Antron Brown moves on from his 50th NHRA victory
Is 2015 the year that Antron Brown puts an emphatic stamp on his NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series career?
The New Jersey native just claimed his 50th career professional victory. Brown has raced in two categories: Pro Stock Motorcycle (16 wins) and Top Fuel (34), winning the title in the latter category in 2012. You can’t get more diverse than that.
The former track and field athlete is one of only 10 NHRA drivers/riders to achieve 50 victories, and earned this milestone just 30 miles from Chesterfield, NJ, where he was raised, competing on the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park dragstrip at Englishtown.
That victory, two weeks ago at E-town is Brown’s third this year and is his own Triple Crown as he also earned his third No. 1 qualifying position in the ninth event of the year. Brown hasn’t won more than three No. 1’s in any of his professional seasons, since he began racing as a pro in 1998.
Now Brown sits lightly atop the Top Fuel standings ahead of his teammate and reigning titleholder Tony Schumacher. He’s got a miserly 28-point gap to Schumacher and is 133 points ahead of his other Don Schumacher Racing stablemate Spencer Massey as the series hits its stride, about to contest its 11th race on a 24-contest docket.
For Brown, who won his first pro Wally trophy in 1999, victory at Englishtown with all of his family and friends – not to mention all of his memories – on-site was a wondrous thing. “It’s a real dream come true for this Chesterfield kid,” said Brown, 39, after beating Brittany Force in the championship round. “We knew what was at stake when we came in here. I put everything of what this race means to the side. And that’s what the crew did.”
His first visit to the central New Jersey racetrack came in 1986, with his family of sportsman racers. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” he reminisced. “We all came out here for the Summernationals. I spent a lot of hours at the track.” Still he never thought he’d be returning here as a professional. “I always wanted to, but you never know if you’ll get the opportunity.”
Although he won here in Pro Stock Motorcycle in 2002 and 2005, there’s always been a little extra internal pressure to hoist that Wally trophy after winning in a dragster. Brown knew his 50th win was achievable when he arrived at the Englishtown track, “But I put everything of what this race means to the side and that’s what our team did. We came in here and treated it like a race.
“Every race we come in, we put in all the hard work and put in our all,” with a team that’s been together since Brown transitioned to Top Fuel in 2008. Since the start of the 2009 season, Brown has racked up 32 victories – 10 more than his closest dragster competitor, teammate Schumacher. In a series known for statistics, Brown’s certainly are enviable: 320 starts, 50 wins, 41 runner-up positions with a W/L record of 537-266 and that 2012 T/F championship.
“We had to remind ourselves that each and every round [counts],” he said of the effort last weekend by his cohesive team led by co-crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, the latter NHRA’s 1984 Funny Car champion.
While Antron Brown and his team didn’t have the follow-up they wanted from the next weekend’s race in Epping, NH, qualifying sixth yet going out in the first round to 3-time Top Fuel champ Larry Dixon, there’s another opportunity and another special weekend ahead for the Father’s Day run at Bristol, TN, the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
Appropriately set in a valley adjacent to Bristol’s high-banked NASCAR oval, Bristol Dragway presents its own challenges, being one of four NHRA circuits where Brown still needs to notch another victory. He’s won at 17 of the 21 dragstrips on the schedule.
“Bristol has always been a special place,” he said. “You’re down there right in the middle of the valley and it’s one of our premier tracks. Bristol has always been good to me, just like Englishtown where we had been to the final before we won. It would be nice to get a win at Bristol. We want to cross that one off our bucket list.”
Words and Photos By Anne Proffit