TOPEKA, Kan. (May 18, 2013) – No driver spends more time with the fans at a Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event than current NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown.

Win or lose, qualify No. 1 or DNQ, Brown is most often found near the crowd at the edge of his Matco Tools pit area mingling with the loyal NHRA fans, and there’s no place the 39-time NHRA winner is more comfortable.

“When you go out there with the fans, that’s what makes our sport,” Brown said after qualifying sixth Saturday at Heartland Park Topeka. “It helps me because it keeps my mind off a lot of stuff. If you focus on everything you do with the racecar like 24/7 you start overthinking things and start doing the wrong thing.

“It gives me a break in the action from all the duties I have with the car. It feels good to socialize and talk with people who share the same passion for the sport I love so much. You remember a lot of faces. It’s hard for me to remember all their names. I’m not that good. There are a lot of names.”

Even when Brown’s Matco Tools dragster is temperamental and doesn’t perform like crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald expect, the most recent winner on tour doesn’t worry having won 21 of his 23 Top Fuel races with Corradi and Oswald in his corner.

After a posting a provisional lap of 3.803-seconds, good enough for the sixth best run on Friday, the Matco team struggled on Saturday in conditions that should have allowed them to improve.

“That last run we were trying to go for it,” Brown said. “We actually hurt the engine on the first run of the day, so it was nowhere near what we were looking for. And that last run we really didn’t back off the car. We were trying to run a high (3.70). About a .79, .80 is what the track had and we were trying for a .77. Our car was trying to make it up and go, but at about 250 feet it just peeled them up.”

Brown, who earned the pole at Heartland Park last May, didn’t venture far from his Matco Tools rail. He was in his familiar spot after the fourth qualifying session, at the ropes mixing it up with the Kansas fans signing autographs and posing with them for pictures. Probably the same place he’ll be before Sunday’s first round of final eliminations that are scheduled for 11 a.m. (CT).

“We’re in a good position,” Brown said. “Tomorrow, we’ll just go back to what we know. Depending on what the weather does, we’ll just take it one round at a time and try to gradually do it like we did at last Saturday when we won at Atlanta. We’ll go out in the first round and try and run a decent number. And then we’ll just make adjustments per round after seeing what we need.”

The following are Brown’s qualifying results and other notes:

No. 1 qualifier: Shawn Langdon (Al-Anabi Racing) 3.767 sec., 322.50 mph

Antron Brown, Matco Tools
Qualifying position: No. 6
First-round opponent: Leah Pruett

Session 1: 4.624 sec., 166.81 mph
Session 2: 3.803, 316.15
Session 3: 3.883, 312.50
Session 4: 5.047, 140.62

Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 a.m. (CT)

Sunday: 8-11 p.m. (ET) delayed

Sunday: High 88; 60 percent chance of scattered, strong storms