BROWNSBURG, Ind. (July 23, 2013) – Antron Brown couldn’t be any farther from his hometown in New Jersey when his Matco Tools team arrives at Sonoma, Calif., this week for the 15th event on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing tour.
Sonoma Raceway feels just like home with its proximity to an ocean similar to where he grew up in New Jersey. But what will make it most comfortable is the success he and crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald have enjoyed at the scenic venue.
The reigning world championship Top Fuel Matco Tools team has won the past two titles at Sonoma and three of the last four.
“What I enjoy the most about going to Sonoma is when you get there and see everything that surrounds you,” said Brown, who lives near Indianapolis with his family. “It’s hilly and you’re in the wine country. You go out there, take a deep breath and you can feel the energy it has and the aura of the racetrack.
“The cool thing about going to Sonoma is you’re able to unwind and get back to what you’re used to doing (at near sea level). It’s a really high level racetrack and the weather conditions usually are as good as we have all year.”
Brown and the Matco team are looking for a breath of fresh air. The team is ranked fifth in points but has had numerous little mechanical gremlins creep into its Don Schumacher Racing dragster since winning two of the first seven Mello Yello titles this season.
“We were breaking out of it until we got to Denver, and that race is so unique because of the thin air in the high altitude. You don’t make the power and the clutch discs we use are very aggressive. When we go to Sonoma where we can make the power it will be a reawakening for our team.
“We’re smart enough to know you have to go through growing pains at some time and this has been a good time to do it.”
The team is coming off an opening-round loss Sunday in the Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway near Denver where the thin air robs the 10,000-horsepower engines of considerable power.
Brown posted a respectable time of 3.974 seconds at 310.34 mph in a loss to current points leader Shawn Langdon of Al-Anabi Racing if the first run Sunday. While Brown’s run would have won three of the other seven first-round match-ups, it didn’t get him to the second round.
“We could’ve beaten a lot of people in that round, but we lined up against one of the best teams out here,” Brown said.
“Our Matco dragster was too tame on the mountain, but at Sonoma it will be like we’re letting a raging animal out of the cage … it will be back in beast mode. The car will be in a totally different mode.”
The team is looking forward to Sunday’s championship eliminations, but first things first and that’s qualifying on Friday and Saturday.
Brown has only qualified in the top half of the 16-car elimination fields once in the past six events.
“Our goal will be to attack that first round of qualifying hard. We’re going to attack it just like it’s the final round of eliminations, attack each and every qualifying session and change our recent trend of not qualifying in the top half of the field. And then we’ll attack it on race day.”
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster TRACK STATS Last event (July 21, Denver): Qualified No. 12; lost in first round to Shawn Langdon.
A year ago at Sonoma: Qualified No. 6; defeated Spencer Massey in championship round.
Career at Sonoma: Wins 3 (2012, 2011, 2009); Runner-ups 2010, 2006-Pro Stock Motorcycle, 2002-Motorcycle; Poles 1 (2008)
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS
(After 14 of 24 events; through Denver; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. Shawn Langdon, 1093
2. TONY SCHUMACHER, 1074
3. SPENCER MASSEY, 1034
4. Doug Kalitta, 867
5. ANTRON BROWN, 831
6. Khalid alBalooshi, 809
7. Clay Millican, 735
8. Bob Vandergriff, 692
9. Morgan Lucas, 670
10. Steve Torrence, 647
2013 WINNERS: Langdon, SCHUMACHER, BROWN, SCHUMACHER, MASSEY, Vandergriff, BROWN, Langdon, Langdon, Steve Torrence, MASSEY, SCHUMACHER, alBalooshi, MASSEY
NHRA Sonoma Nationals
Friday: 5 p.m., 7 p.m., nitro qualifying
Saturday: 1 p.m., 3 p.m., nitro qualifying
Sunday: 11 a.m., championship eliminations
Friday: High 85, 0 percent chance of rain
Saturday: High 85; 0 percent chance of rain
Sunday: High 82; 0 percent chance of rain
Saturday: 7 p.m. (ET), qualifying, delayed on ESPN
Sunday: 8 p.m. (ET), championship eliminations, delayed on ESPN2
Around the Web
. @JohnnyGrayFC had a hole out then hazed the tires. 5.087 at 174 mph. #NHRA
. @SheldonOC @OakleyRacing We have 212 wins. Call the factory.
. @SpencMassey goes second quickest of the season with a 3.822 at 321.35 mph in the @BatteryChargrs dragster #NHRA
. @AntronBrown’s @matcotools dragster unable to make a full pull, slows to a 5.972 at 106 mph. #NHRA
RT @MeganFessSchu: @AntronBrown and the @matcotools team getting ready for their Q3 pass. #NHRA @RaceSonoma http://t.co/Q8jCsbNDKq