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Brown, Matco Tools might need to clear teammate hurdles to defend Top Fuel title at NHRA Southern Nationals

COMMERCE, Ga. – Antron Brown warmed up Saturday to defend his Top Fuel title in the NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

Warming up wasn’t much of a challenge on a hot, muggy Georgia day.

But regardless of ambient temperature, it will really heat up for the New Jersey native on Sunday.

Brown, the current Top Fuel points leader in his Matco Tools dragster, qualified fifth for Sunday’s championship eliminations at the track located about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta and is one of three Don Schumacher Racing drivers qualified in the top five.

Through six NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events, Brown and DSR teammates Spencer Massey and Atlanta No. 1 qualifier Tony Schumacher have been nearly unbeatable to those outside the super team, which means their losses have mostly have been to teammates.

Brown, Massey and Schumacher have combined for an eliminations record of 42-14 and 11 of those 14 loses have been to each other.

“I’m telling you, NHRA Top Fuel racing is tough but the toughest part is having to race our DSR teammates,” said Brown, who lost to Massey’s Prestone/FRAM dragster in three championship rounds this season.

And if each wins their first-round battles on Sunday, they will meet in the second round as they did last Sunday in Houston.

And that winner would meet Schumacher, who is trying to win a title for the first time in 29 events and first at Atlanta, if the seven-time world champion wins his first two races.

“You know, that’s just how qualifying works,” Brown said. “It just happened that we ended up in the top half of the (elimination) ladder.

“But to be the best, you have to beat the best and that usually means racing a DSR teammate.”

Brown, who has won titles four times at Atlanta, beat Schumacher a year ago in the championship round and in 2008.

Spencer Massey has won three of the six previous event titles this season and Brown has won one (Phoenix).

Temperatures in the mid-80s and relative humidity hovering around 60 percent held down performances Saturday and a similar forecast is for Sunday.

The following are qualifying results and other DSR notes:

TOP FUEL

No. 1 qualifier: Tony Schumacher (3.815 sec.-track record, 322.58 mph)

Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster

Qualifying position: No. 5

FRIDAY

Session 1: 3.885 sec., 317.34 mph

Session 2: 3.842, 323.19

SATURDAY

Session 3: 3.913, 279.27

Session 4: 3.919, 308.14

NITRO SCHEDULE (all times EDT):

Sunday: 11 a.m., championship eliminations,

ON ESPN2 (all times EDT):

Sunday: 7-10 p.m., eliminations (delayed)

WEATHER.COM FORECAST:

Sunday: High of 86, 50 percent chance of rain with scattered thunderstorms

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