CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 13, 2014) – All 10 drivers competing in NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship six-race playoff know that sooner or later they’ll face off against another Countdown car. So, if the goal is to win rounds en route to the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series championship, why not beat them early and often?

That’s the goal of 2012 NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown and his Matco Tools team.

Brown’s quickest qualifying lap, 3.853 seconds, came on his final effort during a muggy two days of qualifying that could be described as complicated by the crew chiefs. After testing at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis three days after the U.S. Nationals two weeks ago, crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald seem to be sneaking up on the right tune-up to help Brown sweep zMax Dragway at Concord in 2014. The Matco rail got quicker on each of its four qualifying passes finishing in the No. 9 position, just two thousandths of-a-second behind DSR teammate Spencer Massey, the No. 8 qualifier, at 3.851.

“We are just going to keep on pressing hard and tomorrow is race day so the conditions are going to change a little bit,” Brown said after starting in the bottom half of the field for the fifth time in 19 races this season.

“The track is going to get better and definitely take a step in the right direction for the competition so it’s going to be fun getting out there tomorrow in the first race of the Countdown. The one good thing is that our Matco team has been making progress each and every run and taking steps in the right direction. Tomorrow we are just going to keep on going like that and we’re looking forward to getting it going and hopefully going some rounds. I know Spencer (Massey) will bring his A-game and I need to be on point too.”

Brown and Massey have been very evenly matched during the careers of two of the best leavers in the nitro classes. Brown holds a slight 16-13 edge and defeated Massey in the final round at the fall Charlotte in 2011. Brown won the spring race at zMax this April in dramatic fashion collecting his first career Four-Wide Nationals win by inches over Shawn Langdon and J.R. Todd. It was his second of a category-best five Top Fuel wins this season.

“It doesn’t make a difference who you race,” Brown said. “It is what it is. It’s a tough round match-up no matter who you race. Like in qualifying this weekend, a (3).80 is No. 1 and a (3).90 is No. 16, so whoever you race doesn’t make a difference. They can all beat you if you’re not on point. It’s going to be a tough round one match-up and that’s what makes our Top Fuel class the best I think it has been in history. We are just looking forward to the challenge and ready to go after it.”

No. 1 Qualifier: J.R. Todd (Kalitta Motorsports) 3.804 sec., 317.64 mph 

ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying Position: No. 9
FIRST ROUND: BROWN vs. Spencer Massey
FRIDAY: 3.880 sec., 311.27 mph, (Session 1); 3.869, 307.93, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.856, 311.85, (Session 3); 3.853, 311.99, (Session 4)