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Antron Brown Misses Out on First NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Trophy

After becoming only the sixth driver in NHRA history to reach the 800th round win milestone during last year’s Thunder Valley Nationals, Antron Brown was looking for more Bristol Dragway success this weekend during the annual Bristol, Tennessee event. Specifically, Brown was seeking his first Thunder Valley event triumph. With 75 national event victories, the three-time Top Fuel world champ is one of the most decorated drivers in the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series, but a win at Bristol Dragway has eluded him. Brown’s race weekend began with a No. 3 seeded qualifying effort, putting him in prime position to finally score the Bristol Wally, but the driver of the Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster found himself on the wrong side of a great drag race in round one of eliminations on Sunday morning, ending his chances at a first Bristol win.
 
Like most of the nitro field, Brown’s qualifying outing started with tire haze in the first round but his 3.945-second at 300 MPH pass was enough to put him in the No. 5 spot heading into the second session. In Friday night’s ‘field setting’ round, Brown kept his Matco Tools Toyota hooked up and firing on all eight cylinders to clock a 3.809-second at 321.27 MPH pass, moving him up two positions to third and earning a bonus point for recording the third-quickest run of the session in the process. He made another good run in the heat of the day on Saturday – a 3.886 – before losing traction in the final session. Although Brown scored a favorable qualifying position, he still found himself with a tough first-round match, facing reigning series champion Doug Kalitta on Sunday morning.
 
Armed with lane choice, Brown scored a slight starting line advantage and took his 11,000-horsepower machine to the finish line stripe in 3.782 seconds, but it wasn’t enough to outrun Kalitta, who posted low E.T. of the event, using his 3.723 E.T. to advance.
 
“The Kalitta team, they’re a really great team and they threw out there what they needed to throw out there, and that’s why they won a championship last year,” said Brown, who has won at every track on the current NHRA tour with the exception of Bristol Dragway and Virginia Motorsports Park near Richmond. “Our main focus right now is to keep on pushing forward and keep getting better. We can run in the hot conditions and we can run in the cool conditions, all we’ve got to do is just be a little bit more aggressive. We’ve been on both sides of the fence – not aggressive enough or too aggressive.
 
“We’re going into Dinwiddie, Virginia coming up here soon and our plan is to land in the middle from now on and see what the track can hold and try and run that number and compete. It’s just a bummer to go out first round today. We probably could’ve beat several of those other teams that advanced. We qualified No. 3 and ended up with Doug, and that’s just how it shakes out sometimes. We just need to get us a little more race-day luck. With that being said, it was still a good race weekend and we’re looking forward to the next.”
 
Brown and his AB Motorsports team will head back to their headquarters near Indianapolis where they will prepare for the upcoming Virginia NHRA Nationals, June 22 – 23, where Brown will attempt to capture his first Richmond trophy. Qualifying for the Virginia Motorsports Park event kicks off on Saturday at noon ET.

This story was originally published on June 9, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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