BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 11, 2023) – Three-time Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown bounced back from a challenging two days of qualifying at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals by taking his Matco Tools dragster to the final round Sunday evening at Bristol Dragway. He claimed his 800th round-win along the way before falling in an all-Toyota Racing final to technical alliance teammate Justin Ashley.
Hot track conditions tested many of the teams through Friday and Saturday qualifying, which also saw drivers complete eliminations from the rain-delayed New England Nationals. Brown bowed out of the Epping race in the second round, and his best of 3.907 seconds put him No. 15 on the final qualifying order for just the second time in his Top Fuel career.
“We got too aggressive on Friday night – the first run coming out – our car was on a .78 run and it didn’t make it because we were too aggressive,” Brown said. “We want to qualify well. We like to qualify in those top three spots. We want No. 1. We are going to go with that same attitude going into Norwalk. We are just going to scale it back.”
In a monster first-round matchup with reigning world champion Brittany Force, Brown was off the starting line first and led all the way down the track. He won on a holeshot with a 3.767-second lap ahead of Force’s 3.749-second pass by just four-thousandths of a second. He’s now 7-1 against Force in first-round meetings.
Brown went into the second round against Tony Schumacher, who also ran a 3.767 in the first round, with lane choice based on his faster speed. Brown was quicker and faster than Schumacher when they met up, improving slightly to a 3.765-second pass at 329.50 MPH to beat a tire-smoking Schumacher. He also earned a spot in the next Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge.
For the third consecutive round, Brown left the line first in the semifinals against Doug Kalitta in a classic ‘Tool Wars’ matchup. Crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald gave Brown all the power he needed to throw down the second-quickest pass of the round, a 3.730 E.T. at 330.80 MPH. Brown defeated Kalitta, claiming his 800th career round win between Pro Stock Motorcycle and Top Fuel. He’s now just the sixth driver in NHRA history to hit that milestone.
Brown, who’s won at every other track on the current NHRA schedule, went into the final round seeking his first Bristol Dragway win. Brown and Ashley were separated by just one-thousandth of a second at the starting line. They were just thousandths apart at the 330-foot marker too, but Brown lost traction after that while Ashley raced ahead to a 3.718 E.T. for the win.
“We thought we could go out there and go .71. That was what we were shooting for,” Brown said. “Justin (Ashley) did it. We were already a hundredth quicker at the 60-foot mark, and with the calculations, that means we could have run about 15 thousandths quicker. If we would have run 15 thousandths quicker, we would have run a 3.715. That is what we were shooting for. We got a little greedy.”
Brown went into the weekend seventh in points, and he leaves Bristol tied for fifth with seven races left in the regular season.
“Great weekend for a rebound in points,” Brown said. “We just have to keep doing it. Our main focus is the Western Swing. Hit the swing hard and come back and make a strong push all of the way to Indy and see if we can move up some spots and get ready for the Countdown for the Championship.”
The next stop for Brown and the AB Motorsports team is Summit Motorsports Park, home of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, June 23-25 in Norwalk, Ohio.
Qualified: No. 15 (3.907 E.T. at 292.90 MPH)
Elimination Round Results:
E1: 3.767 E.T. at 328.78 MPH defeated Brittany Force 3.749 E.T. at 327.51 MPH
E2: 3.765 E.T. at 329.50 MPH defeated Tony Schumacher 5.699 E.T. at 116.82 MPH
E3: 3.730 E.T. at 330.80 MPH defeated Doug Kalitta 3.973 E.T. at 251.25 MPH
E4: 6.148 E.T. at 109.79 MPH defeated by Justin Ashley 3.718 E.T. at 336.49 MPH
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Top Fuel Point Standings (Unofficial):