Just a day after winning his first Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, Antron Brown raced to the Top Fuel victory Sunday afternoon at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. The win gave Brown and his Matco Tools ‘Test Drive’ team a boost of momentum – and a move up to third in points – as the NHRA Camping World Series heads to Indianapolis for the final race of the regular season before the Countdown to the Championship begins.
Brown’s stellar weekend at Brainerd began in the first qualifying session when he recorded his quickest pass in qualifying, a 3.780 E.T. at 327.27 MPH. While he didn’t improve in the next two sessions, he did secure his first Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge victory in his fourth appearance in the race-within-a-race series. In the third qualifying session, which doubled as the first round of the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, Brown defeated points leader and technical alliance teammate Justin Ashley. He followed that up with another win light over defending world champion Brittany Force to secure the $10,000 check and three championship bonus points.
Racing out of the No. 6 spot on Sunday, Brown started the day with a 3.689-second pass to defeat Shawn Langdon and tie Clay Millican for the quickest pass of the round. Brown used a holeshot advantage over Steve Torrence to win with a 3.738 E.T. over Torrence’s quicker 3.716. Crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald stepped back up for the semifinals, tuning the Matco Tools ‘Test Drive’ machine to a 3.708-second win over Mike Salinas and his 3.710 E.T., sending Brown to his fourth final round of the season.
In a rematch of the 2017 Top Fuel final round at Brainerd, Brown left the starting line first next to Leah Pruett and powered on to light up the final win light on the strength of a 3.715 E.T. at 326.08 MPH. Pruett posted a 3.757 E.T. in the runner-up effort.
“In the finals, you know when you’re racing those TSR cars and Leah (Pruett), she is hungry right now,” said Brown, now a 73-time NHRA national event winner. “That girl is full-blown beast mode. I was like ‘Oh lord. Here we go. Here we go.’ We knew what they were capable of and we just went out there and just wanted to make another lap. We thought we were going to pick it up a little bit more, but the track got so good it ate us up just a little bit, and I think that’s what happened to Leah where it ate them up a little bit too. We were both pushing to go quicker. By the end of the day, when you look at those numbers, we were very consistent today and that’s what it took to get the job done.”
Brown’s team found a consistent groove around this time last season, and with consistency back on his side, the second-year team owner and driver is ready to tackle the final race of the regular season.
“We started off with a great lap and I think that just set our tone for the day,” Brown said. “We were the quickest and fastest of the first session. We tied Clay Millican, but we ran 334 MPH, and then we just go into race mode where you’ve got to race smart. You can’t throw Hail Mary’s and if they don’t stick then you just lose a run because you overpowered the racetrack. So, (Corradi and Oswald) stayed in that zone, and that consistency pays off and that’s what wins and that’s what wins championships.”
Brown, who moved up to third in points when he beat Salinas in the semifinals, will roll into the next race on the NHRA Camping World Series tour, the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park, as the defending event champion. The prestigious Indy race, Sept. 1 – 4, is the site of four wins – two each in Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle – on Brown’s lengthy résumé.
Qualified: No. 6 (3.780 E.T. at 327.27 MPH)
Elimination Round Results:
E1: 3.689 E.T. at 334.15 MPH defeated Shawn Langdon 3.782 E.T. at 323.97 MPH
E2: 3.738 E.T. at 330.63 MPH defeated Steve Torrence 3.716 E.T. at 327.43 MPH
E3: 3.708 E.T. at 332.75 MPH defeated Mike Salinas 3.710 E.T. at 333.74 MPH
E4: 3.715 E.T. at 326.08 MPH defeated Leah Pruett 3.757 E.T. at 331.12 MPH
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Top Fuel Point Standings (Unofficial):
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