Original article: https://competitionplus.com/drag-racing/news/antron-stoked-about-forthcoming-nhra-drag-racing-video-game
The last time the National Hot Rod Association debuted a video game for the masses, Antron Brown was competing on a Pro Stock Motorcycle.
That was nearly 15 years ago.
Brown was in that game, titled, “NHRA: Countdown to the Championship” and still remembers the excitement of being a part of a game that touched fans around the world and brought them closer than ever to the sport of drag racing.
“I remember back when we ran the bikes and they did it, I think the coolest part was that people who could race against you and truly felt they could compete against you,” Brown said. “And maybe they could.”
Recently, the NHRA announced that it would return in video game form with the release of “NHRA: Speed for All” on August 26 on all major game platforms. And Brown is excited to once again be able to share the experience with fans who will have an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of drag racing including how to tune cars, stage and make a competitive run.
“This new game coming out has been a long time coming,” Brown said. “I think that it is really going to help capture a lot of the younger audience even more and bring new eyes to the sport. You have some kids in school that are Junior Dragster racers who are going to be telling their friends to play the game and do what they do. It is interactive, which is the coolest part about the sport. We can bring them in to what we do, in the pits and now in a game, and give them a little piece of what we do on a daily basis, from the tuning aspect, to how to build a career, how to hunt for sponsorships and how to win.”
While a video game about drag racing will certainly help bring in new fans by putting them in the shoes of real NHRA superstars, Brown suggested taking it a step farther by truly showing fans what it is like to be a driver – adding in a sponsor simulator.
“I joked that in the career mode they need to put it in the game where you have to go out and chase sponsorships and how to do it. How you have to put together your own portfolio, put together your own resume, and put together your own PowerPoint presentation and pitch. That is how you get sponsors in the game,” Brown joked. “Then they would have all aspects of it and show them what we do. Honestly, I do think this game is going to help grow our sport.”
A game about speed and winning? Of course. A game about PowerPoints and sponsor pitches? Maybe not.
Away from the virtual world, Brown is in the midst of the biggest challenge of his racing career as he navigates life as an independent team. The three-time Top Fuel champion broke from Don Schumacher Racing at the end of last season with the blessing and plenty of advice from his former boss.
It is not an entirely new concept for Brown, who helped manage the ins-and-outs of the Pro Stock Motorcycle program for DSR many years ago, but outside challenges have thrown a few wrenches into the plans – namely a worldwide pandemic, which delayed Brown’s new team by a full year.
“A lot of people don’t realize that, for a lot of years, I ran a lot of the team ops wherever I was at. Even when I ran the Pro Stock bike team. I owned my own team for two years and then I helped run the Pro Stock Motorcycle operation when we were at Schumacher Racing,” Brown said. “So I am comfortable with that part of this deal. What caught us off guard is that we are in different times now. We went through Covid, all of the Covid protocols and the fact that it all shut the country down.
“This is three years in the making. I went through Covid trying to do this. It set our plans back for over a year. This wasn’t supposed to happen in 2022, it was supposed to happen in 2021. And with that, a lot of things caught us off guard. The supply chain and not being able to get parts, not being able to do certain things we wanted to do, it made us structure and plan differently. Thank God for all of our partners that stuck with us and Don Schumacher for being gracious to keep us going for another year. We had to weather the storm and it made us stronger in a lot of areas that we never knew we were weak in.
“It makes you understand how to evolve and adapt to all kinds of different situations. You are either going to fail or you are going to stumble and get through and we have done plenty of both. It has helped me start getting comfortable in these circumstances.”
The other big challenge for Brown and his team is learning how to lose graciously. A 68-time winner in NHRA competition, Brown has been humbled by the start to this season that has seen only five round wins in ten races, a DNQ and zero final round appearances. But after a trip to the semifinals recently in Bristol, Brown feels he is starting to turn the corner and said he is focusing on getting things right in time for the U.S. Nationals in August. Despite losing in the first round at Norwalk while posting his best run of the weekend, Brown remains confident.
“Right now we are starting to turn the corner. We struggled in the beginning of the year and, by struggling, I mean all of the new stuff, the normal stuff,” Brown said. “When you start from scratch with brand new everything it is a challenge. It is not like we have been trying to race, we have been trying to test. We have essentially been testing for the last seven races to land on something that we like. This year we have really only had two races with the same combination on our car. Now we are landing on where we want to be and now we are going to start polishing.
“Our main focus is to get ready and have our stuff hopefully tried and true by the time we race the U.S. Nationals and then we can run for the Countdown to the Championship.”