Keeping Pace

Brown looking for Top Fuel Wally from this weekend's Toyota Summernationals

New look for the NHRA as they welcome Mello Yello as the title sponsor of their national tour. (Logo courtesy of the NHRA)
New look for the NHRA as they welcome Mello Yello as the title sponsor of their national tour. (Logo courtesy of the NHRA)

Antron Brown will certainly be one of the favorites to win the Toyota NHRA Summernationals, May 30-June 2 at Raceway Park. Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised nationally on ESPN2HD.

Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. – Growing up in nearby Chesterfield, Antron Brown always knew when his dad would take him out to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park to watch some drag racing, that one day he would be there racing his own high-performance machines.

 

His dream first came true in 1998 aboard a powerful 190 mph Suzuki when he competed in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle category. Brown raced to emotional victories at Raceway Park in the two-wheel category, claiming titles in 2002 and 2005.

 

As his driving career has transitioned to the sport’s most powerful class – the 8,000 horsepower Top Fuel dragster – Brown remains that kid at heart every time he returns to his home track. The only thing that would make his visit more enjoyable this time around would be to grab a Top Fuel victory at the tradition-rich event.

 

Brown will certainly be one of the favorites to win the Toyota NHRA Summernationals, May 30-June 2 at Raceway Park. Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised nationally on ESPN2HD.

 

Brown, who won the NHRA Top Fuel world championship last season and in the process became the first African-American to win a major auto racing championship in the United States, has emerged as one of the biggest stars in the world of NHRA racing. He has two victories this season as he works to defend his championship title.

 

He is focused and determined to make his hometown race the site of a third season victory.

 

“I’ve never won in Top Fuel at Englishtown,” Brown said. “That would be an awesome feeling to take home that Wally from Raceway Park with all my family and friends there to celebrate.”

 

He says there is just a magical quality to Raceway Park, the multi-purpose motorsports facility which has been hosting NHRA national events since 1971.

“There is so much drag racing history at that place,” Brown said. “When you consider all of the records that have been set there over the years, the great night racing, and it was the place where you could always go out and see all of the greats in the sport. Today I am that same kid at heart heading out to Raceway Park with the same love and passion for the sport.”

 

Brown’s most recent victory came in Atlanta. However, that win is sandwiched between two uncharacteristic first round losses, in Houston and Topeka.

“It looks like we have an electrical problem right now,” Brown said. “We just have to figure out where and what. The motor parts looked fine, but it just wasn’t hitting on all cylinders [in Topeka], so we have to go back and find out what happened. We’re going to replace some things on the car like the ignition wires and make it all brand new for Englishtown.”

 

U.S. Army dragster driver Tony Schumacher leads the points standings and the circuit’s most recent winner, Shawn Langdon, has been hitting his stride in the Al-Anabi Racing dragster. In addition to those two, Brown has many other top challengers in the category, including Brandon Bernstein, Doug Kalitta, Spencer Massey, Morgan Lucas, Bob Vandergriff and Clay Millican to name a few.

 

At this point in the regular season, Brown is comfortably confident in his third place position.

 

“You want to win every race and always be No. 1, but that only really matters after the last race at Pomona (Calif.) in November,” Brown has said. “If you settle down, focus, relax and quit worrying about it, it comes to you.”

 

In Funny Car, defending event winner Gray and Cruz Pedregon are the early leading championship contenders, with each claiming multiple wins early in the season. Matt Hagan is showing renewed success and defending champ Jack Beckman, Robert Hight and Courtney Force will try to add their names to the NHRA history book as Englishtown winners. Four-time E-Town winner John Force, 2006 winner Ron Capps, two-time winner Del Worsham and 2008 winner Tim Wilkerson will all be working to get another victory at the legendary track.

 

The Pro Stock category is once again proving to be one of the toughest categories in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series with winners and losers separated by only hundredths of a second during many of the elimination rounds. Mike Edwards has the points lead in the category on the strength of two wins with Jeg Coughlin and Allen Johnson breathing down his neck in second and third in points. Jason Line, Erica Enders-Stevens and Anderson, who has the most Pro Stock wins at the track with five, will all be competing for the coveted NHRA Wally on Sunday.

 

The Pro Stock Motorcycle season has been dominated by Hector Arana Jr. on his Lucas Oil Buell but the Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson tandem of Andrew Hines and Krawiec will be looking to put an end to that streak. Surging Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki rider Steve Johnson, Hector Arana Sr. and John Hall are all among the top contenders for the NHRA Wally in the two-wheel category at the event.

 

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as every ticket is an exclusive pit pass, allowing them firsthand to see the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds. While visiting the pits, interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway are two popular areas fans won’t want to miss.

 

The race also will feature exciting side-by-side racing action in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Series.

 

• SCHEDULE: NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 6:15 p.m. Friday, May 31, and will continue Saturday, June 1, at noon and 2:15 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 2.

 

• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 5 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, June 1, and two and a half hours of eliminations coverage at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 2.

 

• ON THE WEB: Get instant results, access to photos, video and audio clips and the latest news updates from every NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.NHRA.com.




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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.





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