LAS VEGAS (April 12, 2015) – While Antron Brown and his Matco Tools/U.S. Army team didn’t cash in big in Las Vegas, they did gain valuable knowledge that could help them score the ultimate prize at season’s end, a second NHRA Mello Yello world championship.
It was an atypical weekend at Las Vegas for the Matco-backed team, who has two NHRA Wally trophies from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After struggling during qualifying, Antron positioned the Matco rail in the No. 14 spot on Saturday’s last qualifying attempt at 3.916 seconds.
Though the team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald bettered that time in the opening round, Antron’s elapsed time of 3.901 wasn’t enough to overcome 2013 NHRA champion Shawn Langdon’s 3.866. It is the first opening-round loss of the season for the Matco Tools team.
Antron was able to hang onto the championship points lead.
“We went out there and the track was way better than what we thought,” Antron said of the track for first round that began at 11 a.m. (PST). “That said, we gave it our best shot and the track just ate us up, meaning we wore too much clutch. It’s literally like I never took my foot off the clutch pedal.”
The 2012 NHRA champions will remain in Las Vegas for a day of testing as they continue to finesse their six-disc clutch program during hot summer-like temperatures that will reach near 90 degrees on Monday afternoon.
“It’s not growing pains, it’s just racing in general,” Antron added. “You’re always learning every race you go to. Our main focus is to peak at the right time and that’s when the Countdown (to the Championship) comes and that’s our goal.
“The good part is that it’s early in the season and this Matco Tools team is growing and learning with every run. Even though we lost early, we learned a lot for when the tracks get hot and nasty this summer.”
The NHRA tour resumes, April 24-26, near Houston for round five of 24 races on the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Series schedule and Brown and the Matco Tools team are the defending event champion at the track in Baytown, Texas.
“We already are in the Traxxas Shootout (to be held over Labor Day Weekend) and we’re in a good position in the points. We’ll go to Houston and try to get better at each and every race. We’ll test Monday and hope to get things started at Houston with a solid lap out the box for the first qualifying session. That maps out the entire weekend.”
Event winner: Richie Crampton (Morgan Lucas Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: J.R. Todd (Kalitta Motorsports), 3.758 sec., 324.83 mph, Friday Q2
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army
Qualified: No. 14
First round: Shawn Langdon (3.866 sec., 305.84) def. BROWN (3.901, 310.77)
SATURDAY: 4.097 sec., 274.66 mph (Session 3); 3.916, 313.22, (Session 4)
FRIDAY: 4.748, 161.77, (Session 1); 4.007, 318.02, (Session 2)
2015 NHRA MELLO YELLO TOP FUEL CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
(Unofficial through Las Vegas 1, 5 of 24 races; DSR drivers in CAPS)
DRIVER (WINS) POINTS BEHIND
- ANTRON BROWN (1) 385 —
- TONY SCHUMACHER (1) 375 -10
- Shawn Langdon (1) 370 -15
- SPENCER MASSEY (1) 358 -27
- Richie Crampton (1) 349 -36
- Steve Torrence 273 -112
- Doug Kalitta 272 -113
- Larry Dixon 263 -122
- J.R. Todd 261 -124
- Clay Millican 241 -144