BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 20, 2015) – Two weeks ago, Antron Brown and his Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster team won for the first time at his home track in New Jersey before family and friends.
It was one of the most joyous moments in the career for the 2012 NHRA world champion who currently leads the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel points standings by winning three of the season’s first 10 races.
When he drives to the starting line at noon Sunday for championship eliminations of the 15th annual Thunder Valley Nationals, his Don Schumacher Racing dragster led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald will be trying to earn Antron his first Wally trophy at Bristol Dragway next to Bristol Motor Speedway.
It would appear that a trip to Bristol’s winner’s circle would pale compared to winning at Englishtown, N.J., but Antron is quick to dispel that.
“I never look at what it means to win for the first time at a track. I get excited when we win, period,” said Antron, who also won for the 50th time in his career at Englishtown. “It’s so hard to win and you never know when your next win will come or if it will be your last one.
“When a win happens you cherish it whether it’s your first at a track or your fifth one. If we pull it off on Sunday, trust me, there will be just as much celebration as there was in Englishtown.”
Antron will start from the No. 6 position and open Sunday by Richie Crampton, a two-time winner this year, in the first round. Antron’s best time was on his fourth and final qualifying attempt with a time of 3.770 at 318.39 mph after starting the day with a 3.796 (320.66).
“That’s just what we wanted to get out of that run. I got to the finish line with all eight (cylinders) firing and we’re close to where Brian and Mark want it to be on Sunday.”
Rain showers caused several delays throughout the day and the last session began at 7:30 p.m., about three hours later the scheduled.
The high humidity and temperatures forecast to reach the low 90s create challenging conditions Sunday that will make it harder for the 10,000-horsepower, nitro-fueled machines to generate maximum power.
“Brian, Mark and Fletch (Fletcher) analyze the track and use all the data with what the weather is to make the calls,” Antron said. “As driver we just have to go up there and race what we have and go to the best of our ability.
“Bristol is difficult in itself. The air quality almost is like being at a high-altitude track like Denver after you adjust for the heat and humidity here. That makes it hard on our crew chiefs and our Matco crew.
“That makes it tricky. When you come to Bristol and Thunder Valley that’s one of the things that makes it a special place.”
No. 1 Qualifier: Tony Schumacher (U.S. Army), 3.745 sec.-track record, 326.08 mph (Session 4)
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army
Qualified: No. 6
First round: BROWN vs. Richie Crampton
SATURDAY: 3.796 sec., 320.66 mph, (Session 3); 3.770, 318.39 (Session 4)
FRIDAY: 3.915, 307.02, (Session 1); 3.805, 312.21, (Session 2)