MOHNTON, Pa. (Sept. 24, 2017) –
Antron Brown and Don Schumacher Racing’s Matco Tools Top Fuel have never shunned a challenge and aren’t ready to start now.
After an early loss to open the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoff a week ago near Charlotte, the three-time world champions were confident that this weekend’s NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa., was the perfect place to move closer the points lead in the second of six Countdown events.
After all, the Matco team left with the Maple Grove trophy each of the past two years that helped them win the past two championships.
But despite rallying from a subpar No. 8 qualifying position to start Sunday’s eliminations, a mechanical issue popped up in the semifinals against Brittany Force, who went on to win the Maple Grove title.
“We dug ourselves a hole this weekend when we qualified eighth,” said Brown, who dropped one spot to fourth in the standings and trails new leader Steve Torrence by a scant 51 points.
After winning the opening round with a time of 3.758 seconds and eliminated pole winner Clay Millican in the next round with a 3.778 run. But in the semifinals against event winner Brittany Force, the Matco dragster lost traction early and slowed to a 9.803 at 84 mph.
“We ran good today, but we had blower belt issues,” Brown said. “Our car was right there but it got a little aggressive on us in the semis and we would have won with a decent run. That’s what was disappointing.”
Brown saw the door open for a move up in the standings when Doug Kalitta, who started the day as the points leader, was upset in the round.
“We did win two rounds today and we have three rounds won in the Countdown,” Brown said. “It’s not where we wanted to be right now, we wanted to win six rounds by now. This isn’t where we want to be, but we are going to go into St. Louis with our main focus in qualifying good and hit it hard.
“Everyone’s still right there in front of us. We just have to work hard right now. It’s going to be a tough one to pull out, but I like our chances the way our team competes. We should have been in the final here and competing for a win. We’ll take our bumps and bruises right now and move forward.”
Winner: Brittany Force (John Force Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Clay Millican (Doug Stringer Racing), 3.699 sec.-track record, 327.27 mph
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army
Crew chiefs: Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald; Assistant: Brad Mason
First round: BROWN (3.758 sec., 290.94 mph) def. Richie Crampton (7.999, 70.92)
Second round: BROWN (3.778, 311.49) def. Clay Millican (4.003, 231.50)
Semifinals: Brittney Force (3.905, 255.10) def. BROWN (9.803, 84.16)
Qualified: No. 8
FRIDAY: 3.766 sec., 326.71 mph, (Session 1); 5.175, 135.61, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.806, 318.92, (Session 3); 5.391. 130.00, (Session 4)
BY THE NUMBERS
A year ago at Reading: Qualified No. 2, won in championship round over Brittney Force
Career at Reading: Wins 2 (2015, 2016), Runner-ups 3 (2004-PSM, 2012, 2013),
Poles 3 (2004-PSM, 2009, 2011)
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2017 4th 19 4 6 2 7 0 2 0 45-15
CAREER 377 65* 53 76 100 80 49 3 668-309
* 49 TF/16 PSB
Career best time, speed: 3.667 (2017, Phoenix); 333.16 mph (2017, Topeka)
COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
(Standings after Reading, 2nd of 6 events in the Countdown playoff; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
- Steve Torrence (7) 2259 —–
- Doug Kalitta (1) 2237 -22
- Brittany Force (2) 2236 -23
- ANTRON BROWN (4) 2208 -51
- TONY SCHUMACHER (1) 2174 -85
- Clay Millican (1) 2171 -88
- LEAH PRITCHETT (4) 2162 -97
- Terry McMillen 2083 -176
- Scott Palmer 2074 -185
- Shawn Langdon 2068 -191