BROWNSBURG, Ind. – Racing at Gainesville, Fla., always provides special memories for Antron Brown even though he has never won there.
It’s due south from where he grew up in New Jersey so revisiting the East Coast always is special for him.
But most importantly, it’s where he first raced professionally in 1998 when he rode in the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle category. He didn’t qualify for the elimination rounds that year at Gainesville, but he went on to win 16 times on two-wheels before moving up to a Top Fuel Dragster in 2008.
“I always like going back to Gainesville. That’s where it all started for me,” he says. “It will always hold a special place in my heart.”
The one thing missing from Brown’s Gainesville resume is a national event title. He was runner-up once each in Pro Stock Motorcycle (2006) and Top Fuel (2010).
“I’ve come close to winning there. I just want to get to the final on Sunday and have a chance to get it done.”
When racing begins Friday in the NHRA Tire Kingdom Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com, Brown and his Matco Tools dragster will be the top-ranked team in Top Fuel and in a very good position to find the top of the winner’s podium.
The Matco team, which finished last season third in points, was a finalist in the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series opener at Pomona, Calif., where they lost to teammate Spencer Massey. Two weeks ago, the team won the event crown in the NHRA Arizona Nationals near Phoenix when they beat Tony Schumacher, another teammate, in the championship round.
The victory gave Brown his 16th Top Fuel event title and 32nd including those won on the motorcycle.
Brown arrives at Gainesville first in Top Fuel points, just ahead of Massey and Schumacher, who are second and third, respectively.
Brown, a 36-year-old resident of Brownsburg, is quick to credit crew chiefs Mark Oswald and Brian Corradi for this year’s success.
“Mark and Brian and the boys on the team have been putting in long hours. I like what I see in their eyes; the drive, the passion.
“They’re really digging deep. That puts a smile on my face.”
And being the points leader makes everyone on the Matco Tools team smile.
Previously at Gainesville
2011: Qualified No. 2; lost in second round to Del Worsham
Runner-up: 2010 (Tony Schumacher), 2006 (Pro Stock Motorcycle, Angelle Sampey)
NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING STANDINGS
(Through Phoenix; 2nd of 23 national events)
1. ANTRON BROWN, 212
2. TONY SCHUMACHER, 180
3. SPENCER MASSEY, 176
4. Morgan Lucas, 143
5. Shawn Langdon, 139
6. Clay Millican, 126
7. Steve Torrence, 89
7. Bob Vandergriff, 89
9. Brandon Bernstein, 85
9. Doug Kalitta, 85
Pro race schedule (all times EST)
Thursday: Kickoff party, 6:30-9 p.m., Gainesville Ale House (3950 Archer Road).
Friday: Nitro qualifying sessions, 12:30, 3 p.m.
Saturday: Nitro qualifying sessions, 12:30, 3 p.m.
** Spring forward 1 hour at 2 a.m. Sunday for Daylight Savings Time!
Sunday: Eliminations, 11 a.m.
About Matco Tools
Matco Tools manufactures, distributes and services premium quality automotive equipment, tools, and tool storage for the professional technician. The company has more than 60 years of national brand experience in the automotive equipment industry and a vast product line of more than 13,000 of the highest quality, innovative tools and accessories. The company’s franchise offering has no franchise, royalty, or advertising fees. Initial corporate and ongoing local training create and build outstanding value for the franchisee’s business. For more information on Matco Tools products or franchise opportunities, visit www.matcotools.com.