CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 18, 2016) – Antron Brown started the Countdown to the Championship just like he did in 2015 – with a win at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte.
The Matco Tools team kicked off the six-race sprint to the Top Fuel world championship by defeating Clay Millican, Brittany Force, Pat Dakin and Doug Kalitta en route to their fifth win in nine final round appearances through 19 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events.
After qualifying seventh and fighting mechanical issues in the first three qualifying sessions, the team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald rallied to be the quickest in Saturday’s last session and marched through tough opposition during Sunday’s championship eliminations in hot and muggy conditions.
“I’m dreaming right now, somebody needs to come pinch me,” Brown said. “The thing about it is, when you come here this is the way you want to start the Countdown off. Brian, Mark and this whole Matco Tools/U.S. Army/Toyota team we just keeps digging. That was the key.
“We were low of the final qualifying session and that gave us some confidence coming into today. The track got to be the hottest that we’ve had all year long and we knew it was going to be tricky. We navigated down it, did what we had to do. We had some really monster match-ups.
“This Countdown (to the Championship) puts a lot of pressure on a lot of teams and so many teams stepped up to the plate this weekend and performed at a high, high level.
“Our main focus right now is we have to put this one out of the way and end this the way we want to end it. When we came into this racetrack and saw the banner that says the ‘Countdown Starts Here’ all my boys, we looked at that and we put our heads down and we did what we do best and that’s go to work. We don’t worry about all the hoopla that’s happening around us. We just stay focused and maintaining just doing the job that we do.”
The NHRA Mello Yello Series heads to Gateway Motorsports Park next weekend for the fifth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals were Brown and the Matco Tools team will go for their fifth straight title.
“No one is getting relaxed right now,” Brown said. “There is still five races to go. We have to go out there and we have to fight. No matter how we did here, it doesn’t make a difference going into the next race. We have to go back to the shop, prepare for two days and then head over to St. Louis.
“We have to go out there and work hard and I’m ready and my team is ready. We have to be all in. We have to be ready together and that’s what it’s going to take to go out here and compete and try to pull out some round wins.”
Sunday’s NHRA Carolina Nationals title was the 43rd Top Fuel title of Brown’s career and 59th overall including the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. The Matco Tools team entered this weekend with a 30-point advantage over Kalitta in second and were able to extend the lead to 42 points.
TOP FUEL DRAGSTER
Event winner: Antron Brown (Don Schumacher Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Doug Kalitta (Kalitta Motorsports) 3.721 sec., 325.77 mph
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army
Qualified: No. 7
SUNDAY CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATIONS
First round: BROWN (3.762 sec., 318.99) def. Clay Millican (5.606, 117.33)
Second round: BROWN (3.796, 319.60) def. Brittany Force (3.797, 320.97)
Semifinals: BROWN (3.870, 311.85) def. Pat Dakin (6.090, 101.73)
Final: BROWN (3.763, 319.29) def. Doug Kalitta (3.811, 320.28)
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)
2016 NHRA Countdown to the Championship Standings
(Unofficial after Charlotte; 1 of 6 playoff races; DSR drivers in CAPS)
- ANTRON BROWN (5) 2226 —–
- Doug Kalitta (3) 2184 -42
- Steve Torrence (2) 2126 -100
- Brittany Force (3) 2110 -116
- TONY SCHUMACHER (2) 2099 -127
- J.R. Todd (1) 2074 -152
- SHAWN LANGDON (2) 2067 -159
- LEAH PRITCHETT (1) 2054 -172
- Clay Millican 2052 -174
- Richie Crampton 2046 -180