CHANDLER, Ariz. – Getting within two round wins of an NHRA national event title normally makes for a good but not great Mello Yello Drag Racing Series weekend.
But considering where reigning Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown and his Matco Tools team were a week ago at Pomona, Calif., advancing to Sunday’s semifinal round was very satisfying.
Instead of picking up pieces and plotting how to get a racecar ready in the next five days like they were doing the previous Sunday after Brown walked away from a horrific crash at almost 300 mph, the team was cleaning a racecar after the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix.
Qualifying second Friday in the Arizona Nationals and advancing to the semifinals wasn’t too disappointing despite losing to Don Schumacher Racing and U.S. Army teammate Tony Schumacher.
Against Schumacher, Brown’s elapsed time of 3.752 seconds at 325.45 mph was quicker but Schumacher was quicker leaving the starting line that enabled his slightly slower 3.765 (327.82) to advance him to the final round where he won DSR’s 198th national event title.
“I’m just glad a DSR car won it all,” Brown said. “And with Ron (Capps) winning in Funny Car it made it a great weekend for (owner) Don Schumacher.”
Brown also was equally proud of what his Matco team accomplished.
“Anytime you can make it to the semifinals it’s a great weekend because you’re winning rounds,” Brown said. “I’m just so proud of my team for all the hard work they put in this week. We came out here with a brand new car, qualified second and ran low E.T. of the semifinals. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Immediately after the finals, Brown flew to San Diego to attend Matco’s annual National Business Conference expo before returning home to Pittsboro, Ind., until the next Mello Yello event March 14-17 at Gainesville, Fla.
“I’m just stoked to go back home, regroup and go back and work harder. We’ll come out in Gainesville focused and ready to fight that fight again. I’m looking forward to it.”
Event winner: Tony Schumacher (DSR)
No. 1 qualifier: Doug Kalitta (Kalitta Motorsports) 3.733 sec., 329.02 mph (track records)
Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster
Qualified: No. 2
SUNDAY CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATIONS
First round: BROWN (3.798 sec., 321.96 mph) def. Terry McMillen (4.752, 156.15) Second round: BROWN (3.786, 307.93) def. Leah Pruett (7.773, 81.33)
Semifinals: Tony Schumacher (3.765, 327.82) def. BROWN (3.752, 325.45)
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES
(Unofficial standings after 2 of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. TONY SCHUMACHER, 228
2. Shawn Langdon, 149
3. ANTRON BROWN, 148
4. Khalid alBalooshi, 131
5. Morgan Lucas, 124
6. David Grubnic, 112
7. Doug Kalitta, 103
8. SPENCER MASSEY, 100
9. Brandon Bernstein, 93
10. Larry Dixon, 86
NEXT EVENT: March 14-17, Gainesville, Fla.