BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 6, 2015) – Antron Brown had a brief celebration with family, friends and his Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster Saturday night but what he wants most is a longer one Monday night upon conclusion of the 61st annual NHRA U.S. Nationals near Indianapolis.
Antron and Don Schumacher Racing’s Matco team won the $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel dragsters on Saturday night but several delays led to racing to around 10 p.m. That left little team for a party.
“Being able to win the Shootout with my family and our friends here and so close to where we live was special, but we had to be back at Lucas Oil Raceway early on Sunday,” said Antron, who ranks second in championship points heading into Monday’s championship eliminations. “But they’ll be plenty of time for a good time Monday night; we just have to go out and do what we do.”
Monday marks the biggest day of the 18-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season after which the top-10 drivers in Mello Yello categories will be determined and will have the opportunity to compete in the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff that begins in two weeks near Charlotte.
Points will be reset for Countdown contenders with the regular season points leader getting a 30-point lead over the No. 2 driver with the other eight positions separated at 10-point increments.
“There’s a lot on the table tomorrow,” Antron said of the race about 10 miles from his home in Pittsboro.
Antron and the Matco team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald have won four Mello Yello titles this year but trailed Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher by 53 points at the start of the U.S. Nationals.
A wrinkle added to this year’s event outside Indianapolis is that drivers will compete in a points-and-a-half format where each round win Monday will be worth 30 points instead if the standard 20.
“Tony’s our teammate but we want to get around him and get those extra bonus points by being No. 1 after the U.S. Nationals,” said Antron, the 2012 NHRA Top Fuel world champion who has won four times this year and 51 times in his career.
“Our teammate, the U.S. Army car is running great, and it’s going to be a battle. Our main goal is to get as many points as we can because we want that 30-point cushion going into the Countdown. And doubling-up at Indy would be nice. Real nice.
“It’s going to be anybody’s ball game on Monday, especially for that first lap at 11 a.m. (ET). We’re running earlier than we have all weekend so the track will be better before it gets too hot,” he said of afternoon temperatures forecast for the mid-90s for a second straight day.
“Our main focus during qualifying was to get some quality runs in the heat and we did that on Saturday. The first run today it just dropped a (cylinder) early. We can fix that. We’re going to try to duplicate what we did on Saturday and try to run in the mid-3.80s. We’re confident we can do some things with this Matco Tools car. We have to get by the first round and take it from there.”
TRAXXAS TOP FUEL SHOOTOUT ELIMINATIONS ON SATURDAY
FIRST ROUND: No. 8 Clay Millican (3.897 sec., 299. 26 mph) def. No. 1. TONY SCHUMACHER (3.906, 316.01); No. 2. ANTRON BROWN (3.868, 318.69) def. No. 7 J.R. Todd (4.462, 188.83); No. 3. Richie Crampton (3.977, 280.78) def. No. 6 Steve Torrence (4.474, 238.64); and No. 4. Doug Kalitta (8.139, 93.14) def. No. 5 Shawn Langdon (18.723, 48.81).
SEMIFINALS: BROWN (3.826, 320.43) def. Crampton (4.225, 233.56); Kalitta (3.946, 307.44) def. Millican (4.067, 270.59).
FINAL: BROWN (4.147, 220.62) def. Kalitta (6.588, 86.46)
No. 1 qualifier: Larry Dixon (Bob Vandergriff Racing) 3.744 sec., 326.00 mph
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army
Qualified: No. 12
First round: BROWN vs. J.R. Todd
SUNDAY: 4.031, 256.70, (Session 4); 3.929, 310.41, (Session 5)
SATURDAY: 3.868, 318.69, (Session 2); 4.147, 220.62, (Session 3)
FRIDAY: rained out, (Session 1)