Matco Tools team make big improvements after Winternationals qualifying, Brown goes to the championship round to open NHRA season
POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 8, 2015) – The Matco Tools/U.S Army team’s priorities at NHRA events is first to qualify for championship eliminations while learning wheat its 10,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster needs to win championship eliminations.
A year ago at the NHRA Circle K Winternationals, 2012 world championship driver Antron Brown qualified third but was upset in the first round.
This weekend at Pomona, the Matco team could only muster a No. 11 seed going into Sunday but crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald turned that around 180 degrees and advanced to the championship round at Auto Club Raceway.
Despite a best 3.803 seconds in three qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday, Corradi and Oswald turned up the wick when it mattered most in the season-opener by producing three runs in the 3.7-second range before being edged in the final round by Alan Johnson Racing’s Shawn Langdon, whose time of 3.799 (309.91) slipped past Antron’s 3.804 (310.70).
“That was definitely a tough one,” Antron said of the final round. “We wanted to hit it right and we just missed it by a little bit. Still, hats off to my Matco boys because they did a great job. It was such a close race and we’ll get ’em next time.
“The good thing is, we’ve got a lot more momentum leaving here than we did last year, so we’re absolutely happy about that and we’re not going to hang our heads. I just wish we could’ve brought it home. Man, we really wanted that win. We’ve been close in the Winternationals here so many times (two runner-ups), and this was the closest we’ve ever been to bringing it home. But it was still a great weekend for our Matco/U.S. Army team. We just wanted to bring it home, especially for the Matco distributors, because that’s what they deserve.”
While Antron has not won the Winternationals, three of 47 career titles have come at the season-ending race at Pomona.
After last year’s Winternationals first-round upset, the Matco team rebounded to win the next race near Phoenix and add five more titles over the rest of the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
This weekend, Matco’s momentum began after Winternationals qualifying.
In the first round, Antron and the Matco team produced a time of 3.732 seconds at 326.87 mph to upset the higher qualified and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher, whose stellar effort was 3.787 (323.66) wasn’t enough for the U.S. Army team.
In the quarterfinals, Antron was nearly as quick with a 3.758 and benefitted when Doug Kalitta lost traction. Antron’s 3.790 (322.27) wasn’t quicker than Larry Dixon’s 3.774 in the semifinals but Antron’s quicker reaction at the starting line produced a holeshot that overcame Dixon’s slighter performance edge.
Event winner: Shawn Langdon (Alan Johnson Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Langdon, 3.700 sec. (quickest ever, track record), 328.30 mph
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 11
FIRST ROUND: BROWN (3.732 sec., 326.87) def. Schumacher (3.787, 323.66); QUARTERFINALS: BROWN (3.758, 322.73) def. Doug Kalitta (7.817, 94.51); SEMIFINALS: BROWN (3.790, 322.27) def. Larry Dixon (3.774, 320.36); FINAL: Shawn Langdon (3.799, 309.91) def. BROWN (3.804, 310.70)
SATURDAY: 3.874 sec., 295.72 mph, (Session 3); Session 4, rained out
FRIDAY: 4.351, 188.52, (Session 1); 3.803, 313.73, (Session 2)
2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Standings
(unofficial after Pomona)
1. Shawn Langdon, 124
2. Antron Brown, 92
3. Spencer Massey, 78
4. Larry Dixon, 73
5. Doug Kalitta, 61
6. Richie Crampton, 59
7. Steve Torrence, 54
8. Leah Pritchett, 52
9. Tony Schumacher, 36
10. Brittany Force, 33