POMONA, Calif. – Reigning NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown was a little shaken but able to walk away from an horrific crash after winning his second-round race Sunday afternoon in the NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.
Antron walked from the car and was taken to the track’s on-site medical center where he was released after being examined. About an hour later he met with media in the NHRA media center.
It appears an engine malfunction led to debris from the fiery explosion at nearly 300 mph destroying the rear wing. The result sent Brown’s Don Schumacher Racing dragster sliding on its side from the right lane, in which he raced, to the left lane after it crossed the finish line. Brown was going 308.64 mph when he crossed the finish line and moments before the engine exploded.
Brown backed into the concrete guardwall on the left side of the track with enough impact to do significant damage to the wall and delayed racing for about 1 hour, 28 minutes while it was being repaired.
The crash ended the day for the Matco Tools team. By NHRA rules, once eliminations begin on Sunday each driver must finish the event with the same car.
Antron recalled his wild ride:
“I’m good. I remember going to (the finish line). Everything was going fine. I didn’t hear anybody around me so I was, like, ‘We’re doing good.’ All of a sudden I just remember the car just snapping.
“Basically, when (the engine) blew up, I felt the back end come up and all I remember was going over on my side. And then I remember pulling the brakes and everything else and I couldn’t do anything else.
Antron’s beliefs in the DSR-designed safety canopy manufactured by Aerodine Composites were reinforced:
“The windshield is five-eighths-of-an-inch thick. Nothing got to me. When I hit the sand trap (at the end of the pavement), I saw stones flying all over the place, but I didn’t get dusty, nothing got into me. It really, really did its job.
“I remember turning the fresh air on because the (nitro) fumes were getting to me. Thank God that canopy is on our car because when we hit that sand trap it really kept everything away from me and the fire away from me.
“I can’t thank the NHRA Safety Safari enough because when I was upside-down, I already saw their truck pulled up by the sand pit. I saw the guys running out. They were able to lift my car up on its side a little bit. I was able to get my canopy open, and I undid my seatbelts myself and I got out.
“I’m just grateful we had that thing on our car because I don’t know what would’ve happened if we would’ve had (the old-style, open cockpit) setup on the front of the car.”
Brown and his Matco Tools team will compete next weekend in the NHRA Arizona Nationals near Phoenix.
Event winner: Shawn Langdon (Al-Anabi Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Tony Schumacher (DSR), 3.753 seconds, 328.14 mph (Saturday)
Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster
Qualified: No. 4
1st round: BROWN (3.855 sec., 293.60) def. Larry Dixon (3.881, 310.34) 2nd round: BROWN (3.848, 308.64) def. David Grubnic (4.976, 139.07)
Semifinals: BROWN forfeited to Tony Schumacher after Brown’s car destroyed in second-round crash
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
NEXT EVENT: NHRA Arizona Nationals, Firebird International Raceway, Phoenix
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES
(unofficial, after 1 of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS) TOP FUEL
1. Shawn Langdon, 116
2. TONY SCHUMACHER, 106
3. ANTRON BROWN, 77
4. Khalid alBalooshi, 74
5. Brandon Bernstein, 60
6. Doug Kalitta, 59
7. David Grubnic, 55
8. Steve Torrence, 53
9. SPENCER MASSEY, 34
10. Clay Millican, 33