BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 1, 2015) – Antron Brown is one of only two active Don Schumacher Racing drivers who have left the NHRA U.S. Nationals on Labor Day with most coveted trophy of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Teammate Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team owns a record nine Top Fuel titles from Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis.
Antron has three NHRA trophies from the most prestigious event on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit, but his only title in Top Fuel came in 2011; the others were in 2000 and 2004 when he competed in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
It’s unlikely Antron and his Matco Tools/U.S. Army team or anyone else will match his teammate’s total of Indy wins, but there’s another achievement more attainable and more important to 2012 NHRA Top Fuel world champion and resident of Pittsboro, Ind., which is a short 15-minute drive to the Indy track.
The Matco team will begin racing Friday evening ranked second in points and trailing Schumacher by 53 points.
Winning the U.S. Nationals this year would have a big payoff for Antron and the team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald especially if they can advance two rounds of eliminations further than their teammate on Monday to take over the points lead.
“What gets you excited is just the prestige of Indy, and our Matco boys want to leave Indy No. 1 in the standings,” said Antron, who has won 51 Mello Yello trophies.
“It’s one of those deals where winning at Indy always sticks out. You know when it happened, how it happened, who you beat and what it took to get there. Looking at things this year, we know what we have to do to succeed and we will have a good game plan heading into it”
A unique points-and-a-half points payoff during championship eliminations will make the task a bit more manageable. During eliminations, a win will pay 30 points instead of the standard 20.
“That can be huge on Monday,” he said. “That means the winner can earn 150 points on Monday instead of 100 and that’s a big difference as close as this race is.”
The U.S. Nationals is the last event of the 18-race Mello Yello regular season that determines the top-10 drivers who will contend for world championships in the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs that begin in two weeks at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte.
After Indy, points will be reset for championship contenders with the points leader getting a 30-point edge over No. 2 and the others separated by 10-point increments.
“There’s a lot of strategy involved and you just have to make a lot of good runs,” said Antron, whose Matco team has won four times this year. “At Indy, everybody brings their ‘A’ game and brings all their best parts. That’s what Indy brings out and that’s what makes it special.”
At the last Mello Yello event in Brainerd, Minn., Antron the Matco team became first to complete a run in less than 3.7 seconds when it went 3.680 two weeks ago to set an NHRA national record and exceed 330 mph for the first time before losing in the semifinals.
“It was just a great weekend all in all,” Antron said. “The main thing on this team is that we’re growing on every run. We want to grow from every run and if we can do that it’ll put us in the position that we need to be to go after that championship over the last six races. We’re on par for that now. We know we can run in the 3.60s.”
The Matco team led the best Top Fuel teams in the serious during testing at Indy last week with a run of 3.707 at 325.22 mph.
“You have to push the envelope and see what you’re capable of because it’s only going to pay off. If you’ve never done it and you don’t try it then it’s going to bite you in the end.”
An added bonus for the nitro teams is the fourth annual Traxxas Nitro Shootout that will pay the winning Top Fuel team a $100,000 bonus.
The Matco team is seeded No. 2 and will face J.R. Todd in Saturday’s opening round.
“It’s survival of the fittest,” Antron said. “You know you can’t make a mistake because everyone is bringing their best. Everything is so crucial and nobody is guaranteed a spot at Indy; you have to qualify to race on Monday.”
Antron Brown, Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster
Last event: Seattle (Aug. 7-9, 2015): Qualified No. 8; lost in first round to Shawn Langdon
A year ago at Indy: Qualified No. 16; lost in first round to Tony Schumacher
Career at Indy: Wins 3 (2011, 2004, 2000); Runner-ups 0; Poles 3 (2013, 2011, 2009)
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2015 2nd 17 4 2 4 2 5 5 0 31-13
CAREER 327 51 42 67 85 78 42 3 548-273
Best Time, Speed: 3.680 sec.-national record (2015, Brainerd); 330.88 mph (2015, Brainerd)
WEDNESDAY FAN FEST AT MONUMENT CIRCLE
The U.S. Nationals Fan Fest gets underway 11 a.m. Friday at Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis with race teams, show cars, classic cars, live music, video displays and giveaways highlighted by results of the fan vote for the No. 8 spots in the Traxxas Shootouts.
Fans will also be able to get autographs from their favorite drivers including those with DSR after the event’s official press conference.
DSR OPEN HOUSE FOR RILEY KIDS
The 10th annual Don Schumacher Racing Open House to benefit Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health is 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday at DSR (1681 E. Northfield Drive, Brownsburg, Ind.) and will feature an announcement regards to expansion plans for the winningest organization in the NHRA Mello Yello series.
The festive event is free to the public and features a giant car and bike show, big nitro Cacklefest, silent auction, various displays, contests and some of the area’s best food trucks.
DSR drivers will be joined by owner Don Schumacher for an hour-long autograph session beginning at 1:45 p.m.
The $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootouts will be held Saturday for Top Fuel dragsters and Sunday for Funny Cars.
The first seven Mello Yello event winners in Top Fuel and Funny Car advanced to the Shootouts that will have the first two rounds of eliminations held concurrently within their respective qualifying sessions with the finalists competing in an extra round.
The following are first-round pairings for the Top Fuel Shootouts:
No. 1. TONY SCHUMACHER (DSR) vs. No. 8 fan vote/lottery; No. 2. ANTRON BROWN (DSR) vs. No. 7 J.R. Todd; No. 3. Richie Crampton vs. No. 6 Steve Torrence; and No. 4. Doug Kalitta vs. No. 5 Shawn Langdon.