Brown Drives Toyota To Victory At NHRA Finals

Photo Credit Bob Johnson

Antron Brown defeated Steve Torrence on a holeshot to win the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series’ NHRA Finals at The Strip At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Sunday. 

The long-time Toyota driver earned his first win of the shortened 2020 campaign and the 51st Top Fuel victory of his career – just one shy of Joe Amato for third all-time.

After qualifying fourth on Saturday, Brown opened the day up by running the second-quickest pass of the first round with a 3.720 to defeat fellow Toyota driver Tony Schumacher, who had won the most recent event in Houston. In round two, Brown had an advantage on the tree against Clay Millican and never trailed on the way to running the quickest pass of the round with a 3.761.  That would set up a semifinal match-up with Billy Torrence. Brown took the lead from the start and went on to the victory as Torrence’s car quit midway through the run.

In the finals against Steve Torrence, Brown had a decided advantage on the tree with an .042 reaction time and never trailed, despite Torrence running a 3.740 compared to Brown’s 3.759, with a final margin of victory of .023 seconds.

Brown was the only Toyota Top Fuel driver to advance beyond the first round on Sunday.  Doug Kalitta’s Top Fuel championship hopes came to an end with a first-round loss to Justin Ashley, despite running the third-quickest pass of the first round (3.733 seconds), behind only Ashley and Brown.

Shawn Langdon also fell in the opening round after losing a blower belt against Clay Millican.

In Funny Car, Alexis DeJoria advanced to her third semifinals in the last four races by defeating Terry Haddock in round one and Blake Alexander in the second round before falling to eventual Funny Car champion and overall race winner Matt Hagan in the semifinals. Her performance continued a strong run that has seen the ROKiT Toyota Camry qualify in the top five in each of the last five races and earn the fourth-highest Funny Car point total over the last half of the season with the first-year DC Motorsports team.

J.R. Todd advanced to the second round in his DHL Camry Funny Car, knocking off Tim Wilkerson in round one, before falling to Ron Capps.

The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series will kick off its 2021 season with the 52nd annual Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., March 12-14.

 Toyota Driver Results – NHRA Finals Eliminations Round-by-Round

Top Fuel Qual/Fin Rd. 1 Results Rd. 2 Results Semis Finals
Antron Brown 4/Winner W-Schumacher, 3.720-9.131 W – Millican, 3.761-3.881 W- B. Torrence, 4.041-6.742 W- S. Torrence, 3.759-3.740
Doug Kalitta  3/Rd 1 L –Ashley,   3.700-3.733 — — —
Shawn Langdon 5/Rd 1 L – Millican, 3.740-3.970 — — —
Tony Schumacher 11/Rd 1 L– Brown,     3.720-9.131 — — — 
Funny Car Qu/Fin Rd. 1 Results Rd. 2 Results SemisFinals
Alexis DeJoria 3/Semis W-Haddock, 3.982-4.178  W – Alexander, 3.930-3.986 L – Hagan, 3.915-4.053 —
J.R. Todd 9/Rd 2 W –Wilkerson, 4.429-4.457 L – Capps, 3.953-4.075 — —

2020 Toyota Wins: 

Top Fuel: 5 – Doug Kalitta (2), Pomona, St. Louis; Shawn Langdon (1), Indianapolis; Tony Schumacher (1), Houston; Brown (1), Las Vegas


– Antron Brown’s victory today is first of the season and his fifth win at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Overall, Brown has registered 51 Top Fuel wins, good for fourth all-time, just one behind Joe Amato for third. Today’s win marks his first since his triumph at Pacific Raceways in Seattle in 2018. With his win today, Brown closed out the season in fifth place. 

– Antron Brown’s win is the fifth for a Toyota NHRA driver in 2020 and the third Top Fuel win in the last four events.

– Alexis DeJoria advanced to her third semifinals in the last four races today. Her performance continued a strong run that has seen the ROKiT Toyota Camry qualify in the top five in each of the last five races and earn the fourth-highest Funny Car point total over the last half of the season with the first-year DC Motorsports team.

– All six Toyota-sponsored drivers finished the season in the top ten in points. Leading the way was Doug Kalitta, who placed second in Top Fuel, followed by Antron Brown in fifth, Shawn Langdon in sixth and Tony Schumacher in ninth. In Funny Car, J.R. Todd closed out the season in sixth place, two positions ahead of Alexis DeJoria 


Antron Brown, Matco Tools/Global Electronic Toyota Top Fuel dragster: 

Tell us how your race day went

“Starting off this morning, we just wanted to keep improving. People don’t realize how hard this track is because it’s hard to make power. You don’t have any water grains so the motor has to work harder. We just stayed after it. We qualified number four. In the first round, we went 3.72 – second low of the round. The next round we just went out and ran what the track gave us and went 3.76, which was low of the round.  In the semis, the car dropped a hole, but when we saw Billy’s (Torrence) car just quit, we just shut my car off. We got through that round and that was our lucky round. In the final, we just had it all ready to go. The track was much better. We were running just as good as (Steve) Torrence or even better when we nuked the clutch in the middle and when it did, that’s all our cars will go. We should have run another .72 like we did in E1, but we’ll take what we got (3.759). Steve was uncharacteristically late on the tree, especially in a final. It was a tough track all weekend, it pushed everyone to the limit.”

How big was winning the last race of the season and what does it do for you going into the off-season?

“This was medicine today. We’ve been so close at a lot of races, but just in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Sometimes, you’ve got to have a little luck on your side. We just stayed poised. It really started about three races ago and it paid dividends this weekend. We’re just going to keep our heads down, work harder and smarter this off-season. We’re going to be that much farther ahead next year. We’re going to pick up where we left off this year. Winning here is a great motivator for the guys. It shows all the guys that we have all the parts and pieces here at Don Schumacher Racing. We have all the TRD Toyota backing and all the engineering. We’ve been down for so long and kicked all over the place that this is a really good positive motivation for the team to see that the work they’ve been doing will pay off and has paid off. Now we need to keep on going and we’re going to be looking really good this off-season.”

It’s been a while since your last win in Seattle in ’18, were you ever worried you weren’t going to win again?

“I never thought that. It was just a matter of time. We have our whole gang back together starting with Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald, Brad Maison and all these Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology Toyota boys. With the help of TRD and all of the Hangsterfer folks, we just took it one step at a time and stayed poised on the mission. In a normal race season, we wouldn’t even be halfway through the year right now in terms of the runs that we’ve made. We’ve started to come on. We’re getting it figured out. We started out with a whole new combination. People were telling us to run this one or run that one, but we had to stay true to get ourselves right. I never lost faith in these boys. The Lord knows we kept our head down and cut out all the static and stayed true to the game. The only way you beat resistance is with persistence and that shows you just what this team is made of. We’re already looking forward to 2021. We still have work to do. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re competitive where we can win rounds and we’re running low ETs in the rounds. That shows you we are getting back to where we need to be.”

Alexis DeJoria, ROKiT Phones Toyota Camry Funny Car: “It’s been a great weekend. I’m glad we got to run our finals here in Las Vegas, I think it made it more exciting for everyone. For the fifth straight race we qualified in the top five in the number three position, so going into race day, I just felt so confident and so inspired by my team and how well we’ve been doing. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been racing, though, when I go out for the first round, it’s so nerve-wracking. It’s not that the rounds get easier, but the pressure gets a little bit lighter after you get that first round win. Then when we got that second-round win against Blake Alexander, you’re halfway there. The semifinals against Matt Hagan was a tough race. Anytime you’re going up against a team that’s fighting for a championship they got there for a reason. We’re a new team and there’s nothing to hold our heads about. It’s been a scramble this year for many reasons. We’ve got a really good team and a really good car. Our guys did so good this weekend. The ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer Toyota Camry really showed what we can do and I’m so looking forward to next year.”

J.R. Todd, DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car: “I was surprised we didn’t run better in the second round. We dropped a cylinder at the hit and that hurt us. We made a solid run in the first round against Wilkerson. This DHL Toyota Camry was ready to go rounds today. It just didn’t work out. This season was tough for everyone. I am proud of how my guys kept fighting. We got to a couple final rounds, but we expect to win. We are going to get right back at it as soon as we get to the shop.”

Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools Toyota Top Fuel dragster: “I just ran the wrong guy in the first round. It’s just unfortunate. We would have beaten just about everyone else out there. I don’t know what else to say. It’s heart-breaking to go out in the first round at the last race. I know I have a hell of a Mac Tools Toyota team here. I’m really proud of my guys and everything we’ve done this year. We’re just going have to suck it up, put this behind us and move on and know that we have a great running car with a great group of guys. We were just unlucky today.”

Tony Schumacher, Okuma/Sandvik Coromant Toyota Top Fuel dragster: “The last race of the year, you hate to end it smoking the tires, but in reality I’m just glad I had eight races to get back in a fuel car and have a chance to race next season. We won Houston and had a great car. We really were looking forward to coming here because we’ve been so successful at (Las) Vegas, but it didn’t quite work out.”

Shawn Langdon, DHL Toyota Top Fuel dragster: “We lost a blower belt on the run. It would have been close regardless. This was a tough way to end the season, but we fought until the very end. This DHL team had a lot of success this season winning the U.S. Nationals. We will regroup and get right back at it in the off season. I have to thank Connie for the chance to drive his race car.”

Toyota Drivers   Top FuelPoints – (margin) Torrence (1015)2020 Wins2020 W-L Career RacesCareer WinsCareer Win-Loss
2. Kalitta822 (-193)221-952449711-468
5. Brown709 (-308)114-1043967741-381
6. Langdon595 (-420)110-1026517297-248
9. Schumacher464 (-551)18-751285850-419
Funny CarHagan (1020)     
6. Todd663 (-357)013-1123318250-212
8. DeJoria605 (-415)011-111525109-143

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