SONOMA, Calif. (July 30, 2023) – Four-time NHRA Sonoma Nationals winner Antron Brown came up just .001 seconds short of another Sonoma Raceway victory Sunday afternoon when he lost in the Top Fuel final round to technical alliance teammate Justin Ashley. It was the second-year team owner-driver’s third final round of the season, and the first for his new Matco Tools ‘Test Drive’ dragster. The runner-up finish moved Brown up to fourth in points as the NHRA regular season starts to wind down.

Brown’s best effort in qualifying came in the second session when he recorded a 3.721-second pass to qualify third. He also earned one bonus point for making the third-quickest run of the session. It was Brown’s fourth qualifying pass that made the highlight reels, though. A wing strut came loose as Brown approached the finish line, so the rear wing was sideways as he crossed the finish line at over 300 MPH. Brown was able to keep the Matco dragster under control, and the Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald-led team made the necessary repairs for race day.

Eliminations started with a marquee matchup against Mike Salinas. Brown was first off the starting line and ran a 3.744 E.T., quick enough to beat Salinas’ 3.717 E.T. on a holeshot by just .007 seconds. He then left first against reigning world champion Brittany Force, who smoked the tires while Brown pedaled to the round win. That also locked up Brown’s spot in the next Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. Again, Brown picked up a starting line advantage over Toyota teammate Steve Torrence in the semifinals, where Brown won with a 3.794 E.T. to Torrence’s 3.810-second effort.

Appearing in his 133rd career final round, Brown lined up against technical alliance teammate Justin Ashley, who is also a Toyota teammate. Brown won the starting line battle between two of the quickest and most consistent leavers in the class, but Ashley got past him at the finish line. Brown posted a 3.787-second run to Ashley’s winning 3.778 E.T. for a .001-second margin of victory equal to approximately 10 inches.

“It was a good day making it to the final,” said Brown, who welcomed local brewery Russian River Brewing Co. to the team’s list of partners for a one-race collaboration. “It was a really, really close race but all in all, it was a great race weekend for our Matco Tools ‘Test Drive’ car, and it felt really good to come out here and support Russian River Brewing Co. this weekend. We really wanted to bring that win home, but when you lose by less than two-thousandths of a second, and it’s so close, you can’t get too down about that. Great bounce-back race weekend for us. We qualified well here, went some rounds, moved up a few spots in the points, and just looking forward to getting out to Topeka. From here, we’ll go home, have a weekend off, get our stuff back together, and get ready for Topeka.”

Brown went into the Sonoma Nationals seventh in points, and his runner-up finish allowed him to move up to fourth as the NHRA Camping World Series continues on to Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas, for the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor, Aug. 11-13.

Qualified: No. 3 (3.721 E.T. at 329.75 MPH)

Elimination Round Results:
E1: 3.744 E.T. at 330.23 MPH defeated Mike Salinas 3.717 E.T. at 335.65 MPH
E2: 4.034 E.T. at 277.03 MPH defeated Brittany Force 6.321 E.T. at 132.10 MPH
E3: 3.794 E.T. at 329.83 MPH defeated Steve Torrence 3.810 E.T. at 328.78 MPH
E4: 3.787 E.T. at 327.90 MPH defeated by Justin Ashley 3.778 E.T. at 328.78 MPH

NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Top Fuel Point Standings (Unofficial):

1 Justin Ashley   935
2 Steve Torrence   903
3 Brittany Force   736
4 Antron Brown   721
5 Leah Pruett   718
6 Austin Prock   715
7 Doug Kalitta   672
8 Mike Salinas   654
9 Josh Hart   651
10 Clay Millican   604