2014 NHRA: Antron Brown NHRA Gatornationals Event Preview
Losing in the opening round of the season at Pomona, Calif., certainly wasn't how Antron Brown and his Matco Tools team wanted to start the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
But the team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, along with the rest of the Matco team, didn't flinch. They just did what they needed to and that was to win the next event title two weeks later near Phoenix.
"We wanted to definitely get off to a great start," Antron said of his 42nd NHRA event title that moved him up to third in the standings. "We saw after we finished second last year in points, that if we would have gotten into a better position going into the Countdown (to the Championship) that it would have given us a better shot at winning the championship.
"Pomona didn't go the way we wanted. We ran well, qualified well, we were just a little over aggressive in the first round," the 2012 Top Fuel world champion said. "So we regrouped. We had a strong qualifying performance at Phoenix by getting into the top eight, and then we took it one round at a time. After first round we were low E.T. in every round, and that's what it takes to go out there and compete on this level and win races."
The Matco team has won three of the past six NHRA Top Fuel titles.
"It was a very strong win for us. We're hoping to carry that momentum into Gainesville and try to pull off what we did there last year."
That was winning his first Gatornationals title that gave Don Schumacher Racing its milestone 200th NHRA event title.
"Big things happen in Gainesville. It's just incredible what goes on and what happens there," he said. "That's one thing that always makes me look at Gainesville with a smile on my face. That's why last year when we won our first race there, when I finally got that win, it felt like I won the world championship because that's how big that race is.
"When we go to Florida, even though it's our third race of the year, to me it's like our push off for the year. It's the first race on the East Coast. It's time to get it going. It's like that's go-time for our series. You know it's really in full gear once we hit Gainesville."
The Gatornationals produced special memories for Antron before he won the Top Fuel title a year ago.
"I started my career off in Gainesville in Pro Stock bike (in 1998). To be where I am now in Top Fuel is a big dream. Everybody knows Gainesville. It's the Gatornationals. It's one of the biggest races on our tour, and great, monumental things always happen there; from mile-an-hour records to E.T. records to world records.
"When I think of Gainesville, that's what comes out in my mind. It's the things that are actually accomplished there like last year when we got Don Schumacher his 200th win."
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster
Pts Events Titles Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2014 3rd 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 4-1
CAREER 288 42# 38 58 82 65 34 3 480-243
Best Time, Speed: 3.701*/** sec. (10- 8-12, Reading, Pa.); 328.78 mph (10-8-12, Reading)
#26 Top Fuel/16 Pro Stock Motorcycle * Quickest ever/** NHRA record
BY THE NUMBERS
Last event (Feb. 21-23, Phoenix): Qualified No. 5; defeated Brittany Force in championship round
A year ago at Gainesville: Qualified No. 2; defeated Clay Millican in championship round
Career at Gainesville: Wins 1 (2013); Runner-ups 2 (2010, 2006); Poles 2 (2006, 2001)
NHRA MELLO YELLO TOP FUEL STANDINGS
(Through Phoenix, second of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)
driver, (wins), points
1. Doug Kalitta, (0), 191
2. Khalid alBalooshi, (1), 165
3. ANTRON BROWN, (1), 156
4. Steve Torrence, (0), 155
5. SPENCER MASSEY, (0), 155
5. Brittany Force, (0), 155
7. Shawn Langdon, (0), 124
8. TONY SCHUMACHER, (0), 92
9. Richie Crampton, (0), 84
9. David Grubnic, (0), 84