NORWALK, Ohio (July 6, 2014) – It was only fitting that the red, white and blue colored Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster of Antron Brown scored the event trophy from the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals on the Fourth of July weekend.
The cherry on top of the ice cream that the northern Ohio facility is famous for is that it is a hometown race not only for one of Brown’s crew chiefs, Brian Corradi, but for longtime sponsor Matco Tools as well. The company, headquartered in Stow, Ohio, about an hour away from the Norwalk track, announced earlier this week a sponsorship extension with Don Schumacher Racing and Brown through the 2017 NHRA season.
“It’s our primary sponsor Matco’s home race,” Antron said. “They’re right down the road in Stow. The president of Matco, Tim Gilmore, was here and the vice president of marketing John Green and their families were here with all our Matco distributors and we just knew we needed to win this race and that’s what makes it special.”
The win capped off an outstanding weekend for the Matco Tools team after qualifying third for Sunday’s eliminations. Before earning their fifth event win in 13 races this NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, the team clocked their best pass of the weekend, a 3.756-second lap at 324 mph in the opening round of eliminations.
“It’s just been a true blessing to be at this racetrack this weekend,” Brown said after this 30th career Top Fuel win and 46th including NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle wins. “This racetrack was incredible all weekend long. The competition right now in Top Fuel is just so tough, when you have four cars run 3.75 in the first round, that just tells you how tight and how crazy tough it is just to win a round, let alone win a race.”
But it wasn’t an easy day for the team who closed within less than three round wins behind Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta. After warming up the 10,000-horsepower dragster for the final round against reigning Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon, the well-trained crew members noticed a problem with the dragster after excess smoke was coming from the engine.
“Coming up to the final round, all I can say is our team definitely went through some adversity and were Army Strong,” Brown said. “We had a main bearing problem before the final. The boys caught it after we warmed up because the car was smoking pretty bad.
“They were able to take it down, loosen everything on the car and we only had 15 minutes to get up there. It was crazy. It was crazy how focused our boys were and the communication was unparalleled. No one got in a panic, no one got in a rush and NHRA officials came over to get us and I said we’re coming. They got it done, we dropped the car and we went up there. (Crew chief Mark Oswald) and Brian and those Matco Tools boys were spot on. Those Matco tools put the car back together to perfection and we pulled that win off.”
It was the first career win for Brown at Norwalk, who now has wins at all but four NHRA tracks (Bristol, Epping, Reading and Topeka). The team also scored the event win near Chicago last weekend, marking the second time they’ve won back-to-back titles (Charlotte, Houston).
“It gives you that sense of confidence that this is a championship team,” Brown said of his category-best fifth win of the season. “That’s what it takes to win championships, where you can pull through those adverse times like we did today. My hats off to every one of our Matco boys and I’m just blessed to be on this team with a group of guys like that.”
He will enter in his 300th career race when the NHRA Mello Yello series reconvenes in two weeks near Denver for the annual Mile-High Nationals, July 18-20, at Bandimere Speedway. Brown is a two-time Top Fuel winner near Denver.
Event Winner: Antron Brown (Don Schumacher Racing)
No. 1 Qualifier: Shawn Langdon (Al-Anabi Racing) 3.763 seconds, 323.04 mph
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying Position: No. 3
FIRST ROUND: BROWN (3.756, 324.67) def. Clay Millican (4.038, 241.58)
SECOND ROUND: BROWN (3.824, 320.89) def. Steve Torrence (4.527, 186.67)
SEMIFINALS: BROWN (3.793, 320.87) def. Tony Schumacher (5.171, 144.41)
FINAL: BROWN (3.797, 318.84) def. Shawn Langdon (4.967, 155.78)
FRIDAY: 3.840 sec., 311.56 mph, (Session 1); 7.046, 87.09, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.801, 321.65, (Session 3); 3.763, 324.12, (Session 4)
NHRA MELLO YELLO STANDINGS
(Unofficial after 13 of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)
driver (wins) pts behind
1. Doug Kalitta (1) 1,130 —-
2. ANTRON BROWN (5) 1,082 -48
3. Shawn Langdon (1) 938 -192
4. TONY SCHUMACHER (2) 785 -345
5. SPENCER MASSEY (2) 780 -340
6. Steve Torrence 747 -383
7. Brittany Force 690 -440
8. Khalid alBalooshi (1) 652 -478
9. Richie Crampton (1) 626 -504
10. J.R. Todd 593 -537