The chance to compete at his hometown track never gets old for Antron Brown, a Chesterfield, N.J. native who grew up racing at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the site of this weekend’s 48th annual NHRA Summernationals. But the race also seems to invigorate Brown to do something great the rest of the season.
Brown has won back-to-back Top Fuel championships, winning 10 of his 14 races in that span either at Englishtown or after the event. It’s an impressive sign that Brown only seems to get better in his 10,000-horsepower Matco Tools dragster as the season progresses, and the 63-time event winner believes the boost he gets at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park is a big reason why.
“When I get to come home, I start thinking about the big picture about why I do what I do,” said Brown, who is second in the Top Fuel points standings. “I just don’t go out there and act like I’m happy to be out there. I go out there to compete because of how hard we’ve worked to make this all happen. When I come back here, it’s a pure reminder that I can’t be idle and take it all for granted. I want to put the work in and get better, and this race ignites me for the rest of the year.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage starting at 6:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 11. It is the 10th of 24 events during a 2017 season that has been just as impressive as the last two for Brown, a three-time world champion. Brown has two wins and four final round appearances in 2017, including last weekend’s runner-up finish in Epping.
But Brown refuses to be satisfied in a class loaded with championship contenders, including Don Schumacher Racing teammates Leah Pritchett, the current points leader, eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher, two-time 2017 winner Steve Torrence, Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force, who topped Brown in Epping. For Brown, it’s all about continuing to raise the bar on what he’s done.
“The driving force, not just for me but for my entire team, is that we want to compete,” Brown said. “The harder the challenge, the more it forces us to evolve and get better, and become greater than before. Over the last several years it’s just getting tougher and tougher, but the challenge is to continue to elevate your game. Can we be a champion again? Do what have what it takes to do it again when the stakes are even higher? That brings out the best in our team. When it gets to that, it pushes us into a corner and I feel like we do our best when we feel that pressure.”
Brown has proven that time and time again, and the start to his NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season indicates he’s answering that bell yet again in 2017. Brown and his team, led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, have worked incredibly well together, performing almost impeccably in pressure situations. But reaching that level of success wouldn’t have come without his early days at Englishtown, something Brown will reflect on this weekend.
“I just look forward to coming back to my roots, being with my dad and my uncle, and reminiscing about where I got the first love for the sport and where it’s gotten to me today,” said Brown, who won in Top Fuel at the track in 2015. “It’s a lot of fun to come here and just think back to when this was all a childhood dream, thinking about all the good times and bad times to get there.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:45 and 6:15 p.m. on Friday, June 9 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 10, at 1:45 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 11.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at (732) 446-7800. Tickets also are available online at www.racewaypark.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult.