Original article: https://parade.com/643521/nancyberk/drag-racer-antron-brown-is-breaking-records-and-barriers/?utm_source=paradenewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=homepage_newsletter_February%206,%202018_01_10_21
Antron Brown breaks records for a living. The three-time NHRA Top Fuel World Champion, who in 2012 became the first African-American to win a major auto racing title, has no plans to slow down. Brown is exactly where he has wanted to be since he was a child—on the track. And his journey is an example of the power of talent, hard work and self-confidence.
These days, the drag racing superstar is a role model to many, reminding us that our challenges don’t have to be permanent obstacles. The driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster, Brown didn’t start out with fancy cars and expensive instruction. The coolest piece of trivia you probably didn’t know about him? His grandmother taught him how to drive!
When did you first know, or hope, that your career would be on the track?
I would say that I first knew my career was going to be on the track when I was 10 years old. I went to my first national event, went to the pit area and saw how this whole sport took place. I envisioned myself doing it and said, “One day that’s where I’m going to be.” That’s when the dream started to become a reality because I could actually see myself being there.
What was your biggest obstacle to becoming a successful motorsports professional?
My biggest obstacle was convincing myself to believe that I belonged; that I actually could be here. Getting the courage and the confidence to say, “You know what? This is where I belong and this is the mountain I’ll need to climb and this is the route I need to take to get there.” Being able to actually just visualize that and getting the confidence in myself to overcome that hurdle when I didn’t think it was possible.
When you won your first NHRA Top Fuel World Championship in 2012 you became known as the first African-American motorsports champion, but now, with three championships under your belt, you literally sped past that label and proved that drag racing is no longer a white-male-dominated sport. What is it like knowing that you are inspiring men and women of all ethnicities to break barriers and believe in their talent?
At the end of the day, I’d say that it’s just a true blessing to be considered a trailblazer. I’m a firm believer that the Lord above gives us all a purpose in life. To come out here, and to walk this path and to look up to my peers; people like “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Dave Schultz, John Myers, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Mark Oswald, Joe Amato, Kenny Bernstein and all of these people in the sport who I’ve looked up to, they were my shining stars. They were my mentors. To go out and achieve the types of things that I’ve achieved with my team, and to now give back and have other people look at me the way I looked at those guys and have them think, Hey if Antron Brown, that little kid from Chesterfield, New Jersey, that came from the fields and the farm, and a family that had a septic tank business… If he can do it? Than I can do it.?
photo courtesy of Toyota Racing © Mark Rebilas, Rebilas Photo
Antron Brown (photo courtesy of Toyota Racing © Mark Rebilas, Rebilas Photo)
Drag racing is known for its dedicated fans— including young children who adore those funny cars and their drivers. What message do you hope kids take away from your work?
The message I hope kids can take away from my work is to have the proper mindset with work ethic. Respect the things that are around you. Don’t take even one day for granted. I don’t take any day for granted; I give it all I have each and every minute of the day. Enjoy life; enjoy each minute of it because it’s not promised tomorrow. But you can make a difference today. The only day that’s a “bad day” is a day that you make a bad day. I hope the message I can leave with the next generation that’s coming up is to put the work in, put their head down, and learn how to make other people around you rise up. If you can make other people be the best that they can be, they’re going to help you be the best that you can be.
Obviously your business has a strong competitive component. When you shut down for the day, are you still competitive—do you have to win at board games too?
Absolutely! I’ve got to win no matter what! That’s the funny part; I guess that’s just what’s in you, that gladiator mode. Losing is not an option, and when you do lose it’s only momentary. It’s never a failure, it’s just a learning phase and that’s what competition is all about. It pushes you to your limits, and pushes you to get to the next step.
As one of the hosts of Top Gear America, you’re an expert on state-of-the-art vehicles. But I’ve got to know— what car did you drive when you took your driving test as a teenager?
I drove my mom’s Chevy Corsica. I tell you what that was one of the most fun things. It was a front wheel drive, automatic. I was definitely driving a four-door sedan that was a “mama’s car” back when I was a teenager.