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2013 NHRA: Brown, Matco Team Rally From Crash To Sit No. 1 In Top Fuel;
Posted by: newsla on Feb 23, 2013 - 06:16 AM
2013 NHRA: Brown, Matco Team Rally From Crash To Sit No. 1 In Top Fuel; Gray's Adds To Season-Long Salute To Dad With Top Spot

Less than a week after Antron Brown suffered a horrific crash in the NHRA season-opener, his Matco Tools team completed a new Top Fuel Dragster in time for him to drive it to the provisional pole Friday in the NHRA Arizona Nationals near Phoenix.


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And the second race into Johnny Gray's tribute season to his late father, John R. Gray, he put the Pitch Energy Dodge Charger R/T atop the qualifying ladder at Firebird International Raceway to give Don Schumacher Racing the quickest cars in Top Fuel and Funny Car heading to Saturday's last two qualifying sessions before Sunday's championship eliminations in the second event of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Brown's time of 3.765 seconds at 314.83 mph edged DSR teammate Tony Schumacher's U.S. Army dragster that posted the second quickest time of 3.768 at 321.96.

And in Funny Car, the No. 2 qualifying time was produced by DSR's Matt Hagan with crew chief Dickie Venables. The Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge completed its second run in 4.062 (311.20).

For Brown, however, it was a remarkable turnaround in five days by his team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald along with assistant crew chief Brad Mason.

Moments after winning its second-round race in the NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., last Sunday, an explosion sent his dragster veering to the left before backing into the concrete guardwall and then sliding the length of the track. Brown, the reigning Top Fuel world champion, was not injured in the crash.

"It felt good to get back out here," Brown said. "I can't say enough for my team. I felt comfortable. That was the main thing. I wasn't worried about what the team could do, I was worried about my confidence.

"It was a phenomenal run. I'm just blessed to be part of this team. Second run on a new car, and we're No. 1 right now.

"We did a half lap on the first run making sure everything was right. Then we came back and it took off great at the starting line. It felt strong. Our game plan was to get it ramped up to be competitive by the third or fourth qualifying run (on Saturday)."

Gray really doesn't want to be patient. The veteran racer turns 60 this year and decided this will be his last season racing full-time in a nitro category. He and his sister, Terry Chandler, are sponsoring the car and using it as a tribute to their father.

"There are really no words to describe this feeling," Gray said. "You would have to have known my dad. Of course, everybody feels the same way - but they're all wrong. I had the greatest dad. My dad and I were real close; we were business partners, best friends and he was my dad. Boy, it's just such an honor to have him on the car. It's going to be a fun year."

Gray is poised to post his second straight No. 1 qualifying effort at Firebird with crew chief Rob Wendland and assistant Rip Reynolds.

"Needless to say, they gave me a really good racecar today. We've qualified well here before, but we've always sort of struggled, and I can tell you that I feel pretty good right now. That was just such a nice, easy pass. There wasn't anything stupid going on, it didn't get away, it didn't feel like it was edgy - it was just a nice, clean pass."

The following are qualifying results from Friday's qualifying sessions and other notes:

Provisional No. 1 qualifier: Antron Brown (DSR) 3.765 sec., 314.83 mph

Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster
Provisional qualifying position: No. 1
Session 1: 4.007 sec., 229.90 mph
Session 2: 3.765, 314.83

Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army dragster
Provisional qualifying position: No. 2
Session 1: 3.768 sec., 321.96 mph
Session 2: 3.772, 321.81

Spencer Massey, Battery Extender Powered by Schumacher dragster
Provisional qualifying position: No. 13
Session 1: 4.034 sec., 222.22 mph
Session 2: 8.232, 74.04

Provisional No. 1 qualifier: Johnny Gray (DSR) 4.034 sec., 313.80 mph

Johnny Gray, Pitch Energy Dodge Charger R/T
Provisional qualifying position: No. 1
Session 1: 4.124 sec., 301.00 mph
Session 2: 4.034, 313.80

Matt Hagan, Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T
Provisional qualifying position: No. 2
Session 1: 4.142 sec., 293.15 mph
Session 2: 4.062, 311.20

Ron Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Provisional qualifying position: No. 7
Session 1: 4.167 sec., 293.15 mph
Session 2: 8.077, 84.24

Jack Beckman, MTS Mail for Wounded Warriors/Valvoline Dodge Charger R/T
Provisional qualifying position: No. 10
Session 1: 4.445 sec., 198.15 mph
Session 2: 4.322, 215.58


WHAT: 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals
WHERE: Firebird International Raceway, south of Phoenix
Saturday: Qualifying, 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11:30 a.m.

Sunday: Qualifying, 1 a.m., 8 a.m. (ET)
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 8 p.m. (ET)

Saturday: High 66; sunny, 0 percent chance of rain
Sunday: High 62; sunny, 0 percent chance of rain

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