Athletes often talk about being in the zone, a feeling where nothing can go wrong. It’s a feeling Top Fuel standout Antron Brown can relate to at the moment, and the 2012 world champion is taking full advantage of a hot streak that has impressed everyone in the motorsports world.
Brown, who drives the 8,000-horsepower Matco Tools dragster, has won two straight races in the ultra-competitive Top Fuel ranks and has advanced to the finals in four of the past five events. It makes him the points leader and hottest driver in the class heading into this weekend’s Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway and very much in the zone.
“It feels good that we’re in stride right now,” Brown said. “Going into the race, you go with confidence when your car’s running good and how the team is operating. One thing I really love about our team is that it doesn’t matter what we did before our first qualifying run. It matters how we end up in qualifying. It matters how much we grew with each run. We’ll have problems at every race, but we’ll grow from it. We get our car into a zone that it’s ready to race on Sunday.”
Brown (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car), and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2.
Heading to Atlanta Dragway for the seventh of 24 races during the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is also ideal for Brown when it comes to keeping this hot streak going. He is the defending event winner at the track and has achieved considerable success at the facility, dating back to his Pro Stock Motorcycle days. In all, Brown has five victories in six final-round appearances in Atlanta, with three of those victories coming in Top Fuel (2013, 2011, 2008).
“It’s always been a good racetrack for me,” Brown said. “I distinctly remember winning there on the U.S. Army bike when I beat Andrew Hines in the final (in 2006). I remember getting my second Top Fuel Wally when I beat Tony Schumacher on a holeshot (in 2008). That was a huge deal because that was the era when no one was beating Tony.”
As for what makes Atlanta Dragway special, Brown talked about the fan-friendly atmosphere the track provides, as well the memories it brings up of Brown’s early racing days.
“It reminds me of one of the old-school racetracks that I grew up on around New Jersey,” Brown said. “When you go there, it’s the history and environment that brings you back to when you were a little kid. The stands are really close to the drag race, and the old-school drag racers come there. It makes me feel like where it all started for me, and I just think about going fast and going faster.”
That hasn’t been a problem in 2014 because Brown and his Matco team, led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, have been on point. It’s a stark contrast from a year ago when the team struggled to find its combination, but that hasn’t been the case this season with Brown rolling to victories in Phoenix, Charlotte, and the most recent event in Houston.
Despite everything coming together, keeping that dominant upper hand will be difficult against a loaded Top Fuel class. Doug Kalitta, the early season points leader, has two Atlanta victories, and other championship contenders include Tony Schumacher, defending world champ Shawn Langdon, Spencer Massey, 2012 Atlanta winner Steve Torrence, Khalid alBalooshi, Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner Brittany Force, and J.R. Todd.
“The main thing is we know what our team is always capable of,” Brown said. “We know we have a really good chance of winning every race if we do our jobs right. What’s so good about our Matco Tools team now is that we’re operating on all eight cylinders.”
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday, May 16, with sessions at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, May 17, at 12:30 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for Sunday, May 18, at 11 a.m. Pro Mod qualifying is set for Friday, May 16, at 3:45 and 6 p.m. and Saturday, May 17, at 12:45 p.m. Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled for Saturday at 2:45 p.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to www.NHRATIX.com or call 800-884-NHRA (6472). Children 12 and younger are free.