LAS VEGAS (April 3, 2016) – The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been the site of some pretty special moments for Antron Brown and the Matco Tools team and during Sunday’s NHRA Nationals, another moment was added to the list.
The Matco Tools/U.S. Army team scored their first event title of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season in dominant fashion after struggling during the first three events this season.
Last October, it was the site where the Matco Tools team earned their second world championship.
The 11,000-horsepower dragster tuned by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald with assistant Brad Mason clocked four runs between 3.82 and 3.84-seconds in warm, challenging conditions on Sunday.
“It’s huge, especially considering where we came from,” Brown said of their early season struggles. “We had a rough start to this year and it’s just the way it goes sometimes. We had a couple of things we had to change – you had to change your combination around because you have different parts and pieces than you had before. We started off and it wasn’t like our car wasn’t running well. It was running great. You come out and you just want to win and you want to win early and you end up pushing too hard.
“We just went back, tested after Gainesville – Brian, Mark and all the Matco Tools/U.S. Army boys – and we decided we needed to get a window back again because our car wasn’t aggressive early. And we got that window back and it showed here. In qualifying it got better and better and better. Then, on race day today, the car was just like a bracket car. It ran an 84, an 84 and an 82, and an 84 in the final and it did exactly what it needed to do to get us these wins.
“I’m really blessed to drive this car for all 1,600 of our Matco distributors. These struggles we were having has made us learn more, and you grow more, and you’re able to get results like that after learning from when things aren’t going right.”
It was Brown’s 39th Top Fuel title and 55th overall in his career that ties NHRA legend Kenny Bernstein for fourth most wins all time. The team is second in Top Fuel points standings.
“That’s pretty special,” Brown said. “Anytime you win an NHRA Wally it’s special. You don’t look at what you’ve done in the past. That’s one good thing about our team. We look to the future. As long as we can compete and as long as we can be competitive I’m going to be out here as long as I can. Every time we line up on that starting line, you give it all you have. Growing up as a kid in New Jersey this has always been my passion. It’s always been what I love and to do what I love is just a blessing to be out here.”
After the second event of the 2016 Mello Yello season where Brown had an uncharacteristic red-light start, he vowed to use that as fuel to make him better. Not only did the Matco Tools team have the most consistent Top Fuel dragster on the track, but they had the most consistent driver in Brown who used reaction times in the .050’s in each round to help get the win light.
“One thing I can tell you is, sometimes what happens is, you forget about how you got to where you’re at and the success that you’ve had,” Brown said. “I did that in Phoenix. I’ve done that before to where you push yourself, I’m looking at the tree and trying to hit it hard. My lights were all over the place because I was trying different things. You just have to go out there and do what you can do and keep a level head and just hit it and that’s what we did this whole weekend.”
The Mello Yello Series will take two weekends off before returning to action on April 22-24 at the annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
Event winner: Antron Brown (Don Schumacher Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Steve Torrence (CAPCO Racing), 3.728 sec., 325.30 mph
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tool/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying position: No. 3
SUNDAY’S CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATIONS
First round: BROWN (3.840, 313.88) def. Palmer (4.121, 249.35)
Second round: BROWN (3.846, 313.95) def. Pritchett (3.878, 322.11)
Semifinal: BROWN (3.826, 316.90) def. Connolly (3.865, 297.02)
Final: BROWN (3.843, 314.68) def. Buff (3.918, 307.58)
SATURDAY: 3.811, 317.94, (Session 3); 3.760, 319.45, (Session 4)
FRIDAY: 3.899 sec., 308.71 mph, (Session 1); 3.777, 308.64, (Session 2)
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Standings
(Unofficial after 4 of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS; wins in parenthesis)
1. Brittany Force (1) 307 —–
2. ANTRON BROWN (1) 269 -38
3. Doug Kalitta 267 -40
4. Steve Torrence (1) 249 -58
5. Clay Millican 242 -65
6. JR Todd 229 -78
7. Dave Connolly 217 -90
8. Terry McMillen 209 -98
9. TONY SCHUMACHER 190 -117
10. Leah Pritchett (1) 188 -119
13 SHAWN LANGDON 130 -177