2013 NHRA: Antron Brown NHRA U.S. Nationals Event Preview
Antron Brown travels more than nearly every NHRA competitor in the Mello Yello Series.
In addition to the 17 completed national events held throughout the country, Brown, 37, makes numerous appearances for sponsors Matco Tools and the U.S. Army where his motivating speeches target high school and junior college vocational school students.
As the reigning NHRA Top Fuel world champion, media requests have been the greatest in his 16-year professional drag racing career.
So it will be greatly appreciated by Brown that he gets to spend each night of this weekend's NHRA U.S. nationals at home with his wife, Billie Jo, and their three kids, before heading to Lucas Oil Raceway that is only a few miles from their home in Pittsboro, Ind.
It's one of two "hometown" events for Brown, a native of New Jersey who has competed this year at Englishtown, N.J., where he grew up watching his father and uncle drag race.
With family and friends comprising his entourage at the U.S. Nationals, the former collegiate track star is experienced with shifting from public relations star and hospitality host at races to the competitive athlete with focus when it's time to pull on his helmet and be strapped into his Matco Tools dragster led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald with assistant crew chief Brad Mason.
"Man, this is the U.S. Nationals. It's Indy. It doesn't get bigger than this," Brown said. "It's our biggest race of the year and there's nothing like being able to race in front of your family and friends but doing it at Indy is even more special. We know we're going to have fun and we know it will be even more fun if we all get to go to the winner's circle once or twice this weekend."
Brown has been composed and remained a team leader over the past three months while his dragster was in the midst of suffering from some nagging gremlins and advancing to only two semifinals while losing in the opening round eight times in the past 10 events that has dropped them to sixth in the standings.
Corradi and Oswald have worked to improve the Matco dragster as it closes in on NHRA's six-event Countdown to the Championship playoff for the top-10 drivers that begins after the U.S. Nationals on Sept. 13 near Charlotte.
The Matco team produced the third quickest run last week during a two-day test at Lucas Oil Raceway with a time of 3.756 seconds at 323.04 mph.
"Brian and Mark have been creeping up on it and this is the time when we want our Matco team to be peaking," said Brown, who has won 39 NHRA titles including three at Indy (Top Fuel in 2011 and twice in Pro Stock Motorcycle).
The Matco team clinched a spot in the Countdown two weeks ago at the last Mello Yello event at Brainerd, Minn., but Brown is still behind the pace of last season when the team won a series-best six titles in the first 20 events of the season.
The team started strong this year by winning two of the first seven before hitting a mechanical slump.
"This year has been a little different for our Matco team," Brown said. "We've used some runs in the regular season to actually work a little on our tune-up and set-up for the Countdown. We're going to peak at the right time with our heads down.
"We've been winning rounds here and there but not like we were earlier in the year so the team is real hungry. We've jelled as a new team. We have four new guys on our Matco crew and the rest of the guys are doing a different job.
"We've been through some hard times, and I've very impressed how all of us have handled it. We've kept a steady mindset and haven't let anything beat us down. That's what it takes to go into the Countdown and get the championship."
Brown and seven other Top Fuel drivers will compete Saturday in the second annual Traxxas Nitro Shootout that will pay the winning team $100,000. The first round and semifinals of the Shootout will run concurrently with the third and fourth qualifying sessions.
The following are Brown's statistics and other event information for the 59th annual NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway.
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools dragster
Pts Events Titles Rup Semi Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2013 6th 17 2 1 4 1 0 20-15
CAREER 279 39* 37 58 33 2 463-238
* 23 Top Fuel, 16 Pro Stock Motorcycle
Best time, speed
3.701 sec. */** (10- 8-12, Reading), 328.78 mph (10-8-12, Reading); * Quickest ever, ** NHRA record
Last event, U.S. Nationals history
Last event (Brainerd, Minn.): Qualified No. 6; lost first round to Doug Kalitta.
A year ago at Indy: Qualified No. 3; lost in semifinals to Spencer Massey.
Wins at Indy: 3 (2011, 2004-Pro Stock Motorcycle, 2000-PSM)
Runner-ups at Indy: 0
Poles at Indy: 2 (2011, 2009)
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS
(After 17 of 24 events; through Brainerd, Minn.; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. Shawn Langdon 1,370
2. SPENCER MASSEY 1,249
3. TONY SCHUMACHER 1,199
4. Doug Kalitta 1,009
5. Khalid alBalooshi 1,002
6. ANTRON BROWN 994
7. Clay Millican 928
8. Morgan Lucas 917
9.Steve Torrence 794
10. Bob Vandergriff 789
2013 TOP FUEL WINNERS: Langdon, SCHUMACHER, BROWN, SCHUMACHER, MASSEY, Vandergriff, BROWN, Langdon, Langdon, Steve Torrence, MASSEY, SCHUMACHER, alBalooshi, MASSEY, Langdon, Lucas, MASSEY.
NHRA U.S. NATIONALS SCHEDULE
Wednesday: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., NHRA Fanfest on Monument Circle, Downtown Indy at Meridian & Market Street.
Friday: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Don Schumacher Racing Open House; 7 p.m., Nitro qualifying session 1.
Saturday: 4 p.m., Nitro qualifying, session 2; 7 p.m., Nitro qualifying, session 3; 8:15 p.m.: Top Fuel Traxxas Shootout final.
Sunday: 12:30 p.m., Nitro qualifying, session 4; 3:30 p.m., Nitro qualifying, session 5; 4:45 p.m., Funny Car Traxxas Shootout final.
Monday (Labor Day): 11 a.m., championship eliminations.
(as of Tuesday afternoon)
Wednesday: High of 92; 20 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms
Thursday: High 89; 0 percent chance of rain
Friday: High 91; 0 percent chance of rain
Saturday: High 92; 20 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms
Sunday: High 92; 0 percent chance of rain
Monday: High 84; 10 percent chance or rain
ON ESPN2 (times are EDT)
Sunday: Qualifying, 1-6 p.m., delayed
Monday: Championship eliminations, noon-6 p.m.
TRAXXAS TOP FUEL SHOOTOUT
Brown is one of eight drivers who will compete Saturday in the second annual $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout to be held during qualifying for the NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway.
The following are first-round match-ups:
TOP FUEL (Saturday): No. 1 Shawn Langdon vs. No. 8 fan vote/lottery winner; No. 2 SPENCER MASSEY vs. No. 7 Bob Vandergriff; No. 3 TONY SCHUMACHER vs. Steve Torrence; No. 4. Khalid alBalooshi vs. No. 5 ANTRON BROWN.
FUNNY CAR (Sunday): No. 1 MATT HAGAN vs. No. 8 fan vote/lottery winner; No. 2 RON CAPPS vs. No. 7 JACK BECKMAN; No. 3 JOHNNY GRAY vs. No. 6 Courtney Force; No. 4. Cruz Pedregon vs. No. 5 John Force.
DSR OPEN HOUSE FOR RILEY KIDS IS FRIDAY
Fans and friends of Don Schumacher Racing are invited to join the biggest team in professional racing on Friday for the 8th annual Don Schumacher Racing Open House to benefit Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and Camp Riley.
The free, festive event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. will feature a giant car/bike show, entertainment and appearances by Beckman and DSR's six other professional drivers along with owner Don Schumacher at DSR headquarters at 1681 E. Northfield Drive in Brownsburg.
The Open House, which attracted a record-crowd of more than 4,000 fans last year and boosted DSR's contributions to Riley past the $200,000 mark, invites all to celebrate DSR's 200th NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series title.
The first 500 guests who arrive at the Open House after 10 a.m. will receive a free "DSR Win No. 200" sticker, commemorative Don Schumacher Hall of Fame Tribute autograph card and a chance to win a unique prize package of 40 1/24-scale DSR diecast collectibles from various seasons valued at a total of $3,500. (Additional raffle tickets will be available for $10 each.)
Popular Open House features returning will be: Indy Hi-Winders Car Show, DSR/Riley Silent Auction with more than $20,000 of donated items from DSR marketing partners including Matco Tools, DSR Driver Autograph Session, Raminator Monster Truck, live entertainment with the Army Entertainment Group; 330-mph Art Show featuring motorsports artists Bruce Tatman and DSR fabricator Thomas Patsis; DSR CNC/Machine Shop tours; and more surprises!