Thrill of dramatic run to earn U.S. Nationals Top Fuel pole still a highlight for Matco’s Brown despite first-round loss
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 2, 2013) – No form of motorsports is as finicky as Top Fuel drag racing with its 10,000-horsepower land rockets.
Within about 18 hours, Antron Brown and his Matco Tools went from the very high to the very low in the 59th annual NHRA U.S. Nationals.
On Sunday evening, Brown with crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald went from the No. 16 to No. 1 qualifying position on the event’s last qualifying session with a time of 3.811 seconds at 320.58 mph at Lucas Oil Raceway. That made Brown’s 10-minute ride to his home in Pittsboro, Ind., a fun one.
But the ride to Pittsboro was not nearly as enjoyable Monday afternoon after the Matco Tools team lost in the opening round to Morgan Lucas, who qualified in the last spot in the 16-car field. Lucas quicker time of the opening round at 3.784 beat Brown’s 3.825.
“We’re really disappointed, especially after how we qualified (Sunday) night,” said Brown, the reigning Top Fuel world champion
“We went out there and threw a shot in the first round. The track was real good, so it sucked a little bit of it up. After running that 3.81 last night, we just built off that and we were going up there hoping to run a 3.77.
“The track just ate us up a little bit and we couldn’t make the number. We knew what Morgan Lucas and his team was capable of and we didn’t want to leave anything on the table. They threw a great run out there. They threw the number that they needed to win.”
The U.S. Nationals is the final regular season event in the Mello Yello Series, and the six-event NHRA Countdown to the Championship for the top-10 drivers in the series’ four professional categories begins Sept. 13 near Charlotte.
Brown, who owns four U.S. Nationals titles, started the event ranked sixth and held the spot for the Countdown after losing in the first round. After Indy, the Countdown standings were reset at 10-point increments with points leader Shawn Langdon of Al-Anabi Racing earning a 20-point bonus for being the regular-season champion.
Brown will be 70 points behind Langdon, who won the U.S. Nationals title, when the Countdown begins.
“Now it’s time to get ready for the Countdown,” Brown said. “This is where it counts for the championship and we’re sitting right in the middle of the field. We have our work cut out for us, but there isn’t anything that we can’t handle. We’re going to head in there with our heads up and we’ll need to bring our “A” game. We have to head into the Countdown with the attitude that we have nothing to lose, and we don’t. We’re going to go out there give it all we’ve got and have fun. We’re looking forward to getting to Charlotte.
“We’re definitely heading in the right direction. We’re not going backward, we’re going forward. It’s a good thing. It felt really good this weekend to go out there and get on the pole; we were on the pole at the U.S. Nationals. Everyone came out here and ran the best they could and we got that. Now we know what it takes to go out there and do what we need to do. We’ve got to go into Charlotte with the same game plan. We just have to go there, qualify well again and take it another step up.”
TOP FUEL DRAGSTER
Event winner: Shawn Langdon (Al-Anabi Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: ANTRON BROWN (Don Schumacher Racing) 3.811, 320.58 mph
ANTRON BROWN, MATCO TOOLS
Qualified: No. 1
MONDAY CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATIONS
First round: Morgan Lucas (3.784 sec., 320.28 mph) def. BROWN (3.825, 321.27)
Session 1: 4.806 sec., 138.80 mph
Session 2 (Shootout round 1): 3.985, 301.67
Session 3 (Shootout semis): 3.880, 316.08 (lost)
Session 4: 3.811, 320.58
$100,000 TRAXXAS TOP FUEL NITRO SHOOTOUT CHAMPION (Sunday)
Shawn Langdon, Al-Anabi Racing
NHRA MELLO YELLO SERIES STANDINGS
(Unofficial final regular season points through U.S. Nationals)
1. Shawn Langdon 1,488
2. SPENCER MASSEY 1,273
3. TONY SCHUMACHER 1,238
4. Doug Kalitta 1,086
5. Khalid alBalooshi 1,074
6. ANTRON BROWN 1,035
7. Clay Millican 979
8. Morgan Lucas 968
9. Steve Torrence 893
10. Bob Vandergriff 821
2013 TOP FUEL WINNERS: Langdon, SCHUMACHER, BROWN, SCHUMACHER, MASSEY, Vandergriff, BROWN, Langdon, Langdon, Steve Torrence, MASSEY, SCHUMACHER, alBalooshi, MASSEY, Langdon, Lucas, MASSEY, Langdon.
NHRA COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
(Unofficial for start of six-event playoff that starts Sept. 13 near Charlotte)
1. Shawn Langdon 2,110
2. SPENCER MASSEY 2,080
3. TONY SCHUMACHER 2,070
4. Doug Kalitta 2,060
5. Khalid alBalooshi 2,050
6. ANTRON BROWN 2,040
7. Clay Millican 2,030
8. Morgan Lucas 2,020
9.Steve Torrence 2,010
10. Bob Vandergriff 2,000