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Antron Brown Wins Pep Boys All-Star Callout at 2024 NHRA Season-Opener

Antron Brown’s 2024 campaign got off to a hot start on Saturday night at the NHRA Gatornationals when he powered to victory in the Pep Boys Top Fuel All-Star Callout specialty race. Brown defeated three world champions to capture his first win of the year during the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season-opener, winning an $80,000 bonus purse and a special wrestling-inspired champions’ belt trophy.
The AB Motorsports team’s 2023 qualifying performance allowed them to secure a berth in the race-within-a-race, which featured a gauntlet of eight Top Fuel heavy-hitters with a combined 11 world championships between them. Brown faced his Toyota teammate Shawn Langdon in the opening round, which was contested during the event’s third qualifying session. Both drivers encountered traction issues and pedaled down the track with the three-time world champ crossing the finish line stripe first to advance.

Next up was another Toyota driver, Steve Torrence. Brown moved first and took his 45th anniversary Matco Tools Toyota dragster down the track in 3.761 seconds to defeat his friend’s 3.765 E.T. Despite winning the first two rounds of the Callout race, Brown went into the final round of qualifying, which also served as the showdown of the Pep Boys race, sitting in the No. 14 spot. There he faced his third world champion in his opponent Brittany Force. Against Force, Brown laid down a stout 3.709 E.T. at 332.43 MPH to defeat her 3.730-second attempt and moved up to fourth on the Gatornationals elimination ladder in the process.
“This win is very, very special,” said Brown, a 74-time NHRA national event champion. “We didn’t start out with the best car this weekend, but we never quit. We’ve been working through some things, like a brand-new chassis but our Matco boys never stop.
“With each round, our guys had a chance to keep picking at it and picking at it, and we knew it was going to be a tough round against Brittany. Everyone we raced today was a fellow world champion. We knew we had to step it up against her, but we had the added pressure of qualifying because we went into that round in the bottom of the field, so to go out there and do what we did and run that 3.709 and move up to fourth on the ladder and get this Pep Boys All-Star Callout win is pretty special.”
Brown and the AB Motorsports Matco Tools Top Fuel team will have a chance to double up on hardware on Sunday at Gainesville Raceway as they attempt to close out the first event of the 2024 season in the winner’s circle. To do that, they’ll have to start by getting past their first-round competitor, No. 13 qualifier Tripp Tatum.
“It’s going to be tough competition tomorrow on race day,” said Brown, the 2013 Gatornationals champ. “The field is tight, but hopefully we can parlay that and get better tomorrow. The boys have a lot of work to do tonight to get ready for tomorrow. The weather is going to be cooler, it’s going to be brisker. Everyone is going to make more power, and I think we’re going to see some monumental runs tomorrow. You’re going to have to run in the 3.60s to get past the first round. We’ve been getting better and better with each lap, and that’s when you get dangerous. I’m focused, and my boys are giving me a hot rod that can do the job, and that’s what it takes; it takes every piece of the puzzle to make something like this happen. We have an incredible team and we’re looking forward to this 2024 season.”
Eliminations for the NHRA Gatornationals get underway on Sunday, March 10 at 10:30 a.m. ET.

This story was originally published on March 10, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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