NORWALK, Ohio (June 25, 2017) – Antron Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel team for Don Schumacher Racing completed the grueling June Swing of four races in four weeks Sunday to reach the halfway mark of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season at Norwalk, Ohio.
For Brown, the two-time defending series champion with 47 Top Fuel wins to his credit, two consecutive quarterfinal exits a week ago at Bristol, Tenn., and Sunday in the Buckeye state, the track located about an hour from Matco’s home office in Stow, Ohio, it wasn’t the ideal finish to June, but the veteran racer knows the long drag racing season is a marathon, not a sprint.
Brown qualified his Matco-backed rail in the No. 5 position on Saturday afternoon and remains the only Don Schumacher Racing car to have not lost in the opening round this season after besting Dom Lagana in round one before Brown’s dragster smoked the tires against teammate and three-time 2017 winner Leah Pritchett.
“We were just out there racing hard and we knew we were going up against a teammate. We pushed real hard,” Brown said of his fifth quarterfinal exit of the season. “The track just got away from us, plain and simple. We just got a little too aggressive and you can’t take that Papa John’s team lightly. That’s just one of those deals you learn from as a team. You build from it.
“There is still a lot of racing left. Half the season. We’re going to Chicago in two weeks and that’s one of our favorite tracks. We’re hoping to build some momentum and make a move starting there like we did last season. The weather can be up and down at Chicago and we qualify at night and race during the day and that’s tricky. When we get there, this Matco Tools/U.S. Army team with Toyota will be ready.”
Brown, whose 45 NHRA Top Fuel event titles over the past nine seasons are the most in the category, has set a high bar with on track success with his team led by tuners Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald. Through 12 of 24 races, Brown has three more round wins (26) than at the same point last season when he won seven races en route to his third NHRA championship.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series takes a one week hiatus before returning to action near Chicago, July 7-9, at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill. Brown is a five-time winner at the Chicagoland track, including three in Top Fuel.
Event winner: Steve Torrence (CAPCO Contractors)
No. 1 qualifier: Doug Kalitta (Kalitta Motorsports) 3.709 sec., 327.43 mph
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster
Crew chiefs: Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald; Assistant: Brad Mason
First round: BROWN (3.768 sec., 323.35 mph) def. Dom Lagana (3.828, 322.34)
Second round: Leah Pritchett (3.848, 322.04) def. BROWN (5.187, 142.16)
Qualified: No. 5
FRIDAY: 5.988 sec., 114.61 mph, (Session 1); 3.736, 332.26, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.786, 327.19, (Session 3); 4.882, 150.82, (Session 4)
Best time, speed: 3.667 (2017, Phoenix); 333.16 mph (2017, Topeka)
NORWALK BY THE NUMBERS
Last event (June 18), Bristol, Tenn.: Qualified No. 7, lost in second round to Shawn Langdon
A year ago at Norwalk: Qualified No. 2, lost in second round to Shawn Langdon
Career at Norwalk: Wins 1 (2014); Runner-ups 2 (2010, 2015); Poles 0
2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES TOP FUEL STANDINGS
(Official after Norwalk, Ohio.; 12th of 24 events; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
- Steve Torrence (4) 1,071 —–
- LEAH PRITCHETT (3) 1,021 -50
- ANTRON BROWN (2) 990 -81
- TONY SCHUMACHER (1) 856 -215
- Doug Kalitta 781 -290
- Brittany Force (1) 734 -337
- Clay Millican (1) 695 -376
- Terry McMillen 477 -594
- Troy Coughlin Jr. 464 -607
- Scott Palmer 464 -607