CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 17, 2016) –  Antron Brown knew that the start of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, a six-race playoff for the Top Fuel world championship, was going to be tough from the first qualifying session for the defending and two-time world champion.

But Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army team ended qualifying for the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals on a high note by being best of the final session.

“We’ve talked about it and talked about it and now it’s all showing out there,” Brown said of the competition. “It’s so tight right now. It’s going to make it really interesting on race day, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. This is what you strive for, this is what you live for. It’s not going to be easy and we’re just ready to get after it right now.

“My guys are honing in on it, the car is getting better and better. We found a gremlin that’s been biting us since Indy (two weeks ago) and we had a problem and we zeroed in and found it last night. The car is back to being normal and we have to get it balanced back out and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

The Matco Tools team qualified outside the top-five for the first time since the May event at Topeka, Kan., where they advanced to the final round. The team will start Sunday’s eliminations at noon (ET) from the No. 7 spot at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte.

“Tomorrow is very important. We definitely want to get off to a good start and just take it one round at a time. That’s going to be the key thing, we have to give it all we have each round. That’s our game plan, that’s how we approached it last year and we will just focus on one round at a time.

“We’ve been working hard, that (last) run felt like ol’ Nelly was back. We’re ready to march into tomorrow. We picked up some of those little bonus points in that last session and boosted our confidence heading into race day.”

The Matco Tools team posted a 3.766-second pass at 318 mph in the heat of the day in the fourth and final qualifying session to pick up three bonus points.



No. 1 qualifier: Doug Kalitta (Kalitta Motorsports) 3.721 sec., 325.77 mph


ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army
Qualifying position: No. 7
First round opponent: Clay Millican


FRIDAY: 3.836 sec., 308.28 mph, (Session 1); 3.742, 317.94, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.784, 320.89, (Session 3); 3.766, 318.92., (Session 4)