BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Aug. 31, 2014) – Antron Brown has been subjected to countless different emotions in his nearly 17 years as a racer on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, but Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis was among the most tense.
The three-time winner of drag racing’s most prestigious Wally trophy, who lives about 20 minutes away from the famed Indiana facility, entered the final day of qualifying for “Big Go” outside of the top 12. On Saturday’s first attempt, the Matco Tools rail lost traction placing Brown 18th in the order.
Only 16 cars make the cut for Monday’s final eliminations to compete for the most coveted trophy on tour.
Brown and his Matco bunch were the third pair of dragsters to face the tricky track for the fifth and final qualifying session. Directly ahead of him, he saw upstart Leah Pritchett make a lap of 3.846 seconds to move into the No. 16 spot. Brown’s dragster, prepared by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, then powered to an elapsed time of 3.845 seconds to grab the No. 16 spot by the ever slightest of margins. After watching drivers Clay Millican and Pat Dakin run slower than the 3.845 mark, the Matco Tools team dodged the bullet and made the cut for the quickest Top Fuel field in NHRA history.
“It’s not what we wanted to do this weekend and this is the Big Go and everyone brought their A-game out here this weekend,” Brown said after making the cut by one-thousandth of a second. “It was certainly the wrong time for some gremlins to strike our Matco Tools team, but the boys worked real hard.
“We didn’t want to throw it away on that last lap. We knew you could run a high (3).70 out there and we would have liked to have pushed for a .78, but at the same we knew we didn’t want to smoke the tires where you can’t make the show. We made the show and we have the chance to go to work tomorrow. We always like going to work on race day.”
Brown has now qualified for all 17 U.S. Nationals in which has competed. This is just the third time that he has qualified in the bottom half of the field.
The reward for making the stout field is a first -round match-up with teammate and No. 1 qualifier Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team, who won the $100,000 Traxxas Top Fuel Shootout on Saturday at Lucas Oil Raceway. This will be the seventh time this season the two U.S. Army drivers have faced each other in eliminations. They’ve each won three. The driver that wins No. 4 moves one round closer to U.S. Nationals glory.
Brown, who won the Indy Top Fuel crown in 2011, looks for a fourth Wally from the U.S. Nationals, while Schumacher is looking for a record 10th Indy triumph. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. (ET) on Monday.
“It’s a final round no matter who you race any round; you can’t take anybody lightly,” Brown said after qualifying in the bottom half of the 16-car field for just the fourth time in 18 races this season. “The U.S. Army team, our teammates, have been running really strong. They won the (Traxxas) Shootout and are the No. 1 qualifiers. We have our work cut out and we’ll give it all we got. Tomorrow is a new day and new days bring new things.”
DSR OPEN HOUSE FOR RILEY KIDS
Racing fans and friends of DSR helped raise a record $42,058 to benefit Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and Camp Riley for Friday afternoon’s ninth annual DSR Open House for Riley Kids. The funds push DSR contributions to Riley to over $280,000.
Don Schumacher Racing’s contestants in Sunday’s $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout ended in the opening round when Capps lost despite a stellar 4.043 (319.37) to Courtney Force and Tommy Johnson Jr. was topped by Alexis DeJoria.
On Saturday night, DSR’s Tony Schumacher won the $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel dragsters. DSR has won a Shootout title in each of the past three years (Spencer Massey, 2012 in Top Fuel, and Jack Beckman, 2013 in Funny Car.
No. 1 Qualifier: Tony Schumacher (Don Schumacher Racing), 3.748 sec., 328.54 mph
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying Position: No. 16
MONDAY CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATIONS
First round: BROWN vs. Tony Schumacher
FRIDAY: 4.056 sec., 281.36 mph, Session 1
SATURDAY: 3.854, 314.46, Session 2; 3.833, 320.20, Session 3
SUNDAY: 4.660, 171.14, Session 4; 3.845, 316.25, Session 5