TOPEKA, Kan. (May 24, 2015) – When it rains, it pours was a fitting phrase for the 27th running of the Kanas Nationals this weekend at Heartland Park Topeka. The NHRA Mello Yello Series dodged rain showers and thunderstorms most of the weekend, while Mother Nature literally rained on the parade of 2012 NHRA champion Antron Brown and his Matco Tools Top Fuel team in a bizarre quarterfinal round.
Brown, who earned his fourth No. 1 qualifying award in eight tries at the Kansas track with a then track record elapsed time of 3.727 seconds, was poised to end his Topeka curse. It looked as if the Topeka jinx may continue when a parts malfunction in the opening round saw Brown’s Matco Tools/U.S. Army rail drop a cylinder and slow to a winning elapsed time of 4.081 seconds.
In round two, Brown was matched-up against three-time series champion Larry Dixon. As they were doing burnouts, NHRA officials were forced to shut off the cars when it began to rain.
Brown’s tuning duo of Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald decided to send the Matco Tools car back to the pit to refuel nitromethane and change the clutch pack in the bellhousing. The team didn’t have the necessary time to do a pre-run warm-up before returning to the starting line to face Dixon. In a close race, Dixon scored the win 3.771 to 3.795 and Brown’s hard luck outcomes at Heartland Park continued.
“You do a burnout and get everything heated up, you get into sync to go racing,” Brown said of his procedure. “Then you have to stand down. We went away and did what we had to do in that situation, and they wanted us to get right back up there again.
“At the end of the day we just need a protocol. You should get 45 minutes to go away and do what you have to do and get properly warmed up. It’s not about how you run, this is our livelihood, this is how we make our living and this is how we do what we do. When it rains, they have their protocols on how long it takes to dry the track and do what they do. It should be the same way with what we have to do. The main thing is just the safety aspect of it. They made the right call stopping us because the rain came down harder and harder as we were doing our burnout and the track got wet and they didn’t want to send us down. We’re happy with that because it’s the right thing to do. We just need a protocol so we can deal with what we need to do in an efficient and proper manner.
“We put forth our best shot. We didn’t want to take a chance with the clutch and make the car too aggressive. And then we put in a new one in without warming up, so it may have been not as aggressive as it needed to be. That being said, it was a close race with (Larry) Dixon and they got us. We’ll lick our wounds and go on to Englishtown (N.J.) and get back after it. All I know is it definitely makes our team a lot more hungry for Englishtown. Hopefully the weather plays out right and we can take it from there.”
After a one-week break, the NHRA Mello Yello Series resumes at Brown’s home track at Englishtown on June 5-7. Brown is a two-time Pro Stock Motorcycle winner at the track located 45 minutes from where he grew up in central New Jersey. He also has two final round appearances in Top Fuel.
Brown and the Matco Tools team continue to lead the Top Fuel standing after eight of 24 races on the 2015 schedule.
Event winner: Richie Crampton (Morgan Lucas Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Antron Brown (Don Schumacher Racing) 3.727 sec.-track record, 313.37 mph, (Session 2)
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army
Qualified: No. 1
First round: BROWN (4.081 sec., 232.11 mph) def. Luigi Novelli (4.126, 23.16)
Second round: Larry Dixon (3.771, 329.91) def. BROWN (3.795, 27.94)
SATURDAY: 3.867 sec., 298.34 mph, (Session 3); rained out, (Session 4)
FRIDAY: 3.767, 314.68, (Session 1); 3.727-track record, 313.37, (Session 2)
2015 NHRA MELLO YELLO CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
(Unofficial through Topeka, 8 of 24 races; DSR drivers in CAPS)
DRIVER (WINS) PTS BEHIND
1 Antron Brown 628 —-
2 Tony Schumacher 575 -53
3 Richie Crampton 547 -81
4 Spencer Massey 530 -98
5 Doug Kalitta 502 -126
6 Larry Dixon 476 -152
7 Shawn Langdon 473 -155
8 JR Todd 411 -227
9 Clay Millican 395 -233
10 Steve Torrence 392 -236