Qualified: No. 12 (3.974 E.T. at 276.58 MPH)
E1: 4.275 E.T. at 236.42 MPH defeated Clay Millican 6.083 E.T. at 105.53 MPH
E2: 3.923 E.T. at 314.83 MPH defeated Brittany Force 3.935 E.T. at 305.15 MPH
E3: 3.955 E.T. at 315.42 MPH defeated Leah Pritchett 3.945 E.T. at 304.80 MPH
E4: 3.948 E.T. at 315.12 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.909 E.T. at 320.74 MPH
Antron Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army/Toyota team raced to a runner-up finish in Sunday’s New England Nationals before a sell-out crowd.
Brown, who won here in 2016 and finished as the Epping runner-up in 2017, began his quest for his first title of 2018 with a round-one matchup against Clay Millican. Brown piloted his Matco Tools machine to a 4.275-second pass, easily defeating Millican’s struggling 6.083 E.T.
The quarterfinals were a rematch of last year’s New England Nationals finals, with Brown getting the upper hand over Brittany Force. Brown had a 0.039 advantage at the light and went on to defeat Force 3.923 to 3.935. It was his best pass of the weekend.
The semifinal round found Brown facing teammate Leah Pritchett. Once again, Brown had the advantage at the tree 0.055 to 0.071 and then went on to hold-off Pritchett, winning on a holeshot by 0.006 seconds with a 3.955 E.T. to Pritchett’s 3.945.
In the finals, Brown matched up with point leader Steve Torrence. The two left almost simultaneously with Brown running a 3.948 E.T., but it wasn’t quite good enough to defeat Torrence’s 3.909. With the runner-up finish, Brown climbed up to sixth in points with five races remaining before the Countdown.
“We’re taking it one step at a time and we’re constantly getting better and better. Our car has been running well, we just needed to be in the right spot at the right time. We thought this was our weekend and we’re just bummed (after losing in the final). This entire Matco Tools/U.S. Army/Toyota team has just been working so hard together. We have the Western Swing coming up – Denver’s first and I’m just looking forward to getting back to the race track. Our team is coming together at the right time and by the time Indy comes up we’ll be hitting full swing. That’s our game plan.
“We had three good runs to close out the day, but we were trying to make them a little better. We just have to learn our bearings. We were able to pedal the car today in the first round and still go down the race track. We’ve got a lot of things that are positive that we’ll take out of today. We just need to keep focusing on that. We’re getting better and the other teams are seeing it. We just have to keep getting after it. We moved up to sixth today and our focus is just to keep picking away at the gap to fifth. That’s our goal to try to get into the top five. Then we’d like to see if we can move up to fourth before the Countdown. We love going to the Mile High in Denver. It’s always a challenge, but we’ve got the brain trust and the people to run well there.”