MOHNTON, Pa. (Oct. 5, 2014) – It certainly wasn’t the homecoming Antron Brown and his contingent of family, friends and fans wanted on Sunday at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.
His first-round upset loss in the NHRA Nationals on a crisp, sunny day was a major blow for Antron and the Matco Tools “Tools for the Cause” team’s effort to win a second Top Fuel world championship in the past three seasons.
Antron lost traction in the opening round and crossed the finish line in 4.388 seconds at 180.74 mph to Khalid alBalooshi’s 3.777 (323.12).
Compounding the disappointment was that points leader and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher won the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series title at Maple Grove to build a 170-point lead over the Matco Tools team with two events remaining in the season.
A perfect event weekend in an NHRA pro category can produce 150 points, which includes a 20-point bonus for setting an NHRA national elapsed time record that only can be earned once at each event.
“It’s always a tough break when you don’t get past first round and don’t run really well,” said Antron, who has won six event titles this season.
“These (weather and track) conditions only come around every so often and it reminded me of 2012 when we set the national record (3.701 seconds in 2012) the year we won the championship and that still stands. It was definitely a bummer to our whole Matco Tools team to take a blow like that with the championship on the line. That’s what makes this sport so demanding but yet so rewarding. We will collect ourselves, get ready for Vegas and come go there strong.”
Antron and the Matco Tools team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald won the title at the previous Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event the week before near St. Louis to put them back in the heart of the Countdown to the Championship battle by moving from eighth to fourth in points. They started Sunday at Maple Grove 90 points behind Don Schumacher Racing teammate and points leader Tony Schumacher but fell to fifth and the gap from first nearly doubled.
The Matco Tools team is not mathematically eliminated from contention with two events remaining, and Antron also can surpass his career-best total of event titles in a season by winning one more time. He leads the Top Fuel category this year with six event titles.
“Our goal is to go out there and try to run as hard as we can each and every round of qualifying and eliminations rounds and give it all that we’ve got for these last two races,” he said.
“We’ve been in this situation before but that time we were leading and we had like a 160-point lead over the U.S. Army car going into Vegas and had to hold on to win the (2012) championship by seven points.
“Our goal is to go in to these last two and give it all we’ve got and go after as many rounds as we can get and see where we can end up at the end.”
Event winner: Tony Schumacher (Don Schumacher Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Schumacher (3.733 sec., 327.51 mph)
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools “Tools for the Cause” Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 5
FIRST ROUND: Khalid alBalooshi (3.777 sec., 323.12 mph) def. BROWN (4.388, 180.74)
FRIDAY: 3.853 sec., 316.01 mph, (Session 1); 3.792, 313.73, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.762, 323.20, (Session 3); 5.462, 123.16, (Session 4)
NHRA MELLO YELLO CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
(Unofficial points through Reading; DSR drivers in CAPS)
Driver (wins) points behind
1. TONY SCHUMACHER (5) 2,462 —-
2. Doug Kalitta (2) 2,328 -134
3. Steve Torrence 2,319 -143
4. Shawn Langdon (1) 2,314 -148
5. ANTRON BROWN (6) 2,292 -170
6. J.R. Todd (1) 2,288 -174
7. SPENCER MASSEY(2) 2,273 -189
8. Khalid alBalooshi (2) 2,240 -222
9. Brittany Force 2,188 -274
10. Richie Crampton (2) 2,177 -285