ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 2, 2013) – It was far from being the world championship homecoming Antron Brown wanted for his Matco Tools dragster.

If there is any solace, the Don Schumacher Racing team produced its best run of the 44th annual NHRA Toyota Summernationals on Sunday in the first round at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at Englishtown, N.J.

But his 3.87-second run at 315.49 mph wasn’t enough to beat Bob Vandergriff’s 3.849 at 316.90.

Brown’s quicker reaction time to start the race wasn’t able to overcome the quicker Vandergriff, whose winning margin was 0.0095 seconds.

“We went out and had our best pass of the weekend and lost,” Brown said. “That’s drag racing. Bob Vandergriff and his team put down a good number and we were just on the other end of a good drag race. We’ll go back and regroup.

“The good part is that our car is responding to what we want it to do. We didn’t run as good as we wanted it to, but the track just stole a little bit from us. It was better than we thought it was. What I see now is that our team is very confident. We got our confidence back where our car is repeating itself. We can get back to what we’re used to doing and that’s being confident in ourselves and running hard each and every lap. And you’ve got to be that way out here if you want to compete.”

An aggravating electrical issue has troubled the team for the past several races. It’s the second straight NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event when the Matco Tools team’s day ended in the opening round, and the second consecutive year it’s happened at Raceway Park, a track where Brown, a New Jersey native, went to races regularly as a youngster.

“The thing about this weekend is that we were just a run behind. We kept getting better and better. Sometimes you can be a run behind and sneak up on it. In eliminations you can get good, but you have to get past that first round.”

This weekend was Brown’s first trip to Raceway Park since winning the NHRA Top Fuel world championship last season.

“It was great to see so many of my old friends,” he said. “I just wish we could have done better for them.

“Brian and Mark have got this sorted out and we’ll be ready in a couple weeks when we get to Bristol.”

Brown was hoping for two Summernationals Wally trophies to leave with his family. His father, Albert, and uncle, Andre, own a Super Comp dragster. Andre drove it to the semifinals of NHRA Lucas Oil Sportsman eliminations on Sunday but fell two rounds short.

The Mello Yello series will take next weekend off before heading to Bristol Dragway for the June 14-16 Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee.

The following are Brown’s results from the Summernationals:

Event winner: Shawn Langdon (Al-Anabi Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Clay Millican (Bob Vandergriff Racing), 3.792 sec., 321.27 mph

Antron Brown, Matco Tools
Qualifying position: No. 11

First round: Bob Vandergriff (3.849 sec., 316.90 mph) def. BROWN (3.871, 315.49)

Session 1: 4.024 sec., 283.55 mph
Session 2: 3.888, 302.62
Session 3: 3.945, 304.60
Session 4: 3.877, 308.50

(Unofficial standings through nine of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)

1. Shawn Langdon, 746
5. Khalid alBalooshi, 544
6. Doug Kalitta, 510
7. Brandon Bernstein, 445
8. Morgan Lucas, 441
9. Bob Vandergriff, 415
10. Clay Millican, 396

NEXT EVENT: June 14-16, Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals, Bristol, Tenn.