Antron Brown picked up his first No. 1 qualifier award in nearly six years on Saturday at the NHRA New England Nationals to score the 50th pole of his career. Aboard the Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster, Brown powered his 11,000-horsepower machine to a 3.729 second at 329.99 mph pass during the weekend’s second qualifying session to earn his 39th Top Fuel pole (11 from Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Brown and the Brian Corradi/Mark Oswald-led team had to battle extreme weather conditions throughout the event’s abbreviated qualifying show to earn their first No. 1 qualifier award for Brown’s AB Motorsports organization, which made its on-track debut in 2022.
Friday’s lone qualifying session was contested in the heat of the day, with temperatures reaching 90 degrees, causing almost the entirety of the nitro field to struggle to make a clean pass. Brown was one of the few standouts, clocking a 3.899 at 310.98 mph run to earn two bonus points and the provisional No. 2 spot.
When teams returned to New England Dragway on Saturday morning, they were faced with rainy weather and nearly a 40-degree drop in temperature from Friday. Once again, while most of the field grappled with the extreme conditions, the Matco Tools team was able to quickly adapt, and Brown was one of only two drivers to post a 3.7-second run. After advancing to the top of the timing sheets, rain moved in and the fields were set based on the weekend’s two qualifying sessions when NHRA suspended on-track activities for the remainder of the day.
“It feels really good to get this No. 1 qualifier today,” said Brown, whose most recent pole came from the 2017 Seattle event. “What made it feel so good is how well our team was able to adapt to all of the different conditions. Friday, we were No. 2. We dropped a hole early, so we missed out on being No. 1 there. We were still able to get two bonus points, which adds up because we are tied for sixth in the point standings.
“Today, we were able to bounce back and were one of the few cars that made it down because the track got super tight, super good, but there was no give,” added Brown from the New England Dragway media center, where before starting his post-qualifying interview, he proudly showed off a photo of his oldest son, Anson, who graduated from Brownsburg High School in Brownsburg, Ind. earlier in the day. “We had to try to make the car give; Brian, Mark, Brad (Mason), and all of the Matco/Lucas Oil boys, they are good at adapting in situations like that. The hard part is we haven’t ran in conditions like that, so you had to get the right power level and back it down. We went for a safe run in Q2 to get down the track, so we could prepare for race day because we knew the conditions were going to be like this tomorrow. We know we can make it down, and now, we can pick at it and make it better and better with each lap. The track was good enough to run mid-to-high 60s if you hit it right, but you can hit it wrong like a lot of other teams did. That being said, just super proud of my guys; it makes me feel good to see where we are at and that we can adapt to so many different circumstances.”
As the No. 1 qualifier, Brown is rewarded with a Bye run in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday and will face the winner of the Austin Prock/Steve Torrence contest in round two. The three-time Top Fuel world champion has a history of success at the Epping, N.H. facility with one win in three final-round appearances. Brown, the winner of the 2023 Las Vegas NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, will be competing for his 73rd win and second of the season when competition kicks off at 10 a.m. ET.
Qualified: No. 1 (lane choice) vs. Bye
Q1: 3.899 E.T. at 310.98 MPH (Two bonus points for second-quickest run of the session)
Q2: 3.729 E.T. at 329.99 MPH (Three bonus points for quickest run of the session)
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