BROWNSBURG, Ind. – Antron Brown is one man from New Jersey who loves the Gulf Coast shores.
It’s not the seafood his taste buds yearn for, but he admits he loves the food around Houston and New Orleans, especially Cajun.
The Indiana resident has good reasons to feel like he’s home when he races in the NHRA Spring Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway this weekend near Galveston Bay at Baytown, Texas.
For one, Brown, 36, won his first Top Fuel national event title in 2008 at the track near Houston.
But what makes the region most special to him is that it’s where he met his wife, Billie Jo, a native of Gheen, La., which is about an hour southwest of New Orleans.
The NHRA track in Englishtown, N.J., is where he grew up with drag racing, and the home of the U.S. Nationals in Clermont, Ind., is only a few miles from here he currently lives in Pittsboro, Ind.
But he also considers the Texas track one of his three “home” tracks.
“I’ll have a lot of relatives there this weekend, but Billie Jo won’t be able to go,” Brown said. “But I know a lot of her family is coming down for the race so it will be a fun time.”
Brown, who is ranked third in Top Fuel points with one of his 32 NHRA national event titles earned this season, will race at the track for the 14th consecutive year.
In addition to winning the Top Fuel title in 2008, he was runner-up in 2010 in Top Fuel and in 2004 on a Pro Stock Motorcycle. He was the No. 1 qualifier with his dragster in 2009 and on the motorcycle in 2001.
“You’re used to going there and you’re comfortable,” he said of factors that have contributed to his success.
“And having family there just puts you in a relaxed zone, and it takes some of the pressure off that I put on myself. You’re not just going out there to race, but you’re also going there to have fun. I don’t get bogged down with as much of the pressure that’s out there all the time.”
Brown with crew chiefs Mark Oswald and Brian Corradi have been the hottest Top Fuel team in the NHRA Full Throttle Series over the past 15 events going back to the 2011 season.
In that span, his Matco Tools dragster has won five event titles and advanced to the championship round nine times.
After winning the Top Fuel title near Phoenix in the third event of this season, mechanical problems might have affected his chances in the last two championship rounds.
“We’ve been struggling a little, and we’ve still been getting to the finals,” Brown said. “We’re actually having a lot of things hit us and we’re still winning rounds.
“Our program is very strong. Now we have to start hitting on all eight cylinders for the rest of the season and peak at the right time so we can fend for the championship.”
So far, his stiffest competition is coming from his DSR teammates that rank 1-2-3 in the current standings. Spencer Massey, who has won three of five titles this year, is first followed by seven-time Top Fuel world champ Tony Schumacher, who is ranked second.
CREW CHIEFS GONE FISHIN’
While Brown remained at his Pittsboro, Ind., home with Billie Jo and their three children, the “brain trust” of the Matco Tools team were secluded somewhere in a Louisiana bayou preparing for the sixth race of the year.
That’s only partially true.
Corradi, who lives in Ohio, and assistant crew chief Brad Mason, spent the week at Oswald’s fishing camp near Houma, La.
Oswald moved from Ohio about 25 years ago when he drove a legendary Funny Car owned by Paul Candies and Leonard Hughes, who were from Houma. Oswald won the 1984 NHRA Funny Car championship as a driver of the Candies & Hughes car.
BROWN AT HOUSTON
2011: Qualified fifth; lost in second round.
Career: Wins (1) 2008; runner-ups (2) 2004 (Pro Stock Motorcycle), 2010; poles (2), 2001 (PSM), 2009.
NHRA FULL THROTTLE STANDINGS
(through April 15; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in BOLD)
1. Spencer Massey, 465 (3)
2. Tony Schumacher, 443
3. Antron Brown, 438 (1)
4. Morgan Lucas, 384 (1)
5. Shawn Langdon, 294
FULL THROTTLE EVENT SCHEDULE
FRIDAY: 3:30 p.m., 6 p.m., Qualifying
SATURDAY: 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., Qualifying
SUNDAY: 11 a.m., Championship Eliminations
SATURDAY: 5-7 p.m. (EDT), Qualifying coverage (delayed)
SUNDAY: 7-10 p.m. (EDT), Championship Eliminations (delayed)