Matco’s Brown has Top Fuel world championship within reach but not downplaying threat from DSR teammates at Pomona
BROWNSBURG, Ind. – Antron Brown faces the biggest four days of his drag racing career this week at the Auto Club NHRA Finals season-finale at Pomona, Calif.
Brown and Don Schumacher Racing’s Matco Tools Top Fuel team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald will start Thursday qualifying with a 65-point lead over DSR’s Tony Schumacher and 70 points ahead of Spencer Massey, another teammate.
If Brown can hold on to his lead after Sunday’s championship eliminations, he will earn his first NHRA world championship and become the first African-American to win a major American auto racing season championship.
While Brown, 36, relishes the possibility of reaching that historically significant milestone that will enable him to further motivate young Americans to dream, set goals and work hard to achieve them, his priority is winning the coveted NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series championship for those closest to him.
That includes his DSR family and a dream of celebrating drag racing’s ultimate prize with his crew chiefs, assistant Brad Mason and his crew guys, who call themselves “The Wolf Pack.”
“I know with our lead that our future is in our own hands,” Brown said, “but I’m really not thinking beyond qualifying and then getting a chance to compete on Sunday when we’ll take it one round at time like we always do.
“But I’m so close with Brian, Mark, Brad and all our guys that it would be the greatest day ever at a racetrack to share winning a championship with them.”
Brown, 36, will be joined at Pomona by four generations of Browns including his wife, Billie Jo, their three children, his parents and uncle and grandmother, who bought him his first dirt bike when he was 4.
The native of Chesterfield, N.J., who resides outside of Indianapolis in Pittsboro, Ind., has won a series-best six NHRA event titles this year and has advanced to the championship round in 11 of 22 events.
It’s been feast or famine this year in NHRA’s six-event Countdown to the Championship playoff system. Through the first five Countdown events, Brown has won two event titles, was runner-up once but also lost in the first round twice. All three of his losses in the Countdown have been to Al-Anabi Racing’s Khalid alBalooshi.
At the most recent Full Throttle event two weeks ago at Las Vegas, he posted his worst qualifying effort – 13th – in 60 events dating to St. Louis in 2010, and lost in the opening round.
Brown and his team remained at Las Vegas the following day after correcting the gremlins and posted three runs between 3.89 and 3.84 seconds.
Brown arrived at Las Vegas with a 104-point but it was cut to 65 by the time he left.
“When we went out first round, it kind of took a little wind out of our sails because that’s the worst feeling in the world just to sit there and watch everybody else race and collect points,” Brown said.
At Las Vegas, Massey gained 20 points but lost in the second round. Schumacher advanced to the final round to move around Massey to second and went from 136 to 65 points behind Brown.
“We know how great our teammates are. We know how good they are, and to sit on the sidelines and watch them race and you’re out and you can’t do anything about it, everybody else was there with the drama just looking at us. I’d rather be out there racing with them and control my own destiny rather than looking at other people because to go against our teammates is like for somebody to beat them is very rare because of how great their cars are.
A year ago, Brown and the Matco Tools arrived at Pomona 14 points behind points leader Massey but lost in the second round. Massey lost in the semifinals to eventual world champion Del Worsham.”
But that was last year.
“This year we’re going in with a points lead,” Brown said. “I want to race. So we’ll go out there and try to qualify well, and I just want to be competitive throughout the whole race event and just continue to just go into race day taking it one round at a time like we did all year long, and that’s what we’re shooting for.”
ANTRON BROWN: Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
Standings: 1st (+65 points)
Career at Pomona: 3 (1999-Nov./Pro Stock Bike, 2009-Nov., 2010-Nov.), Runner-ups 2 (2001-Nov./-Pro Stock Bike, 2004-Nov./Pro Stock Bike), Poles 1 (2009-Nov.)
2012 Feb. at Pomona: Qualified No. 4, lost to Spencer Massey in final round
2011 Nov. at Pomona: Qualified No. 7, lost to Larry Dixon in second round
2012 Pts Races Titles Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
1st 22 6 5 3 0 49-16
Career Races Titles Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
260 37* 36 32 2 443-222
*21 Top Fuel
NHRA FULL THROTTLE STANDINGS
(Through Oct. 28, 2012; DSR drivers in CAPS)
TOP FUEL Pts. Pts. Behind
1. ANTRON BROWN 2,522 —
2. TONY SCHUMACHER 2,457 -65
3. SPENCER MASSEY 2,452 -70
4. Shawn Langdon 2,406 -116
*5. Brandon Bernstein 2,346 -176
*6. Doug Kalitta 2,309 -213
*7. Morgan Lucas 2,299 -223
*8. Steve Torrence 2,265 -257
*9. Bob Vandergriff 2,264 -258
*10. David Grubnic 2,225 -297
NHRA FULL THROTTLE EVENT: Auto Club NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif.
Thursday: Qualifying, 2 p.m.
Friday: Qualifying, 2 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, Noon, 3 p.m.
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 a.m.
WEATHER.COM FOR POMONA
(As of Noon Monday)
Thursday: High 69; 10 percent chance of rain
Friday: High 65, 20 percent chance of rain
Saturday: High 66, 20 percent chance of rain
Sunday: High 72, 0 percent chance of rain
Saturday: 10:30 p.m. EST, qualifying
Sunday: 7 p.m. EST, eliminations