ENNIS, Texas – Antron Brown and his Matco Tools/Aaron’s team were disheartened when they left North Carolina a week ago.
The team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s zMAX Dragway with the Top Fuel points lead to open the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
But an engine part that isn’t supposed to break did and that led to the Matco team losing the opening round of eliminations and rested in the fourth position when the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals started Friday at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas.
Bad luck a week ago, however, turned 180 degrees on Sunday when Brown and the Matco team caught some lucky breaks to advance to the championship round where they defeated Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey’s FRAM/Prestone team that have them tied for the championship lead with four races remaining in the Countdown.
It was the seventh time through 19 Full Throttle events this year that the championship round of eliminations was comprised of DSR teams, and 24th time since DSR has fielded more than one dragster that it occurred. It was the fourth time this year the combination was Brown and Massey with Brown winning the last two.
Brown won the close race that pulled him into a tie with Massey for the points lead in the Countdown to the Championship after the second of six events in the playoffs for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
In the first round, Brown’s Matco dragster lost traction but his opponent, David Grubnic, smoked his tires worse. A similar scenario happened in the second round against No. 1 qualifier Shawn Langdon. Brown’s best time in both wins was a subpar 4.126.
“This is definitely the way to rebound,” said Brown, who won his 20th Top Fuel title and 36th in NHRA pro categories.
“I have to give credit to my team for sticking together. We were winning in the first round in Charlotte when we broke an input shaft. It’s so easy to get down after something like that. We came here, and the car was throwing us fits by being overaggressive. Brian and Mark kept backing it off until they got a good handle on it in the semis.”
Temperatures in the mid-90s created a slick track but Corradi and Oswald were able to dial in a combination that produced Brown’s best times in the semifinals and final.
“In that final, we had to give it everything we had against the FRAM car,” said Brown, who beat Countdown contenders Grubnic, Langdon and Morgan Lucas in the first three rounds. “We edged them, and it felt really good to win and to tie for the points lead. We have four races left, and it’s going to be a slugfest to the end. Everybody’s throwing haymakers. It’s an all-out battle royal right now.”
The Texas track has been good to Brown in very strange ways. When he won his first NHRA title in 1999 in Pro Stock Motorcycle, he won each round when each of his four opponents were disqualified for leaving too quickly and recorded red-lights. That has only happened twice in NHRA history, both in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category.
The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series competes this week near St. Louis.
The following are Brown’s results and notes from the NHRA Fall Nationals near Dallas:
Event winner: Antron Brown (DSR)
No. 1 qualifier: Shawn Langdon (Al-Anabi Racing) 3.827 sec., 322.34 mph
Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster
Qualified: No. 8
Round 1: BROWN (4.151 sec., 238.93 mph) def. David Grubnic (5.342, 129.39)
Round 2: BROWN (4.126, 245.05) def. Shawn Langdon (4.229, 256.06)
Semifinals: BROWN (3.984, 303.50) def. Morgan Lucas (3.997, 280.25)
Finals: BROWN (3.898, 311.49) def. Spencer Massey (3.945, 300.60)
Session 1: 3.915 sec., 309.77 mph
Session 2: 3.862, 309.70
Session 3: 4.606, 167.51
Session 4: 3.948, 306.88
NHRA FULL THROTTLE STANDINGS
After second of six events in the Countdown to the Championship
(Unofficial through Sept. 23, 2012; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. ANTRON BROWN, 2,256
1. SPENCER MASSEY, 2,256
3. TONY SCHUMACHER, 2,232
4. Shawn Langdon, 2,215
5. Morgan Lucas, 2,173
6. Brandon Bernstein, 2,166
7. Doug Kalitta, 2,133
8. Steve Torrence, 2,126
9. Bob Vandergriff, 2,085
10. David Grubnic, 2,075
NEXT FULL THROTTLE EVENTS
Sept. 28-30, NHRA Midwest Nationals, Madison, Ill. (St. Louis area)
Oct. 4-7, NHRA Nationals, Reading, Pa. (Philadelphia area)
Oct. 25-28, Big O Tires NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas
Nov. 8-11, Auto Club of Southern California Finals, Pomona, Calif. (finale)