BROWNSBURG, Ind. – Antron Brown has more on the line Sunday then defending his Top Fuel title in the prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis.

Winning the U.S. Nationals or any other title is every driver’s goal at the start of an NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, but Brown and Don Schumacher Racing’s Matco Tools team also wants to leave the track as the No. 1-ranked team heading to the six-event Countdown to the Championship that begins next weekend at zMAX Dragway at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Brown, who lives in nearby Pittsboro, qualified No. 3 after the second weekend of the rain-delayed U.S. Nationals on the strength of a career-best time of 3.762 seconds at 322.50 mph.

“We’ve almost ran as quick before, but to do it with our new car is what’s the the big deal,” Brown said. “The track was tight and to go out there and run like we did now gets you amped up and pumped up for race day.

“It’s a good feeling and it gives you a little confidence booster going into tomorrow, which we know is going to be a big day. This is the U.S. Nationals, the biggest race of the year.

“It’s almost good that we didn’t have a weekend off because now we’ll go into the Countdown without being rusty,” Brown said. “The four races after Indy will be crucial in the fight for the championship. This weekend is getting us back on our toes so we can hit our stride next weekend hard and running.”

Brown spent the past week working around his home and has a blister on one hand as proof that he thatched his yard.

Brown will start championship eliminations with a 55-point lead over teammate Spencer Massey, who is qualified No. 2.

“This is what we live for and what this whole team lives for. We all share the same passion and determination. It’s going to be a lot of fun tomorrow. That’s why I’ve got this smile on my face, because going into tomorrow knowing that I got, in my eyes and my feeling, the best team out there. We’re just going to come out and do what we do and go have fun. We’ll see where the chips fall and hopefully be able to go some rounds, be competitive and go for a win. That’s our main focus to come out of here with another U.S. Nationals win.”

“It is important to Brown and Matco team to hold the points lead because points will be reset at 10-point increments after Sunday for the top-10 drivers qualifying for the Countdown to the Championship that will be contested over the last six events of the season. The points leader after Indy, which is the 17th event of the year, gets a 20-point bonus.

“It’s really important. It’s easy to lose a championship by less than 20 points. Our goal is to get every point we can get and we hope at the end of the season we have enough to win the it.”

But first things first.

“This is the U.S. Nationals, and everybody wants to win this race. Trust me, we know how good that feels and our Matco team wants to feel it again.”

No. 1 qualifier: Shawn Langdon (Al-Anabi Racing), 3.740 sec., 326.48 mph.

Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster
Qualified: No. 3
First-round opponent: T.J. Zizzo

Session 1: 3.844 sec., 319.37 mph
Session 2: 3.851, 317.42 (first-round loss in Shootout)
Session 3: 3.807, 322.34
Session 4: 4.850, 158.56
Session 5: 3.762, 322.50

Sunday: 11 a.m., Championship eliminations

ON ESPN2 (all times ET)
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 3-8 p.m.

Sunday: high 74; mostly sunny; 10 percent chance of rain