BROWNSBURG, Ind. (May 19, 2015) – Antron Brown is going from a track where he has experienced extraordinary success to Heartland Park Topeka for this weekend’s NHRA Kansas Nationals where he has yet to find the winner’s circle.
The 2012 NHRA Top Fuel world champion and current points leader in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series won his sixth Wally trophy Sunday at Atlanta Dragway in dominating fashion that began by being the quickest in each of four qualifying sessions to earn the first No. 1 qualifying position of the year for Don Schumacher Racing’s Matco Tools/U.S. Army team.
Brown, who has won 49 event titles including 33 in Top Fuel, hopes he can carry momentum into Topeka that is one of only four tracks on the Mello Yello circuit where he has not left with a trophy, and one of those, Epping, N.H., has only hosted the series twice.
And Topeka, other than Epping, is the only one where he has not advanced to a championship round since he first raced there in 1998 in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category.
Adding to the Matco Tools team’s Kansas slump is that it has lost in the first round of eliminations there the past two years and hasn’t advanced passed the second round the last five.
“It’s one of those deals in life when you want something so bad but it never seems you can get it,” said Brown, whose recent Atlanta title made him the only Top Fuel driver to win twice this year.
“If you settle down, focus, relax and quit worrying about it, it comes to you. That’s the approach I’m going to take this weekend,” said Antron, who was the top qualifier at Topeka in 2009, 2010 and 2012. “I’m going out there and do what we do.
“Topeka is a track that we’ve always run well at. It’s just a special place; it’s an inspirational race for me and would mean so much if we could bring home that trophy. I have to get passed my emotions when I go there just so I can do what I normally do and because it means so much to me.”
Adding to Antron’s motivation this is that it is Memorial Day Weekend.
“Memorial Day is very special to me and this will be a great time to salute our troops and everyone who has served to protect our country. I was proud to carry the colors of the U.S. Army for many years in Pro Stock Motorcycle, and I’m still involved with the Army through its education program.
“We’re going to take it one round at a time like we have at every race this year and hopefully some of the chips will fall our way.”
He also hopes the chips fall the right way for the Topeka facility.
A major conversation throughout the Mello Yello pit area this season has been the status of this year’s 27th annual Kansas Nationals. Despite recent action by the Topeka City Council that leaves the facility’s long-term future uncertain, the NHRA stepped in to guarantee it will go on as scheduled this weekend and has worked tirelessly the past few weeks to ensure a quality event takes place.
He knows he also will feel added pressure once he heads toward the track on Gary Ormsby Drive that is paved with his memories of Ormsby, the 1989 NHRA Top Fuel world champion who won 14 titles before his life ended in 1991 at age 49 after a battle with cancer.
“The road coming in is named after one of my racing heroes, and that’s one of the things that really stands out to me when we go there.
“He was very innovative. He didn’t just bring out a dragster with an enclosed canopy like we now use at DSR, but he brought a fully streamlined car that covered the engine and everything that made it so aerodynamic. I got to see him at races when I was a little kid. I never met him or knew him other than as a fan getting his autograph.
“He was just a cool, soft-spoken, laid-back guy, yet he still was a serious racer. He was well respected and a genuine, genuine nice guy and he was a hard-core racer.
“That’s something I’ve always tried to be; I’m very approachable, very nice, but you don’t want to line up against me on the starting line.”
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster
Last event (May 17), Atlanta: Qualified No. 1; won in championship round against Leah Pritchett
A year ago at Topeka: Qualified No. 9; lost in first round to Khalid alBalooshi
Career at Topeka: Wins 0; Runner-ups 0; Poles 3 (2012, 2010, 2009)
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2015 1st 7 2 1 2 1 1 1 0 15-5
CAREER 317 49 41 65 85 74 38 3 532-265
Best Time, Speed: 3.701 sec.-NHRA record (2012, Reading, Pa.); 328.78 mph (2012, Reading)
2015 NHRA MELLO YELLO TOP FUEL CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
(Through Atlanta, 7 of 24 races; DSR drivers in CAPS)
DRIVER (WINS) POINTS BEHIND
1. ANTRON BROWN (2) 567 —
2. TONY SCHUMACHER (1) 514 -53
3. SPENCER MASSEY (1) 475 -92
4. Doug Kalitta (1) 445 -122
5. Shawn Langdon (1) 437 -130
6. Richie Crampton (1) 427 -140
7. Larry Dixon 389 -178
8. Clay Millican 363 -204
9. Steve Torrence 360 -207
10. JR Todd 355 -212