Whatever difficulties Antron Brown and his team endured early in the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season appear to have been erased, putting the three-time Top Fuel world champion back on track to compete for another world title.
The road to the championship starts at this weekend’s 37th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, the first of six races during the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs. On the strength of two wins in his past three races, including the most recent NHRA U.S. Nationals, Brown enters the playoffs with plenty of momentum in his Matco Tools dragster.
He’s jumped out to sixth in the Top Fuel points standings, a considerable leap in just a month thanks to victories in Topeka – which was his first as a team owner – and Indy. It’s a loaded field of title contenders heading to Reading, but Brown might be peaking at the perfect time this season.
“We’re in the conversation now. With the Countdown right in front of us and us jumping from being 12th a few races ago to being sixth, I think we’re going to be in that talk,” Brown said. “We’re just going to go out there and compete and race for a championship, and that’s our mindset and our game plan right now. But this whole class is ridiculous right now. We just have to keep our head down, and for the next six races, AB Motorsports says, ‘Here we come.’ ”
Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year’s race at Maple Grove Raceway. This year’s playoff opener will be broadcast on both the FOX broadcast network and FOX Sports 1 (FS1) in 2022 and will also serve as the NFL adjacent broadcast on FOX, putting the NHRA on a huge platform to open its 2022 playoffs. It is the 17th of 22 races in 2022 and the first of six playoff races, and it’s also a race Brown won in 2015 and 2016.
Those seasons ended with Brown hoisting the world championship trophy, something he would love to repeat in 2022. It won’t be easy, as a number of star drivers are ahead of the three-time world champ, including points leader Brittany Force, Mike Salinas, who has four wins this season, Justin Ashley, the runner-up in Reading last year, four-time defending world champ Steve Torrence, and rising star Josh Hart. But Brown loves the drive and work he’s seen from his team, which has the entire first-year organization motivated heading into the postseason.
“All of our team has put that work in to get these results. It’s a testament to all of them. We never lost the faith and never gave up,” said Brown, who now has 69 career victories. “We got through the hard times, and then we started making some big strides. I knew it was coming. We just have to be consistent and stick to our game and come to compete at a high level. We’ve got to stay humble, poised, fierce, and we’ve got to go out there and give it all we’ve got."