LAS VEGAS (Nov. 1, 2014) – Antron Brown and the Matco Tools “Tools for the Cause” didn’t plan on being worthy of a theatrical production at Las Vegas during the NHRA Toyota Nationals but it sure played out that way.
Antron needed the last of four qualifying sessions to earn the opportunity to defend his title won at year ago at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 2012 NHRA world champions produced a time of 3.790 seconds at 320.89 mph to earn the No. 11 qualifying position for Sunday’s championship eliminations in the 23rd of 24 events on in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
“We weren’t trying to be dramatic,” Antron said of earning a spot in the top-16 of the quickest qualifying field in NHRA history.
After not completing a run under power Friday and early Saturday afternoon, crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald with assistant Brad Mason found the right combination for its last try.
“This Matco Tools ‘Tools for the Cause’ dragster was just trying to run too hard all of these other runs. Brian, Mark, Brad, all of our Matco Tools boys, they did what it takes.”
In addition to attain his career-best seventh Mello Yello event title of the season, there is adding motivation for Antron on the pink highlighted Matco Tools “Tools for the Cause” dragster supporting Matco’s campaign of “I Drive For” to honor those who have battled or are battling breast cancer. The dragster carries the names of 1,350 women, including mother-in-law Linda Matranga, who successfully beat breast cancer.
“We want to put this car in the winner’s circle and we needed that last run to do it,” he said. “We’ll give it our all on Sunday to get the names of all the women on this car into the winner’s circle because that’s where they deserve to be and that’s what we’re driving for.”
Antron, who will try to win the 48th title of his NHRA career, found added inspiration on Saturday before his first run when he was a passenger with DSR teammate Jack Beckman in one of Doug Foley’s Pure Speed Drag Racing School two-seat dragsters in a special match-race against teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. and co-pilot Austin Zimmerline, a 17-year-old from Nebraska whose wish was granted to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to win a race for his team.
The Zimmerline-Johnson team won the race to earn the young co-pilot the first win in the first race of his career.
“It wasn’t good to get spanked that bad but it felt great, great to participate in an event like that for Austin,” Antron said.
“When you see kids like Austin come out to the racetrack from Make-A-Wish and they enjoy their time out here that’s our dream to be part of it. That’s what life really is all about. The racing at the end of the day is secondary.”
Team owner Don Schumacher, whose teams have won an NHRA-best 328 event titles and 11 world championships, said he’d never experienced a race like that before.
“I have never seen anything like that,” he said. “That is just an overwhelming experience that (DSR supporter) Terry Chandler and DSR were able to give that young man. There were tears in my eyes and everyone else’s out here.”
No. 1 qualifier: J.R. Todd (Kalitta Motorsports), 3.732 sec. (track record), 327.33 mph
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools “Tools for the Cause” Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying position: No. 11
First round: BROWN vs. Leah Pritchett
FRIDAY: 6.571 sec., 99.35 mph, (Session 1); 3.976, 248.98 (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 5.902, 110.72, (Session 3); 3.790, 320.89 (Session 4)