ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 6, 2015) – There is a home-field advantage in most team sports but racing at home hasn’t worked for Antron Brown since 2008 when the New Jersey native began competing at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in the NHRA Top Fuel category.
Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald earned the No. 1 qualifying position with a run in a track-record 3.725 seconds at 317.57 mph in the 46th annual Toyota Summernationals.
It is their third straight pole in nine events of the Mello Yello series and not only the first time he’s accomplished that in his career but ties the most times he’s qualified No. 1 in an entire season. It also is the first time an NHRA Top Fuel team has done that since 2012.
The current points leader in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series from Chesterfield, N.J., which is about 30 miles from Raceway Park, grew up there watching his father and uncle race.
Although Antron, 39, won NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle trophies at Englishtown in 2002 and 2005, he has not found the winner’s circle with his Matco team. But he can break the barrier Sunday in championship eliminations that begin at 11 a.m. (ET).
It also would be his 50th NHRA national event title and move him into the top-10 for NHRA wins in all professional categories.
“It all can go together,” he said of driving his Matco dragster into the fabled Raceway Park winner’s circle and achieving the milestone. He has won 33 in Top Fuel and 16 in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
“We’re not treating this like a home race, we’re treating it like any other race and we’re going to come in and hit it hard.”
While he would love to celebrate with four generations of the Brown family and scores of friends and fans on Sunday, he also would like it more to further his points lead in search of a second Mello Yello world championship to match the one he and the Matco team earned in 2012.
“We’ve gotten caught up in that hoopla before (about winning on my home track) and made it to the final round a couple times in Top Fuel,” said Antron, who holds the world record with a run of 3.701 at Reading, Pa., in 2012.
He lost in the first round the past three years at Englishtown after advancing to the quarterfinals in 2011. He reached the championship round in 2009 and 2010 but lost to former world champion Larry Dixon. And none of those losses stings more than in 2010 when he left early and lost with a red-light start.
“I’ve red-lighted here and we’ve hurt the car because we pushed it too hard, so this year we’re just going to race this racetrack like we’ve done at every other race this year,” he said of advancing to three championship rounds and leaving with two Wally trophies.
“You couldn’t write a better story if we get the Wally here. If we win Sunday then I might just retire … nah.”
The stop in Englishtown is the first of three consecutive weekends of Mello Yello racing with the series moving to Epping, N.H., next weekend before heading south to Bristol, Tenn.
TV UPDATE: ESPN has changed the start time for Sunday’s telecast on ESPN2. The delayed, three-hour show has been moved back one hour to 11 p.m. (ET) Sunday.
The following are qualifying results and the first-round pairing for Antron in the Summernationals:
No. 1 qualifier: Antron Brown (Don Schumacher Racing) 3.725 sec.-track record, 317.57 mph (Session 2)
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army
Qualified: No. 1
First round: BROWN vs. Jenna Haddock
SATURDAY: 3.808 sec., 315.93 mph, (Session 3); 3.774, 316.15, (Session 4)
FRIDAY: 3.782, 319.52, (Session 1); 3.725-track record, 317.57, (Session 2)