Antron Brown scored his first win as an NHRA team owner on Sunday at the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor when he defeated Steve Torrence in the final round to capture his 53rd Top Fuel triumph, and 69th overall.
Brown’s AB Motorsports team, owned and operated by the three-time Top Fuel world champ, made its debut at the start of the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season with high hopes, but it’s no secret that the team struggled to find its footing through the first half of the season. Prior to Sunday’s victory, Brown had only five round wins on his 2022 scorecard but had sensed the team had turned a corner during the Western Swing, particularly in Seattle when the team was consistent in the heat while the majority of the field grappled with the challenging conditions.
“People weren’t even talking about us anymore, we weren’t even in the conversation. You could see it on some people’s expressions on their faces when the media was writing us off, but those on the outside didn’t know what was going on behind the ropes, and what goes on at the shop,” said Brown of the team’s documented struggles, which saw them advance beyond the first round only three times through the first 13 races.
With temperatures lingering in the high 90s all weekend long, Topeka presented a similar set of challenges as what the team had faced in Seattle, and the Matco Tools team was ready. Led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, the new team faced a loaded ladder of top five-ranked championship contenders in every round on race day.
Brown began his march to the Heartland Motorsports Park winner’s circle by picking off Top Fuel points leader Brittany Force in round one and Josh Hart in round two when he clocked consecutive 3.8-second passes. In the semifinals, Brown’s third appearance of the year, the Brownsburg, Ind. resident faced technical alliance teammate Justin Ashley where both drivers pedaled their way down the track with Brown coming out on top to set up a battle against reigning world champion Steve Torrence, who was also seeking his first win of the season. The longtime friends were nearly even leaving the starting line but Brown quickly pulled ahead and never trailed for the win, posting a 3.902 E.T. to Torrence’s 4.443 to earn the Wally trophy and collect AB Motorsports’ first win.
“I knew we turned the table there in Sonoma, and we just needed to qualify a little better and start getting in the right spot,” said Brown. “We didn’t get in the right spot when we got here, but everyone put their heads down, and you grind. Once we got past first round today, and through second round, and third round, and went up against Steve-O in the final, and that win light came on it was just like ‘boom, is this real? Yup, it’s real.’ All that sweat and hard work; it was all worth it.
“This has been a lifelong dream, and I never imagined we were going to struggle like we did, but we all got through it together. It was high emotions, and I only wish my grandmom could’ve been here to see it. We lost her in December, and I know Brian (Corradi) has a heavy heart, too. He lost his mom a year prior, and it’s one of those deals where it doesn’t feel real because it’s a dream when you think about it from where we came from. I worked on motorcycles, Brian worked on cars, and never in a million years did we think we’d ever be able to go out on our own as a team. We talked about it for years; my wife, my family, and you never think it’s a possibility but here we are. We’ve been working our tails off, and we have such incredible support from Matco, Lucas Oil, Hangsterfer’s, Toyota, SiriusXM, Western Tech, and Summit coming aboard; all of the people who make this possible, when it all comes together and you look at where you started to where we are now, the struggle is real, but this makes it all worthwhile.”
Sunday’s Topeka triumph moved Brown and the AB Motorsports team back into the Top Fuel top 10, with the Matco Tools pilot advancing two spots up to 10th with two races remaining before the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs begin.
“From here on out, we’re only going forward,” said Brown. “We put that one on the map today for AB Motorsports. It’s our first, but it’s not going to be our last. We’re right where we want to be, and we’re just going to keep getting better.”
Qualified: No. 11 (3.818 E.T. at 281.89 MPH)
Elimination Round Results:
E1: 3.816 E.T. at 310.70 MPH defeated Brittany Force 4.123 E.T. at 219.40 MPH
E2: 3.812 E.T. at 312.42 MPH defeated Josh Hart 3.940 E.T. at 279.15 MPH
E3: 4.757 E.T. at 174.77 MPH defeated Justin Ashley 5.399 E.T. at 208.39 MPH
E4: 3.902 E.T. at 309.49 MPH defeated Steve Torrence 4.443 E.T. at 201.49 MPH
NHRA Camping World Series Top Fuel Point Standings (unofficial):
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