Skip to content

NHRA Top Fuel driver Antron Brown doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘slow’

Jul 16, 2014, 9:46 PM EDT

Top Fuel driver Antron Brown. (AP Photo/NHRA,Marc Gewertz) Top Fuel driver Antron Brown. (AP Photo/NHRA,Marc Gewertz)

No matter what his method of transportation, Antron Brown isn’t just fast, he’s F-A-S-T.

He’s fast afoot: He was quick enough in the 100-meter dash to qualify for the U.S. Olympic trials in 1997.

He’s fast on two wheels: During his nine years in NHRA competition in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category, Brown came close to winning the championship (finished second) in 2001, won at least one race and finished in the top 10 in the final standings in every season from 1999 through his last season in the class in 2007, was a 2-time winner at the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, and won the Autombile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award in 1999 (NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year).

He’s fast on four wheels – MUCH faster, indeed: Won his first Mello Yello world championship in 2012, becoming the first African-American NHRA world champion and the first black driver to win a major U.S. auto racing title; he also is the only driver in NHRA history to win races in both the Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks. Also won the U.S. Nationals yet again, this time in a Top Fuel dragster.

And Brown, 38, a resident of Chesterfield, New Jersey, is by no means showing any signs of slowing down.

The driver of the Matco Tools dragster heads into the start of the NHRA’s “western swing” this weekend at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver as one of only seven drivers in the sport’s history who has ever swept all three races of the “swing” in one year, having done so in 2009.

But Brown has higher aspirations than just doing well the next three races. With five wins already in the series’ first 14 events, and a solid second in the Top Fuel points standings, Brown wants his second championship in the last three seasons.

“It’s been actually incredible this year,” Brown said on an NHRA teleconference Wednesday. “The whole competition in Top Fuel this year has been just insane right now. Battling out with Dougie (points leader Doug Kalitta), he’s definitely been the leader of the class so far, but our Matco Tools car is definitely running like gangbusters.

“We’ve been right on track where we need to be. With that being said, we always look forward going on to the Western Swing because right now this time is real crucial for us to get going right now because once you get back from the swing we have the U.S. Nationals and then we’re off to the Countdown to our championship, which is where the championship is won.”

Brown’s dominance this season has only been hindered by three other races where he suffered a first-round loss in eliminations. Had he been able to advance past the opening round on Sunday morning at those three events, he likely would be closer – if not ahead – to Kalitta.

At the same time, Brown is more than poised to make up for those three early exits in the western swing, which along with the U.S. Nationals is the most important part of the season for teams heading into the Countdown to the Championship.

“To win one round of NHRA racing right now is crazy hard,” Brown said. “To get past the first round is crazy hard. There’s no more gimmies. There’s 12 great race teams out there, and to compete out there in it is just it makes it that hard and difficult to try to get it done.”

While winning the championship is his goal, Brown believes that a second western swing sweep would put him in the driver’s seat, so to speak, towards that second Top Fuel crown.

“It’d be huge (to win the western swing again),” Brown said. “You’ll be the first mark in history to do it, you know what I mean, and we came so close to doing it before. We go into Western Swing and we can think about that, but when we go into the first race in Denver, you erase all that from your mind because you don’t let your emotions get the best of you to try to actually get that done.

“There’s so much that you have to have go your way to get that done, if you’re focused on that, you’re not focused on the thing that you need to get done (win the race and come one step closer to the championship).”

Brown is not only an in-demand Top Fuel racer, he’s also known for the motivational talks and speeches he gives, especially to youngsters across the country.

He has several speaking engagements lined up in the coming weeks, and as much as his audience of kids is wowed by Brown’s presence and what he imparts, those talks also help keep him grounded and still hungry for more wins and championships.

“There’s one thing that I can tell you honestly,” Brown said. “It comes down to the heart and determination of the individual. You have to be willing and you have to want it, you know what I mean? That’s the one thing that you can’t teach people today, and like that’s the difference between somebody like Michael Jordan and somebody that comes off the bench.

“You can’t teach ‘want to’ and my deal is I just want it. I can speak for everybody on our Matco Tools U.S. Army Toyota race team is that that’s what I’m telling you; we had a lot of talented guys before even that won the championship. We had great guys. But we have a group of individuals on our team that we make up one whole team together that has that want to, that desire.

“They want to win. The boys are hungry. They’re willing to do whatever it takes, and they’re all about being perfectionists, and that’s what it takes to have a great team and win and they don’t have no attitudes. They’re willing to work together. That’s the biggest thing, that we don’t have one person going a different direction that we’ve got to reel in. We have all of our guys go together, it’s nine of us, and we’re going into the same direction. And that’s something special right there. It’s something really, really, really special. I think that’s what makes the deal so great in doing what we want to do.

“My main deal in me is that I always set my goals real high and I shoot for them and I try to overachieve them, and then when I fall a little short I look back and I feel like I’ve accomplished a great bit of stuff. I think that’s one key to being successful in life is that when you stumble and fall you dust yourself off and you give it another lick and you go at it even harder, but you learn from it and grow from it.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

  1. wallio - Jul 16, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    Ummm Don Prudhomme won 4 titles long before Antron….

  2. Jerry Bonkowski - Jul 16, 2014 at 11:58 PM

    What does that have to do with anything? The story mentioned he already has won one title and is going for his second in three years. Prudhomme has nothing to do with this story.

  3. wallio - Jul 17, 2014 at 7:50 AM

    It Means Antron isn’t the first black champion, as you and so many others claim.

    • moezilla - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:03 AM

      Don Prudhomme is black? Are you sure you aren’t just confused by his deep, southern California tan? Plus the internet and Abraham Lincoln says that his nationality is French/Creole, not African American…I’ll see if I can track “Ant” down this weekend at Bandimere and ask him what he thinks. I’d try and find the “Snake” but he probably won’t show…something about chronic altitude sickness.

  4. wallio - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    When he was winning it was a big deal due to his race (sadly so was his marriage to a white woman) but now someone more media savy his here and history is forgotten. Its no surprise the snake and mongoose movie (which breify touches on race) debuted during Antron-mania, lest we forget.

    I’m a fan of Antron, I’ve met him at Maple Grove, he’s great, and a hellva racer, but let’s not forget our history.

  5. techmeister1 - Jul 17, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    I don’t think race should be the basis for any motorsports stories. A person’s success should be chronicled not their success because they are of one race or another.

    • wallio - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      Oh I agree, but if the author is going to bring race into the article, it should be correct at least.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Video from NASCAR America

Tony Stewart does well in return
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. K. Harvick (2199)
  2. J. Gordon (1988)
  3. T. Stewart (1651)
  4. M. Kenseth (1277)
  5. J. Logano (1220)