BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 14, 2016) – For Antron Brown, the Countdown to the Championship is not a six-race playoff in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. It’s an opportunity to race in 24 rounds of competition.
The Matco Tools/U.S. Army team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald will be taking it one round at a time beginning this weekend in the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte.
The Matco team takes a 30-point advantage as the No. 1 seed into the Countdown opener this weekend near Charlotte after points were reset two weeks ago after the last of 18 regular season races. But before they can focus on winning rounds, they have to focus on qualifying and earning crucial bonus points in each of four rounds of qualifying where the three quickest earned between one and three points.
“When you get into the Countdown, in any race, for one, you need to qualify well,” said Brown, the reigning and two-time world champion. “Our main focus going in is not to leave one stone unturned. We have to capitalize on those bonus points get in a good qualifying spot in that top eight so you can actually have lane choice for the first round on Sunday. And it’s tough to qualify in the top eight.
“The thing about it is, every point is crucial. I look at the Countdown each and every year as not just six races. There’s 24 rounds up for grabs. Each round is worth 20 points. That’s your maximum points. How many of those rounds can you get? That’s what we focus on, just doing one round at a time and getting as many rounds as possible. Last year we did a great job at it. But this year is going to be a whole ‘nother ball of wax where the competition has stepped up again to just an incredible level.”
Last year Brown and the Matco team won first three playoff races, including Charlotte, and clinched the championship before the finale at Pomona, Calif.
Through 18 races in this year’s regular season, Brown has four wins in eight final round appearances. Following the U.S. Nationals Labor Day event near Indianapolis, points were reset for the 10 drivers qualified for the 10th annual Countdown to the Championship.
His lead went from 134 to 30.
“All these spots are so close and tight, man, it’s going to be a crapshoot in these six races,” he said. “Those are the challenges we all live for. We live for these moments to go out there as a team, as a whole, to see who can be that champion at the end of the year. That’s what we’ve been working for. We put the hard work in with our Matco Tools Toyota, Pennzoil dragster to go out here and compete at this high level. Now we’re just hoping all of our hard work pays off.
“I’m confident in my team. The thing about it for me is that I have no regrets each and every race that I go to. I put the work in every week. I work hard. My team works hard. Brian and Mark are always studying the data, breaking down different formulas, they’re making different graphs to be better each and every week.
“When I go into the Countdown race, I’m going in with our team, and we have all the necessary pieces and ingredients to win this championship, like we did last year. When we go in, we have to go in with our same mindset and focus. I feel confident. I feel confident we can compete at the level that it takes to be there at the last race to have a chance to win this championship. I’m very confident in that.”
ANTRON BROWN: Matco Tools/U.S. Army
Last event: Indianapolis (Sept. 2-5, 2016): Qualified No. 5, lost in quarterfinals to Tony Schumacher
A year ago at Charlotte 2: Qualified No. 6, won in championship round over J.R. Todd
This year at Charlotte Four-Wide: Qualified No. 6, lost in final round (runner-up)
Career at Charlotte 2: Wins 2; Runner-ups 2; Poles 0
Career at Charlotte: Wins 4; Runner-ups 1; Poles 0
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2016 1st 18 4 4 3 6 2 2 0 39-14
CAREER 352 58 47 72 93 80 46 3 607-291
Best Time, Speed: 3.679 sec., (2016, Brainerd; and first below 3.7, 2015, Brainerd); 331.12 mph (2015, Brainerd)
2016 NHRA Countdown to the Championship Standings
(Official after Indy; DSR drivers in CAPS)
DRIVER POINTS BEHIND
- ANTRON BROWN 2,110 —
- Doug Kalitta 2,080 -30
- Steve Torrence 2,070 -40
- TONY SCHUMACHER 2,060 -50
- Brittney Force 2,050 -60
- J.R. Todd 2,040 -70
- SHAWN LANGDON 2,030 -80
- Clay Millican 2,020 -90
- Richie Crampton 2,010 -100
- LEAH PRITCHETT 2,000 -110