MOHNTON, Pa. (September 17, 2023) – Antron Brown was looking for a third consecutive event win to start the NHRA Countdown to the Championship at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, but a close second-round match with fellow multi-time world champion Steve Torrence didn’t go Brown’s way. The quarterfinal performance showed the potential in Brown’s Matco Tools ‘Test Drive’ Top Fuel dragster, so he’s confident his AB Motorsports team is ready to continue the Countdown portion of the NHRA Camping World Series season.

Brown, who went into the weekend ranked third in points, opened Friday qualifying with the second-quickest pass of the session to pick up two bonus points. He was the fifth-quickest in the second session with a 3.716-second pass at 321.50 MPH, which held up for the No. 5 qualifying position on the final qualifying order after two more sessions on Saturday. Brown suffered a supercharger backfire on the third session and wounded an engine on the final attempt, though his Matco Tools ‘Test Drive’ team led by Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald worked hard to get the car right for race day.

Sunday eliminations began with a first-round match against Doug Foley in the final pair of the round. Brown left the starting line first, and even though he dropped a cylinder and lost momentum with a flash of flames at the finish line, he held on to win with a 3.758-second pass over Foley’s 3.771 E.T. In the second round, Brown grabbed a starting line advantage with his .031 reaction time over fellow Toyota driver Steve Torrence, but Torrence started to pull ahead and won with a 3.69-second effort ahead of Brown’s 3.728 E.T. at 333.00 MPH.

“The good part at the end of the day is we had some things plaguing us and we worked through it,” said Brown, a two-time winner at Maple Grove. “We worked through some issues. We hurt some parts and pieces. The guys stayed resilient and kept working through it. We got a good lap there against Steve-O, just lost a really close drag race. We just needed a little bit more. We put ourselves behind the eight-ball the way we were hurting things, but the good part is we got it fixed. Everything is back to where it needs to be and running good.”

Brown won’t let a second-round exit at the first Countdown race slow down the momentum he built going into the playoffs. He’s a 15-time winner of Countdown races, the most of any driver in the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes. The second-year team owner is pursuing a fourth series title and the first for AB Motorsports.

“We’re very much looking forward to getting to Charlotte,” Brown said. “Our main focus is to go in there and qualify well and take it one round at a time and give it everything we’ve got to make it happen.”

Brown and the No. 5 ranked Matco Tools ‘Test Drive’/Hangsterfer’s/Sirius XM Top Fuel team will get back on track Sept. 22-24 at the betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina.

Qualified: No. 5 (3.716 E.T. at 329.50 MPH)

Elimination Round Results:
E1: 3.758 E.T. at 322.96 MPH defeated Doug Foley 3.771 E.T. at 323.50 MPH
E2: 3.728 E.T. at 333.00 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.690 E.T. at 334.48 MPH

Note: On-track activities at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals were suspended after the second round of eliminations due to persistent rain. Eliminations will resume at 10:00 a.m. ET on Monday, Sept. 18 at Maple Grove Raceway.