BROWNSBURG, Ind. – The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series should be approaching the dog days of summer, but after two sizzling-hot events during an unseasonably hot July teams feel like they’ve been racing in August at Death Valley.
That’s one reason why Antron Brown is looking forward to enjoying cool nights over the next three weeks.
Brown and his Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster team head west to begin the “Western Swing” of the Full Throttle series that starts this weekend with the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway near Denver.
The trip to Morrison, Colo., begins a grueling 4,705-mile trek for Don Schumacher Racing that includes four events over the next five weeks.
The Western Swing starts outside of Denver and continues the following two weeks with stops at Sonoma, Calif., and Kent, Wash. After a one-week break, the series resumes Aug. 16-19 at Brainerd, Minn.
“It’s just the atmosphere up there and the weather where it can be cool in the morning and at night before warming up in the afternoon,” Brown said of Denver.
“We build and train for the heat. I go back to the 2009 season when we swept the Western Swing and won all three titles. That was a marathon. You’re in the heat, traveling a thousand miles from race to race to race and the guys are away from home for three weeks.
“These guys go through the mill. When you see them working hard in tough conditions and they still get the job done without making mistakes … that’s the key. It’s that dedication that lets you win rounds of racing and get race wins.
“We all share the same passion. I believe that’s one reason why our team is always up there competing with the best teams.
“(The heat in Norwalk) was a great test before we go on the Western Swing and we will face a lot of challenges at those three races.”
At Norwalk, crew chiefs Mark Oswald and Brian Corradi just missed putting the Matco dragster on the pole by qualifying No. 2. After eliminating Morgan Lucas in the first round, Brown ran into Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey in the next round. Massey beat Brown and went on to win his series-best fourth title of the year.
“You never want to lose, but if you have to it might as well be to one of your teammates,” said Brown, who ranks third in Top Fuel points with two event titles.
Brown and his Matco team always want to win event trophies, but their approach to this year’s Swing is broader.
“The Western Swing helps us get ready for the Countdown,” he said of the six-event playoff at the end of the season that includes the top-10 drivers determined by the first 17 Full Throttle races.
“We need to keep focused and be more in line to be ready for the Countdown. We used to really hit the Western Swing hard, but we’ve learned it’s more important to prepare for those last six races than just worry about these three races.
“Don’t get me wrong, we always hit it hard and want to win every time we roll our Matco Tools dragster to the starting line. But we are working on things that might help us later in the season.
“We’re taking a brand new dragster the boys built back at the DSR shop to Denver to break it in. We have to keep working on getting better and get our mindset right to go on a championship run.”
And he won’t mind cooling off a little during the Swing provided it’s when he’s relaxing at night and not when he’s racing.
ANTRON BROWN: Matco Tools Top DSR dragster
Career at Denver: Wins 1 (2009); runner-ups 4 (Top Fuel – 2008; Pro Stock Motorcycle – 1999, 2001, 2005); poles 2 (TF – 2009; PSM – 2001)
2011 at Denver: Qualified No. 8; lost in semifinals to Spencer Massey
2012 Pts W Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
3rd 2 3 2 0 24-10
Career Races Titles Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
251 33* 34 31 2 418-216
(*17 Top Fuel)
DENVER NITRO SCHEDULE
THURSDAY: 6 p.m., Mopar Block Party, Downtown Golden, Colo.
FRIDAY: 5:30, 8 p.m., qualifying sessions
SATURDAY: 1:30, 4 p.m., qualifying sessions
SUNDAY: 11 a.m., championship eliminations
SATURDAY: 5-7 p.m. (ET), delayed
SUNDAY: 7-10 p.m. (ET), delayed