Matco Tools team, Brown ready for Las Vegas to show homework
after Gators proves champions continue to be fast learners
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (March 29, 2016) – Antron Brown has many special memories from racing at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The 39-year-old New Jersey native has won at the track three times including a sweep of the Top Fuel titles in 2011 during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
But nothing tops last fall at the track when he won the pole before losing in the semifinals. That early exit, however, was enough to clinch his second NHRA Top Fuel world championship with Don Schumacher Racing’s Matco Tools/U.S. Army team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald along with assistant Brad Mason, a part-time Las Vegas resident.
“Those are times you never forget,” said Brown, who also won the championship in 2012 but that drama continued until the last round of the year at Pomona, Calif.
“But this is a new year and everyone started out tied for first place.”
The championship was the highlight of a season that included career-bests in event titles (seven) and seven No. 1 qualifying positions for Brown.
The Matco team has been the most dominant in Top Fuel since 2009 when he joined DSR with Corradi and Oswald. Since then, they have posted 36 event titles in 59 final rounds after 30 No. 1 qualifying spots.
While this year has started with the Matco team not advancing past the second round, Brown has no worries despite being ranked 10th in points after three of 24 races in the Mello Yello season. Slow starts have not hampered Brown in the past.
His championship run a year ago chugged along for the first six races when it also was ranked 10th in points, but he won two of the next three NHRA Wally trophies and four of the last 10 during that span in which the Matco team recorded the NHRA’s first 3.6-second run with a time of 3.680 that remains the NHRA elapsed time record.
“Brian and Mark don’t just look at the first few races as do-or-die,” he said. “We always look to the big picture and that’s the Countdown (to the Championship playoff) at the end of the year; that’s when championships are won.”
The Matco team suffered from rare traction issues getting off the starting line in this season’s first three races despite qualifying in the top eight at each including second and third at the last two.
“When you struggle a little bit that’s when you learn, and that’s what Brian and Mark know how to do. We’ve qualified good but haven’t had the performance we expect on Sunday during eliminations.”
The team remained in Gainesville, Fla., to test on Monday after the Gatornationals two weeks ago.
“We made four laps and we launched hard on all four, and learned what we needed to,” he said of post-race testing. “We shut off early each time and ran a 3.75 at 250 mph. We planned to shut it off way before the finish line. That could have been a 3.69.
“We’re ready for Vegas.”
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army
Last event (March 18-20 at Gainesville): Qualified No. 3, lost in first round to Terry McMillen
2015 Las Vegas 1: Qualified No. 14, lost in first round to Shawn Langdon
2015 Las Vegas 2: Qualified No. 1, lost in semifinals to Doug Kalitta
Career at Las Vegas 1: Wins 1 (2011); Runner-ups 4 (2013, 2012, 2008, 2001-PSM); Poles 3 (2014, 2013, 2010,
Career at Las Vegas: Wins 2 (2013, 2011); Runner-ups 4 (2013, 2012, 2008, 2001); Poles 4 (2015, 2014, 2013, 2010)
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2016 10th 3 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 2-3
2015 1st 24 7 3 6 3 5 7 0 51-17
CAREER 337 54 43 69 89 79 44 3 570-280
Best Time, Speed: 3.680 sec.-national record, first 3.6 (2015, Brainerd); 331.12 mph (2015, Brainerd)
2016 NHRA MELLO YELLO STANDINGS
(Official after Gainesville, third of 24 events; wins in parenthesis, DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. Brittany Force (1) 251
2. Clay Millican 210
3. Doug Kalitta 205
4. Steve Torrence (1) 199
5. Terry McMillen 178
6. Leah Pritchett (1) 166
7. JR Todd 157
8. TONY SCHUMACHER 155
9. Richie Crampton 153
10. ANTRON BROWN 149
12. SHAWN LANGDON 96