Antron warms up for Houston title defense with Matco team after inaugural Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix street race
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (April 21, 2015) – It’s good for Antron Brown to be in Texas this week where he can adjust to a central location after bouncing between his home near Indianapolis and the West Coast four times over the past few weeks.
His trip two weeks ago to Las Vegas for an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event with Don Schumacher Racing’s Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster has been an annual routine since the NHRA tour first visited Nevada in 2000.
What added to his status as an A-List frequent flyer on Southwest Airlines were three trips to California as a participant in Saturday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro/Celebrity Race in Southern California as a prelude to following day’s IndyCar race.
“My Toyota Sequoia could have found Indianapolis International Airport without me or my GPS,” the popular driver said. “It will be good to finally be able to stay home for a while after we get back from Houston.”
The coastal bounce-back started on March 19 when he was in Los Angeles for Toyota Motorsports Day and the next day was in Palmdale for road course for testing at Willow Springs. Then it was home before returning to Los Angeles for a news conference about the Pro-Celebrity race two weeks later on April 7 before heading to the April 10-12 race at Las Vegas.
Brown briefly returned home to Indianapolis after racing and testing in Las Vegas before jaunting back to Los Angeles for the road course race on Saturday where he started at the back of the pack along with drivers categorized as professionals and finished 11th after getting caught up in a crash with former Olympic and NFL star Willie Gault.
“I’m a fan of every kind of racing, but my sport is more of a reaction sport,” he said of drag racing. “I had a blast. I wish I could have finished clean because I think I could have come up through the field some more and finished near the top. I had the fastest lap of the day and was making progress.”
Despite his cross-country treks, Antron, who won one of his 48 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event titles this year, has been able to head to Baytown with his Matco team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald for the NHRA SpringNationals as the Top Fuel points leader.
Best of all, he owns a pair of NHRA Wally trophies from Houston including the one he earned a year ago at the track and his first career Top Fuel triumph in 2008.
Antron and the other 17 participants at Long Beach raced in 210-horsepower Scion FR-S race-prepped cars, navigating high speeds and demanding turns.
“From qualifying to the race, we definitely grew leaps and bounds,” Antron said. “We got bumped back to last on the first lap of the race, because they were navigating traffic a little better at first – diving into the corners on me. Then I gathered myself and came back up through the field to second in the pro class and had passed about half the celebrities.
“Then came the accident.”
On the eighth lap, three of the celebrities went into a corner ahead of Gault and he was squeezed into a guard wall.
“I saw his car bounce right back into the track,” Antron said. “I tried to squeeze past but I had nowhere to go. Then I saw Willie bounce farther. I looked at him and just said ‘Lord, have mercy.’
“I’ll tell you one thing, I needed a parachute on my car when I saw Willie Gault sitting there in the middle of the track. When I hit Willie, I had my hood smashed up pretty good, leaking water and it still made it to the finish on the lead lap. That tells you something on how well Toyota put these Scions together.”
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster
Last event (April 10-12, Las Vegas): Qualified No. 14; lost in first round to Shawn Langdon
A year ago at Houston: Qualified No. 2; won in championship round against Khalid alBalooshi
Career at Houston: Wins 2 (2014, 2008); Runner-ups 3 (2012, 2010, 2004*); Poles 2 (2009, 2001*) *Pro Stock Motorcycle
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2015 1st 5 1 1 2 0 1 0 0 10-4
CAREER 315 48 41 65 84 74 37 3 527-264
Best Time, Speed: 3.701 sec.-NHRA record (2012, Reading, Pa.); 328.78 mph (2012, Reading)
2015 NHRA MELLO YELLO CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
(Through Las Vegas 1; 5 of 24 races; DSR drivers in CAPS)
DRIVER (WINS) POINTS BEHIND
1. ANTRON BROWN (1) 385 —
2. TONY SCHUMACHER (1) 375 -10
3. Shawn Langdon (1) 370 -15
4. SPENCER MASSEY (1) 358 -27
5. Richie Crampton (1) 349 -36
6. Steve Torrence 273 -112
7. Doug Kalitta 272 -113
8. Larry Dixon 263 -122
9. J.R. Todd 261 -124
10. Clay Millican 241 -144