JOLIET, Ill. (June 20, 2013) – The gust blowing through Route 66 Raceway early Sunday afternoon did not originate over Lake Michigan.
The gigantic air blast came from Antron Brown and his Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster team competing in the Route 66 Nationals outside of Chicago after the reigning NHRA world champions won in the first round for the first time in five Mello Yello events.
Crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald took a new Don Schumacher Racing chassis to Lucas Oil Raceway to test on Wednesday after the team didn’t advance past the first round at last weekend’s event in Epping, N.H., which was the sixth time in seven events its work was done after the opening round.
Not only did the Matco team advance past its Achilles’ heel, but its time of 3.789 seconds at 320.51 mph in Sunday’s opening round was its quickest since the semifinals at Atlanta where he won his second title of the season.
The weekend wasn’t truly disappointing although Brown lost in the semifinals to his Don Schumacher Racing and U.S. Army teammate Tony Schumacher, who won in the championship round to post his third win of the season and regain the points lead.
“We gave our teammate a run for the money,” Brown said. “We were right there with him all the way and he just nipped us at the end. It dropped (an engine cylinder) a little bit before the finish line and he just nipped us by a tiny bit. We really don’t want to let those wins get away so that just charges us up even more to go into the next race.”
Brown, who has won two titles this year and ranks fourth in points, believes his team made a major turn at Joliet, Ill.
“It was a good weekend,” Brown said, “definitely a great weekend for our whole team. We kept pulling together. We took a lot of bumps and bruises and blows but we just stayed with it and it’s just a testament to how great the unity is on this team.
“The rougher it got, the more we pulled together. No one was fighting, there was never any turmoil. We just got closer and closer. Those four races really brought our team together even stronger and closer with the new guys we have on our team.
“We feel happy, we feel amped up and we’re ready for Norwalk.”
Event winner: Tony Schumacher (Don Schumacher Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Morgan Lucas (Morgan Lucas Racing) 3.737 sec. (track record), 322.19 mph
Antron Brown, Matco Tools
Qualified: No. 11
First round: BROWN (3.789 sec., 320.51) def. Spencer Massey 3.816, 315.86)
Second round: BROWN (4.189, 255.48) def. Bob Vandergriff 4.240, 249.81)
Semfinals: Tony Schumacher (3.804, 324.28) def. BROWN (3.827, 304.80)
Session 1: 6.366 sec., 100.46 mph
Session 2: 3.805, 314.97
Session 3: 3.828, 286.56
MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS
(Unofficial through 12 of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. TONY SCHUMACHER, 983
2. Shawn Langdon, 936
3. SPENCER MASSEY, 869
4. ANTRON BROWN, 765
5. Doug Kalitta, 703
6. Khalid alBalooshi, 657
8. Clay Millican, 620
7. Morgan Lucas, 608
9. Bob Vandergriff, 559
10. Steve Torrence, 549
July 5-7, Norwalk, Ohio
Sunday: 9 p.m.-midnight, (ET, delayed), eliminations