CONCORD, N.C. – The first event in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoff is not when Antron Brown expected his Aaron’s Dream Machine/Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster to have one of its worst qualifying positions of the year.

Brown and the Don Schumacher Racing team will start championship eliminations from the No. 10 qualifying position when racing begins at noon in the NHRA Nationals at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s zMAX Dragway at Concord, N.C.

That means the top seed for the Countdown in the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series will not have his choice of lanes when he opens the event against Khalid alBalooshi of Al-Anabi Racing who did not qualify for the Countdown.

“We qualified for the first race in the Countdown. One step is out of the way and now it’s time to race,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a great race. Khalid alBalooshi has been running good all weekend long, so we have a tough matchup, but it looks like everybody does. We’ll go out there and be poised and can’t slip-up on our game.

“It’s all about the guys on this Aarons/Matco Tools/U.S. Army team. They are shedding their blood, sweat and tears on this car. Our team is just incredible. When the chips get down against us, these are the guys I want to go into battle with. We’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

It also might not help Brown’s early Countdown cause that his teammates – Spencer Massey and Tony Schumacher who are qualified second and third respectively – are in the same bottom half of the 16-car eliminations bracket. If Brown and Massey win their first-round race, they will meet in the second round and could face Schumacher in the semifinals.

“We ran really consistent today” he said after his last run Saturday, which at 3.861 seconds at 319.22 mph was his best of the weekend.

“The last run we shredded the blower belt, and that’s why we slowed down a little bit. The car is looking good. Now we’re back in the groove again, so tomorrow we can go out there and focus on each round and take it one round at a time.

“We’re right there on the pace where everybody else is running. All we need to do is step it up a little bit more and we should be right there where we need to be.”

The following are Brown’s qualifying results and other notes:

Antron Brown, Aaron’s Dream Machine/Matco Tools dragster
Qualified: No. 10
First-round opponent: Khalid alBalooshi

Session 1: 4.393 sec., 207.08 mph
Session 2: 4.913, 152.06
Session 3: 3.865, 318.69
Session 4: 3.861, 319.22

SUNDAY: Championship eliminations, Noon

ON ESPN2 (times are ET, delayed)
SUNDAY: Qualifying, 2 p.m.; Eliminations, 8:30 p.m.

SUNDAY: High 79 degrees; 40 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms