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Brown qualifies sixth for Sunday’s Toyota Nationals eliminations, knows defending world championship will be a tough task

LAS VEGAS (Oct. 26, 2013) – Antron Brown knows he’s a longshot to defend his NHRA Top Fuel world championship, but the key part of “longshot” is “shot.”

“Our Matco Tools/Toyota team does not know what the word ‘quit’ means and until it is impossible for us to take the points lead we’re going to go after it,” he said.

Brown and his Matco Tools “Tools for the Cause” dragster tuned by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, has been the most successful Top Fuel team over the past two NHRA Mello Yello Series events.

Brown has advanced to the championship round at the last two events and left with one event title. The problem is the only championship round he lost was at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa., and it was to points leader Shawn Langdon.

It didn’t get better for Brown during qualifying at Las Vegas, when Langdon added to his lead by being the quickest dragster in three of four sessions and second quickest on his final run to earn 11 bonus points. Langdon, the No. 1 qualifier, extended his lead from 129 to 142 over Brown who moved up to fourth in points.

Any driver who is 151 points or more behind Langdon after Sunday’s racing will be eliminated from contending for the world championship heading to the season-finale in two weeks at Pomona, Calif.

“We can only worry about we can control and Brian and Mark and our Matco boys have gotten our car back to where it was earlier in the season,” said Brown, who won two of the first seven events and didn’t add his third until the season’s 21st race near St. Louis.

Brown, who is racing this weekend to support the “Tools for the Cause” fund-raising effort by Matco Tools for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, was consistent after a sub-par first session on Friday. He followed with elapsed times of 3.820, 3.813 and 3.808, to earn the No. 6 qualifying position.

“It’s very, very, very consistent,” Brown said of his Don Schumacher Racing dragster. “We were pushing really hard on that last run but it got a little soft. The track’s definitely got some teeth out there in the middle. We just need to loosen the car up a little bit there. Brian and Mark are looking at it. We’ve got to hit it a little harder. We’re capable of running (3.70s) here.”

Brown will have lane choice in the first round against the lower seeded Bob Vandergriff.

“We know we can race,” Brown said. “We can race with what we’ve got. We ran second-quick of the session early today and we were fourth-quick in that last session, so we’re really close to everybody.

“The thing about our deal is we always creep up on it better on race day than anything else. We’ve progressively gotten faster as the weekend went on. Every run was better. So we’re just going to keep on tiptoeing up on it, keep on making it better and better and better.

“We’re in the top half of the field, we’ll have lane choice the first run, which will make a difference. And then we’ll just take it one round at a time from there and see where we end up. I like the route we’re going.”

The following are Brown’s qualifying results and updated unofficial standings with other events information:

TOP FUEL DRAGSTER
No. 1 Qualifier: Shawn Langdon (Al-Anabi Racing) 3.778 sec., 324.28 mph

ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools “Tools for the Cause” Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 6
First-round opponent: Bob Vandergriff
QUALIFYING
First session: 6.666 sec., 75.06 mph
Second session: 3.820, 317.94
SATURDAY QUALIFYING
Third session: 3.813, 321.88
Fourth session: 3.808, 321.96

NHRA COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
(Unofficial after Las Vegas qualifying, DSR drivers in CAPS)

TOP FUEL
1. Shawn Langdon 2,490
2. Doug Kalitta 2,392 (-98)
3. SPENCER MASSEY 2,388 (-102)
4. ANTRON BROWN 2,348 (-142)
5. Morgan Lucas 2,347 (-143)
6. TONY SCHUMACHER 2,343 (-147)
7. Clay Millican 2,266 (-224)
8. Khalid alBalooshi 2,254 (-236)
9. Bob Vandergriff 2,219 (-271)
10. Steve Torrence 2,166 (-324)

NHRA TOYOTA NATIONALS SCHEDULE (times are PDT)
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 a.m.

ON ESPN2 (times are EDT)
Sunday: Qualifying, 2:30 a.m. (delayed)
Sunday: Qualifying (re-air), 3 p.m.; Eliminations, 8 p.m. (delayed)

WEATHER.COM FORECAST
(As of Saturday afternoon)
Sunday: High 83 degrees; 0 percent chance of rain

COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE/RESULTS
Sept. 13-15 zMAX Dragway, Concord, N.C.
(Finals: TF – Lucas def. MASSEY; FC – Hight def. HAGAN)
Sept. 19-22 Texas Motorplex, Dallas
(Finals: TF – Kalitta def. Langdon; FC- C. Pedregon def. J. Force)
Sept. 27-29 Gateway Motorsports Park, St. Louis
(Finals: TF – BROWN def. alBalooshi; FC – J. Force def. BECKMAN)
Oct. 3-6 Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, Pa.
(Finals: TF – Langdon def. BROWN; FC – J. Force def. Chad Head)
Oct. 24-27 Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas
Nov. 7-10 Auto Club Raceway, Pomona, Calif.

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