brown Sr. and brother Albert Brown Jr., accepted the award for him. “That was not just an award for me, but for my whole family from my grandparents to my kids.”
Others receiving the honor Saturday at the Hyatt Regency were: Dr. George A. Pruitt, President, Thomas Edison State College; Paula Dow, New Jersey Attorney General; and Fredrick S. Humphries Jr., Vice President, U.S. Government Affairs, Microsoft Corporation.
“It is overwhelming just to have my named mentioned with those great people,” Brown said.
Brown, who lives near Indianapolis with his wife, Billie Jo, and their three children has won 16 titles in drag racing’s premier 325-mph Top Fuel Dragster category and before that he won 16 titles competing in the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Through his major sponsors Matco Tools, the U.S. Army and Aaron’s Inc. at Don Schumacher Racing Brown speaks each year to thousands of high school students about the merits of hard work, education and striving for greatness.
What made the honor event more important to Brown was it came during Black History Month.
“This is a special time of year for all Americans,” he said. “The others honored are trendsetters who helped change the face of African Americans, not just in New Jersey but throughout the country.
“Other people see what they have accomplished and say, ‘If they can do it then I can do it.’ I guess I’ve been a trailblazer too, but I never looked at it that way.
“You just put your head down and do the hard work.”
Brown is one of the most popular racers in NHRA drag racing, which although a prominently white sport has shared dragstrips across the country with men and women of all colors since it was founded in 1951.
He was a top sprinter for the Northern Burlington County High School where he graduated in 1994. He went on to graduate from Mercer County (N.J.) Community College where his times in the 100-meter dash were good enough to qualify for the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials. He also earned a full scholarship to Long Island University, but before he started classes or pursued the Olympics he opted for a chance to race on a Pro Stock Motorcycle for a new NHRA team owned by then-NFL defensive back Troy Vincent.
It was the fulfillment of a lifelong goal.
“Just being part of NHRA drag racing is a dream,” Brown said moments after winning the Top Fuel title in the NHRA Arizona Nationals on Feb. 19 at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler, Ariz.
“I look back to when I was a kid playing in the sand under the bleachers at Englishtown and Atco (dragstrips) in New Jersey and thinking, ‘Man, I wish I could race one of those nitro cars one day.’
“It was a big dream for me. My family was involved with racing (amateur) Sportsman cars. We weren’t into nitro racing. How could I ever get there?
“To get the opportunity I’ve gotten and to do it at Don Schumacher Racing … it gets no better than this.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION: ShoeRacing.com/drivers/antron-brown
About Don Schumacher Racing
Don Schumacher Racing, headquartered in Brownsburg, Ind., consists of seven professional NHRA teams: in Top Fuel, the U.S. Army dragster driven by seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher, the FRAM/Prestone dragster of Spencer Massey and the Matco Tools dragster of Antron Brown; and in Funny Car, 2011 NHRA Funny Car champion Matt Hagan in the Aaron’s Dream Machine/Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, Valvoline NextGen Dodge piloted by Jack Beckman, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge of Ron Capps and the Service Central Dodge of Johnny Gray. DSR has won 176 NHRA national event titles and nine world championships.