COMMERCE, Ga. (May 17, 2014) – There are easier ways for a racer to qualify for championship eliminations of an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event than how Antron Brown and the Matco Tools team advanced to racing Sunday in the Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
Moments after Antron passed the finish line Friday night, the 2012 NHRA Top Fuel world champion was uninjured in a crash and was back on the track Saturday for the final qualifying session.
On that run, the popular driver and Top Fuel points leader earned No. 2 spot with a run of 3.788 seconds at 318.69 mph.
Antron’s Matco Tools dragster was destroyed so crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald with team manager Brad Mason led the team in vigilantly working their back-up car for Saturday qualifying and Sunday.
And it’s not like the second-best Matco dragster is a slug. It was the primary car for Antron in last year’s first 18 events that resulted in two wins.
A conservative “shake-down” run in Saturday’s first session dropped Antron to sixth.
But the resilient team produced a time of 3.764 (322.19) on its last run Saturday night to move up to third.
“The thing about it is, you look back and the good Lord puts you through struggles for different reasons and one of them is to make you stronger,” he said.
“We all had to fall back on that this weekend. We got out there, the car did something where we had to shut it off before the finish line on Friday. But we bounced back today, the boys just took a new car, put their heads down and kept working and we ended up at No. 3 by coming out and stepping up on it that last run.
“We’re just getting better each run. You don’t always hit the home run on that first at-bat. What I’ve always loved about our team is we always try to get it right for race day. We’re in a good zone. We’ll go into tomorrow and just try to do it one run at a time and see where we end up.”
The team went to its back-up car that it used for the first 18 events of last season when it won three times including at Atlanta a year ago.
“We loved the new car, and that’s why I was so mad when I got out of it last night,” said Antron, who won three times in six races this year and five of the past 10 in it.
“We know we’ll still have a car to win on Sunday, and we know it likes Atlanta.”
No. 1 Qualifier: Doug Kalitta (Kalitta Motorsports) 3.732 sec., 328.86 mph (track records)
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 3
FIRST ROUND OPPONENT
BROWN vs. Ike Maier
FRIDAY: 3.854 sec., 312.42 mph, (Session 1); 3.788, 318.69 (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.833, 289.82, (Session 3); 3.764, 322.19, (Session 4)