BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 7, 2015) – Antron Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army team were on the cusp of taking the top seed for the upcoming NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoff that starts in two weeks, but the driver known for having the consistently best reaction times in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series fell a little short Monday in the 61st annual U.S. Nationals in the final regular season standings.
Antron’s reaction time was good in the quarterfinals but it was 0.020 of a second slower than that of Dave Connolly that allowed his slower elapsed time of 3.828 seconds to beat Antron’s 3.825 to the finish line.
“You just do the best you can do every round and he just got us that time,” said Antron, finished the regular season 23 points out of first.
“We’re going to keep our heads down and go after it each and every round in the Countdown races coming up. We’re going to do what we do and we’re not going to change our formula or routine. We have a great team, a great car and we lean on one another. We’re going to pull even tighter together to go out there and give it all we got.
“We never take anybody lightly for sure. It just shows you how tough this competition is. We ran low ET of the round and got beat. Connolly was right there. He cut a great light. That’s what you expect out of these competitors. We have our work cut out for us but we’re going to put the work in and work hard and go after it.”
The U.S. Nationals wasn’t a complete loss for Antron and the Matco team. They won Saturday night’s Traxxas Top Fuel Shootout to earn DSR a $100,000 bonus.
The loss Monday kept Antron, the 2012 NHRA world champion, from getting around Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher for the top-seed in the Countdown that will give him a 30-point edge over Antron when the six-race playoff begins in two weeks outside of Charlotte.
Points standings are reset for the 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.
It had been 70 races (Phoenix 2013) since Brown lost with the quicker dragster on a holeshot but the team’s recent performances that includes resetting his NHRA national elapsed-time record with a time of 3.680 two weeks ago at Brainerd, Minn., when the Matco team also eclipsed the 330-mph barrier for the first time.
“That’s the whole thing,” Brown added. “We gained a lot of momentum these last three races and we’re running good going into the Countdown. We have a really good combination right now and we’re going to go into it in the No. 2 seed. It would’ve been nice to go in No. 1 but the thing about it is when you’re running good like we are everybody steps up their game. We expect a lot out of the Countdown and we’re looking forward to it.”
DON SCHUMACHER RECEIVES MIKE AIELLO AWARD
Don Schumacher, who battled head and neck cancer during this past offseason and the first part of this year, is the 2015 recipient of CompetitionPlus.com’s Mike Aiello “Spirit of Drag Racing” Award. One of Schumacher’s DSR drivers, Jack Beckman, a past recipient of the honor, helped CompetitionPlus.com owner Bobby Bennett make the presentation Monday at Lucas Oil Raceway before the U.S. Nationals.
The honor is presented to someone who has persevered and remained positive in spite of hardship.
The Mike Aiello Award honors the Houston native and standout college athlete at Texas Tech University who was a longtime drag-racing fan and former NHRA Pro Stock crew member. Aiello spent his final years confined to a wheelchair after a workplace injury. Despite physical hardship and severe mobility limitations, he not only attended drag races but made dozens of friends among racers, crew members, and media with his positive outlook and unselfish behavior. Aiello died on Dec. 29, 2006. He was 39.
Said Bennett, “Big Mike was the greatest drag-racing fan ever. He had all the odds stacked against him, and he never quit smiling.”
“NHRA is the best family there is,” Schumacher said. “The fans, the competitors, the teammates … I can only say thank you to all of them. They’re the ones that caused me to do this day after day, year after year. And I love every one of them. I’m thrilled to be able to continue to do this. We’re going forward.”
In addition to Schumacher and Beckman, previous recipients include: Steve Johnson (2014), Shawn Cowie and DSR’s Antron Brown (2013), Aaron Polburn (2012), Beckman (2011), Michael Beard (2010), Mike Edwards (2009), Tim Wilkerson (2008) and DSR crew chief John Medlen (2007).
Winner: Morgan Lucas (Morgan Lucas Racing)
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 (3.796 sec., 318.17) def. J.R. Todd (3.905, 311.34)
Quarterfinals: Dave Connolly (3.828, 324.59) def. BROWN (3.825, 317.72)
4.031, 256.70, (Session 4); 3.929, 310.41, (Session 5)
3.868, 318.69, (Session 2); 4.147, 220.62, (Session 3)
FRIDAY: rained out, (Session 1) FRIDAY
Rained out, (Session 1)
2015 NHRA MELLO YELLO CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS – FINAL REGULAR SEASON
(Unofficial after Indy; 18 of 24 races; DSR drivers in CAPS)
DRIVER (WINS) POINTS BEHIND
1. Tony Schumacher (3) 1,398 ——
2. Antron Brown (4) 1,375 -23
3. Richie Crampton (4) 1,172 -226
4. Larry Dixon 1,142 -256
5. Brittany Force 1,051 -347
6. Shawn Langdon (1) 1,045 -353
7. Doug Kalitta (2) 1,032 -366
8. JR Todd (1) 978 -428
9. Steve Torrence (1) 941 -457
10. Dave Connolly 894 -504
2015 NHRA COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP PLAYOFF STANDINGS
(Unofficial after Indy; DSR drivers in CAPS)
DRIVER POINTS BEHIND
1. TONY SCHUMACHER 2,110 —
2. ANTRON BROWN 2,080 -30
3. Richie Crampton 2,070 -40
4. Larry Dixon 2,060 -50
5. Brittany Force 2,050 -60
6. Shawn Langdon 2,040 -70
7. Doug Kalitta 2,030 -80
8. J.R. Todd 2,020 -90
9. Steve Torrence 2,010 -100
10. Dave Connolly 2,000 -110