MADISON, Ill. (Sept. 28, 2014) – Antron Brown and the Matco Tools team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald with assistant Brad Mason know how to snap an ugly streak.
After winning five NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series titles before starting the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff two weeks ago, the Matco Tools team was ranked second and only 30 points out of the lead the team but then was plagued by aggravating little mechanical gremlins that led to three straight-first round losses and two in a row to start the Countdown.
In those two weeks, the Don Schumacher Racing team fell from second to eighth and 153 points behind DSR teammate and points leader Tony Schumacher.
A week ago their goal of winning a second NHRA Top Fuel world championship in three years seemed like a dream, but the Matco Tools team woke up the competition Sunday in the NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis by winning its sixth title of the season and moving up to fourth place to cut its deficit to Schumacher to 80 points.
The gremlins had been exterminated.
“This was a big day for us,” said Antron, the 2012 Top Fuel world champion. “We came to this race and knew our backs were against the wall. The last four races, we’ve been working hard but no matter what we did our car was just not cooperating. But we got it back. Now, our car, we’re close, we’re competitive and we pulled off this win.”
Antron defeated reigning Top Fuel world champion Shawn Langdon in the championship run. Antron’s time of 3.844 seconds at 315.42 mph covered Langdon’s 4.035 (279.38).
And the driver’s reaction times excelled in the semifinals when he was quicker than Steve Torrence to leave the starting line that enabled the Matco dragster to eliminate the quicker car on that run.
It is Antron’s third straight win at Gateway and fourth in the past five years. The week for Antron started Thursday when he met with students at Ranken Technical College in St. Louis as part of Matco’s TechEd program.
Antron expects the Gateway victory to springboard the team back into being a top contender when the series moves this week to Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa. It’s where Antron set the NHRA elapsed record of 3.701 seconds two years ago that still stands. It’s also where he recorded his personal best speed of 328.78 mph on the same run.
The popular New Jersey native living in Pittsboro, Ind., expected magic to happen at Gateway.
“St. Louis has always been a turning point for us,” said Antron, who won for the 47th time in his career and 31st in Top Fuel to give DSR its 236th event title. “When we come to this race, it seems the more pressure that’s on us and the more our backs are against the wall, the more focused our team gets on what needs to get done.
“We just had to do what we needed to do today and it worked out to get us back into that fighting mode. With three races left, we’ve just got to keep pushing and doing what we’ve been doing because it’s still anybody’s championship out there.”
The race at Maple Grove Raceway will end a run of four events in four weeks. After a three-week break, the Series races Oct. 30-Nov. 1 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the finale Nov. 13-16 at Pomona, Calif.
Event winner: Antron Brown (Don Schumacher Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Richie Crampton (Morgan Lucas Racing) 3.764 sec., 322.73 mph
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 6
SUNDAY CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATIONS
FIRST ROUND: BROWN (3.799 sec., 319.22 mph) def. Brittany Force (3.837, 319.52); QUARTERFINALS: BROWN (3.814, 316.45) def. Terry McMillen (4.661, 165.74); SEMIFINALS: BROWN (3.846, 317.87) def. Steve Torrence (3.817, 324.36); FINAL: BROWN (3.844, 315.42) def. Shawn Langdon (4.035, 279.38)
FRIDAY: 3.870 sec., 316.60 mph, (Session 1); 3.796, 318.62, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 5.912, 108.19, (Session 3); 3.782, 319.14, (Session 4)
NHRA COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
(Unofficial points through St. Louis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
Driver (wins) points behind
1. TONY SCHUMACHER (4) 2,337 —-
2. Shawn Langdon (1) 2,280 -57
3. Steve Torrence 2,266 -71
4. ANTRON BROWN (6) 2,257 -80
5. Doug Kalitta (2) 2,250 -87
6. J.R. Todd (1) 2,228 -109
7. SPENCER MASSEY(2) 2,199 -138
8. Khalid alBalooshi (2) 2,188 -149
9. Richie Crampton (2) 2,125 -212
10. Brittany Force 2,085 -252