Antron Brown’s first year as a team owner has been anything but easy but following the Top Fuel star’s first win of the season – and as a team owner on Sunday in Topeka – things are starting to click for the three-time world champ. Racing just days later at this weekend’s 40th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, Brown is also ready to keep this momentum going in the right direction.
He performed at a high level in hot conditions in Topeka and there will be stark contrast in temperatures heading into Brainerd this weekend. That has Brown thinking big in his 11,000-horsepower Matco Tools dragster, where he hopes to continue to round into championship form with the Countdown to the Championship just around the corner.
The annual stop in Brainerd is the penultimate race of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series regular season and Brown would love a second straight win, as well as a second career Top Fuel victory in Brainerd, where things should be extremely fast this weekend.
“Once you get your chance, you’ve got to shine and from here on out, we’re only going forward,” Brown said. “We’re not going to slow down, and we didn’t show all we had (in Topeka). We’re right where we want to be, and we just want to keep getting better. A lot of good came out of Topeka and we’re really looking forward to Brainerd. It’s always been a great track for us. It’s going to be great weather and we’re looking at running in the 3.60s. Once we get that, it’s game on.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) and Matt Hagan (Funny Car) won the 2021 event, and this year’s race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and the FOX broadcast network, including eliminations coverage starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX on Sunday, Aug. 21. It is the 15th of 22 races during the 2022 season and the annual stop in Brainerd is always a highlight for fans and race teams.
BIR has played host to incredible racing for four decades and the famed “Zoo” helps create one of the most unique atmospheres on the NHRA tour. It’s also a race that excites Brown, who has seen his AB Motorsports team take some huge steps in recent weeks. It didn’t always show on the track, but Brown, who now has 69 career NHRA victories, has never had a problem battling through adversity.
“For me, I’ve been through some rough roads and the mindset you need to have,” Brown said. “People didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes and I saw the chemistry change when we went on the Western Swing. I knew if we stayed at it, it would be fine, and we just kept on building. I never lost the faith.”
With the victory on Sunday, Brown moved to 10th in points in a loaded Top Fuel class, but there’s still time for the star driver to make an even bigger move. He’s less than 50 points out of eighth and less than 100 out of seventh and Brown is ready to take advantage of the moment and the team’s hot streak.
There’s plenty of standouts to deal with in Brainerd, including points leader Brittany Force, Mike Salinas, who has four wins this season, Seattle winner Tony Schumacher, defending event winner and reigning four-time world champ Torrence, Justin Ashley, Josh Hart, Leah Pruett, and Doug Kalitta, but Brown has enjoyed his team’s work ethic and how everyone continues to come together at a key point in the season.
“To get that synergy there and to get everybody on the same page, it was a lot,” Brown said. “We went through it, and it was like the school of hard knocks, but it was everybody coming together, believing in the same vision. We’re there now and we’re all in this together. That’s what this team is all about and that’s what makes this so special right now. We’re family and when we race, we give it all we got and let the chips fall where they may. The Countdown is two races away and we’re going to give it all we’ve got.”
Hagan cashed in at Brainerd for the first time in his standout career last year, picking up the Funny Car win in a thriller against Cruz Pedregon in the final round. Hagan, a three-time world champ, has enjoyed a strong 2022 season, picking up three victories and he’ll look to add another in Brainerd as he tries to track down points leader Robert Hight, who has racked up six wins thus far. Nobody has been better at BIR than John Force, who has an incredible 11 Brainerd wins. Defending world champ Ron Capps has also been a standout at the track with six wins, while others to watch include former world champ J.R. Todd, 2017 Brainerd winner Alexis DeJoria, Blake Alexander, Tim Wilkerson, and Bob Tasca III, who has wins in two of the last three races in 2022.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which includes some of the sport’s top drivers, as well as the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by D-Wagon and the exciting Mountain Motor Pro Stock category, bringing their powerful 800-plus cubic-inch engines to Brainerd. Reigning Pro Mod world champ Jose Gonzalez won the race a year ago as the category made its debut at the facility. This year, the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by D-Wagon will also participate in a specialty race at Brainerd, as the D-Wagon NHRA Pro Mod Shootout will take place on Friday and Saturday, with $10,000 being awarded to the winner.
On both Friday and Saturday, fans can witness a must-see cacklefest in the Midway, as well as a wheelstander exhibition from the “Walking Tall” PT Cruiser driven by “NitroMike.” On Saturday, fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds.
Race fans at Brainerd International Raceway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals event winners.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Brainerd. This unique opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family. The new Pep Boys midway display will include tire change challenges, oil change challenges, a slot car track, and much more, adding even more excitement to the midway.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:15 and 6:00 p.m. CT on Friday, Aug. 19 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 20 at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11:00 a.m. CT on Sunday, Aug. 21. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 8:00 p.m. ET on Friday, 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, and then eliminations on FOX at 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday.
To purchase tickets to the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, fans can call 866-444-4455. For more information about NHRA, visit www.nhra.com.