BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Aug. 26, 2014) – Antron Brown and his Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster team want nothing more than to win this weekend’s 60th annual U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis.
Considering the track is within 2 miles of Don Schumacher Racing headquarters and he lives a few miles away in Pittsboro, Ind., the biggest event of the year will enable Antron and his crew to have family and friends attend what for most will be their only NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event of the year.
But the popular driver and his championship team with crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald along with assistant Brad Mason won’t be looking for a party until Monday afternoon’s championship round and a trip to the winner’s circle.
“It’s survival of the fittest,” Antron said. “You know you can’t make a mistake because everyone is bringing their best. Everything is so crucial and nobody is guaranteed a spot at Indy; you have to qualify to race on Monday.
“There’s a lot of strategy involved and you just have to make a lot of good runs. You have to be like a surgeon and it definitely takes a lot of precision over the entire weekend. At Indy, everybody brings their ‘A’ game and brings all their best parts. That’s what Indy brings out and that’s what makes it special.”
Antron will start racing Friday evening ranked second in the Top Fuel standings in the last regular season race of the season. He trails points leader Doug Kalitta by 92 points in a battle for the points lead heading to the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff that begins in two weeks near Charlotte.
It’s a longshot for him to overcome Kalitta, but the leader going into the Countdown will carry a 30-point lead over No. 2 when points are reset for championship contenders but Antron and his Matco team haven’t given up on the chase.
“We’re all geared up, hyped up and feeling good about what is going on,” Antron said. “The Top Fuel class is at an all-time high and a lot of people are on point. It’s ridiculous how strong everyone is. If you win you know it’s something special and if it’s Indy, it’s even bigger.”
Antron, who won the 2012 Top Fuel world championship and leads the category this year with five event titles, knows how it feels to win Indy. His only Top Fuel title in the U.S. Nationals came in 2011, which was after he won the Pro Stock Motorcycle category in 2000 and 2004.
“What gets you excited is just the prestige of Indy. It’s how deep of a field it always is, the history behind it and just the excitement surrounding the event.
“It’s one of those deals where winning at Indy always sticks out. You know when it happened, how it happened, who you beat and what it took to get there. Looking at things this year, we know what we have to do to succeed and we will have a good game plan heading into it. We’re Countdown-minded right now and we want to run the best we can every time.”
An added bonus for the nitro teams is the third annual Traxxas Nitro Shootout that will pay the winning Top Fuel team a $100,000 bonus. The first seven drivers who won Mello Yello titles this year earned Shootout spots with the eighth determined partially by a fan vote.
“With the Traxxas Shootout and then the race, it’s just a big, historic weekend. You know whoever wins is ‘the’ team.”
And Antron wants to show that his Matco Tools squad is “the” team.
Antron Brown, Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster
Last event Brainerd (Aug. 17): Qualified No. 1; lost in semifinals to Morgan Lucas
A year ago at U.S. Nationals: Qualified No. 1; lost in first round to Morgan Lucas
Career at U.S. Nationals: Wins 3 (2011, 2004, 2000); Runner-ups 0; Poles 3 (2013, 2011, 2009)
Pts Events Titles Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2014 2nd 17 5 2 4 2 4 3 0 35-12
CAREER 303 46 40 62 84 68 37 3 511-254
Best Time, Speed: 3.701*/** sec. (10- 8-12, Reading, Pa.); 328.78 mph (10-8-12, Reading)
* Quickest ever/** NHRA record
NHRA MELLO YELLO STANDINGS
(Official after 17 of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS; * clinched spot in Countdown to the Championship)
driver (wins) points behind
1.* Doug Kalitta (2) 1,446 ——
2.* ANTRON BROWN (5) 1,354 -92
3.* Shawn Langdon (1) 1,204 -242
4.* TONY SCHUMACHER (2) 1,075 -371
5.* Steve Torrence 971 -475
6.* SPENCER Massey (2) 953 -493
7.* Khalid alBalooshi (2) 888 -558
7.* Brittany Force 888 -558
9.* Richie Crampton (1) 841 -605
10. JR Todd (1) 805 -641