Brown gives Schumacher racing 200th win
Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 10:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 10:10 p.m.
Exactly one month after sliding across the finish line at Pomona in a fiery ball of twisted steel, Antron Brown blazed to a Top Fuel victory at Gatornationals on Sunday, his fast and powerful Top Fuel dragster fully intact at the end.
Brown’s flawless final run against Clay Millican was in sharp contrast to a frightening accident he had Feb. 17 in the second round of the opening race of the NHRA season. He managed to walk away from that crash with minor injuries despite the fact his Mac Tools dragster disintegrated after exploding and hitting the wall.
“It felt good to bring that one home (today),” Brown said. “It leaves Pomona behind us and we can keep moving forward.
“Everything (team owner) Don (Schumacher) has been orchestrating, he wants to build the quickest, the fastest and absolutely the safest cars. I believe we’ve done that, especially when I walked away from that accident.”
Brown’s victory was the culmination of an historic day for Don Schumacher Racing. Moments before Brown’s win, DSR teammate Johnny Gray, who will turn 60 on Wednesday, outdueled Del Worsham in the Funny Car final.
The double win pushed DSR to 200 total NHRA victories. The only other team to hit that magic mark is John Force Racing, which has 218 total victories — all in Funny Car, 134 by the legendary Force, who was eliminated by his daughter Courtney in the first round Sunday.
“It’s incredible,” Schumacher said. “It started in 1970 in Indianapolis when I was driving my Funny Car to a victory. I only racked up five of those wins. My teammates have racked up the rest.
“You don’t look to win 200 NHRA national meets. That’s an incredible number. I never thought it would happen. I never even considered that.”
Sunday’s other winners were Allen Johnson in Pro Stock and Hector Arana Jr. in Pro Stock Motorcycle. All four Gatornationals winners entered eliminations as the No. 2 qualifier in their class.
Brown’s victory came a month to the day after his breathtaking (and very scary) crash at Pomona in the second round of eliminations. While cruising toward the finish line, Brown’s Matco Tools dragster blew up and crashed into the wall, then continued down the track on fire with the rear tires and the car’s body missing. He climbed out of the twisted wreck with only minor injuries, including a bruised spine.
Despite a potential devastating crash, Brown was back in a new car four days later for qualifying in Phoenix.
“You have to treat each run as its own run,” he said. “You can’t think about what happened the last run, whether it’s a record run or you flipped upside down. These cars are so fast that if you’re thinking about something you’re not supposed to you’re putting yourself in a serious, dangerous moment, and the person you’re racing against.
“I got back in that car four days later, and once I stepped on the gas, I was right back in business.”
Showing no trepidation, Brown ran hot and fast all afternoon Sunday. He posted four of the five fastest passes of the day, his quickest coming in the final against Millican, who is still seeking his first NHRA victory. He outgunned Millican with a pass of 3.761 seconds at a top speed of 318.77 mph.
“We knew we had to do our best job to bring that win home racing against Clay in that final,” Brown said. “You can’t take any of these guys lightly. If you do, you’re going home.”
It was Brown’s first victory at Gatornationals (Top Fuel or Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Only minutes before Brown thundered down the track on his winning run, Gray put together an impressive winning pass of his own, edging Del Worsham for his fourth career win and fourth at Gatornationals — and the 199th win for DSR. Gray got down the track in 4.053 seconds at a top speed of 315.49.
Gray won in what will be his last race at Gatornationals at Auto Plus Raceway at Gainesville. He confirmed after the final that he is retiring at the end of this season.
“This is my last season. I’m done,” he said. “It’s very grueling just to come to all the races and all the travel involved. Right now, I’m still in pretty decent health and I love to bass fish. There are a lot of other things I want to do.”
Gray made it clear Sunday he doesn’t plan to go out quietly.
After his victory, he was asked what it is like competing against, and beating, the much younger drivers in Funny Car.
“Anybody my age will tell you it’s fun to kick a kid’s ass,” he said. “That’s just fun. But, they’re tough. All these kids race really well.”
Gray came close to winning his first Gator a year ago, getting edge out in the final by Robert Hight.
“This feels great. It really does,” he said.
In Pro Stock, Johnson, the defending season champion, beat Jeg Coughlin on a hole shot in the final. He posted an ET of 6.535 seconds with a top speed of 212.59 mph. He reached the final with victories over Matt Hartford, Erica Enders-Stevens and Jason Line.
The victory puts Johnson in a strong early position to defend his 2012 points title.
“It’s early in the season,” he said. “We’re not really thinking that far forward.”
In one of the closest races of the day, Arana Jr. edged out Steve Johnson in the motorcycle final, getting to the finish line just ahead of Johnson with a pass of 6.888 seconds and a top speed of 195.65 mph. Arana beat his father, Hector Arana Sr., in the semifinal.