BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 21, 2015) – Antron Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army team left the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Sunday with the Top Fuel championship points lead for the fifth straight NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event, but it isn’t how they preferred to do that.
Antron and the team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, which have won three of this year’s 11 event titles, were upset in the opening round at Bristol Dragway marking the first time the team has lost in opening rounds at consecutive races since two of the last three races of the 2014 season. They also lost in the first round a week before at Epping, N.H.
The Matco team qualified sixth across the road from Bristol Motor Speedway with two solid runs on Saturday but track and weather conditions were much hotter on Sunday and contributed to the car losing traction and slowing to a time of 4.242 seconds at 224.62 mph that wasn’t enough to beat the No. 11-seed Richie Crampton’s 3.863 (314.39).
Prior to that run, Antron’s slowest pass in four qualifying sessions was 3.915 (307.02) over the weekend of wild weather changes that presented crew chiefs Sunday with the hottest track and air temperatures of the weekend.
“We were just pressing too hard,” said Antron, who holds a two-point lead over Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher whose U.S. Army dragster had a mechanical problem that prevented the team from getting the car to the starting line in the second round.
“The track just got hotter and just wasn’t going to hold what we were trying to run,” Antron said of the team’s goal of running between 3.80 and 3.82 seconds. “Brian and Mark went off our other runs this weekend and even factored in runs we’ve put on other tracks under these conditions. It just wouldn’t hold it. We were just too aggressive, I guess.
“We’ve just got to make our window a little bit bigger and learn to not outrace ourselves. We ran so well in the previous races that I guess we took for granted that the car could go out and run that every time. This track just wasn’t going to yield that.
“We never thought we’d overpower it like we did. It wasn’t like it was way too aggressive. We were way out in front of (Crampton) before trouble happened to us.
“That’s the way it is. We’ll just chalk it up to experience and move on to Norwalk. And our main goal is to just get everything ready for the Countdown to the Championship over the last six races of the season.
“We’ll be fine.”
An NHRA Wally trophy from Bristol still eludes Antron and is one of only three of the 21 tracks on the circuit where he has not been in the winner’s circle.
After three races in three weeks, the Mello Yello teams finally get to go home before a two-week break. The series resumes over Fourth of July Weekend at Norwalk, Ohio.
Event winner: Richie Crampton (Morgan Lucas Racing)
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: Richie Crampton (3.863 sec., 314.39 mph) def. BROWN (4.242, 224.62)
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)
NHRA MELLO YELLO TOP FUEL STANDINGS
(Unofficial after Bristol; 11th of 24 races; DSR drivers in CAPS)
Pos. Driver (wins) Points Behind
1. Antron Brown (3) 826 —-
2. Tony Schumacher (2) 824 -2
3. Richie Crampton (3) 754 -72
4. Larry Dixon 699 -127
5. Spencer Massey (1) 693 -133
6. Doug Kalitta (1) 666 -160
7. Shawn Langdon (1) 626 -200
8. Brittany Force 585 -241
9. JR Todd 563 -269
10. Clay Millican 511 -315