POMONA, Calif. – Antron Brown is set to defend the 2012 NHRA Top Fuel world championship that he and his Matco Tools team won when they were at Southern California’s Auto Club Raceway last November.

The popular driver also knows he has to be patient. The team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald have a few new crew members and a new dragster that features the enclosed safety canopy designed by Don Schumacher Racing and manufactured by Aerodine Composites of Indianapolis.

But there’s nothing shabby about earning the No. 4 qualifying spot for Sunday’s championship eliminations of the NHRA Winternationals, especially in what is the quickest ever Top Fuel field.

Antron’s best run was Friday with a time of 3.768 seconds and the event’s top speed of 328.14 mph. The best the Matco team could muster Saturday on two runs was a 3.841 (319.98).

“It’s not what we wanted to run. We were trying to run a .74 or .75,” he said. “The car took off from the starting line really well but it labored down the track, so we’ll have to take a look and see what happened.

“The weekend’s been OK, it’s just that we’re trying to get after it, and if you don’t get the clutch working right, you’re not going to go fast.”

But the temperature forecast for Sunday is in the high 60s, and that will be at least 10 degrees cooler than what teams have experienced so far in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season-opener.

“We kept our car aggressive because tomorrow’s going to be really cool. With the cooler weather coming, the car will make more power and that’s what it needs right now to wear the clutch in. You have to have a lot of engine to wear the clutch. Let’s see what happens Sunday.”



No. 1 qualifier: Tony Schumacher (DSR), 3.753 seconds, 328.14 mph (Saturday)


Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster

Qualified: No. 4

First-round opponent: Larry Dixon


Session 1: 3.834 sec., 322.19 mph


Session 2: 3.768, 328.14


Session 3: 6.451, 98.56

Session 4: 3.841, 319.98



A year ago at Winternationals: Qualified No. 4; lost to Spencer Massey in championship round.

Career at Winternationals: Wins 0; Runner-ups 2 (2012, 2009); poles 2 (2009, 2008)



Sunday: Championship eliminations: 11 a.m.


ESPN2 SCHEDULE: (All times PT)

Sunday: Eliminations (delayed), 5-8 p.m.



Sunday: High 69, 0 percent chance of rain