CONCORD, N.C. (March 28, 2015) – Saturday wasn’t a great day for Antron Brown and Don Schumacher Racing’s Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel team, but it was good enough to qualify in the top half of the field for the sixth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals zMAX Dragway near Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Antron and his Matco team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald were dealt a challenging hand when rain washed out both qualifying session on Friday. The rest of the teams in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series faced the same hurdle but it became even tougher for the Matco team after a mechanical problem left it sitting precariously in the No. 15 spot for Sunday’s 16-car field for eliminations, which begin at 1 p.m. (EDT).
During a two-hour turnaround the Matco crew made needed repairs and Antron completed his last run in 3.792 seconds at 318.62 mph for the No. 8 seed, which critically places him in the top half of the field.
“The good part is we got a decent run down the track that we can pick up on and that’s the goal right now,” he said. “We need to improve and try and get past that first round with lane choice for the next round. It’s going to be a tough, crucial first round because there are some heavy-hitters in that quad.”
Antron, the 2012 Top Fuel world champion, will race pole winner J.R. Todd, points leader and past NHRA Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon and multi-event title winner in the Pro Stock category and Top Fuel rookie Dave Connolly in the first foursome.
“It’ll be a lot of fun,” Antron said. “It’s a dog eat dog world. We’re going to go out there and it should be good. The track is going to be really good tomorrow.”
The Four-Wide Nationals is the only event of its kind on the 24-race Mello Yello schedule. Each race features heats of four drivers on the world’s only four-lane dragstrip that is comprised of a pair of lanes with a concrete center dividing wall separating the other two.
On Sunday, the first two crossing the finish line in each heat move on to the next round making it the only event where you don’t have to be first in a round to advance. There also will only be three rounds of eliminations instead of four held other Mello Yello events.
The biggest variable on Sunday for crew chiefs will be the loss of having qualifying runs in two of the lanes before eliminations. That is compounded by this being the first time the zMAX track has hosted a major event after the four lanes were completely reconstructed earlier this year.
The following are Antron’s results from qualifying and Sunday’s first-round opponents:
No. 1: J.R. Todd (Kalitta Motorsports) 3.713 seconds (track record), 309.63 mph
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S Army
QUALIFIED: No. 8
First Round Opponents: J.R. Todd, Shawn Langdon, Dave Connolly
SATURDAY: 10.277 sec., 68.74 mph, (Session 3); 3.792, 318.62, (Session 4)
FRIDAY: Sessions 1 and 2, rained out