NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel champion Antron Brown and second-generation Funny Car star Courtney Force (above) were honored by readers of Racer magazine for their accomplishments in the 2012 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Brown, perennially one of the more popular drivers in drag racing, shrugged off frustrating near misses in recent years to win his first NHRA Top Fuel title and the first championship for any African-American in any major U.S. motorsport. Those singular achievements have also earned him a first Drag Racer of the Year accolade.
Force, the youngest daughter of drag racing’s most prolific and popular driver, 15-time NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car world champion John Force, is Racer magazine’s runaway choice as Rookie of the Year, voted on by its global readership.
Brown, driver of Don Schumacher Racing’s Matco dragster, won six times for the third time in four years, but instead of watching helplessly as a points lead built up over three-fourths of the long NHRA season slipped from his grasp in the stressful Countdown to the Championship playoffs, he won two of six Countdown events and held on to win the title over teammates Tony Schumacher and Spencer Massey. It was a battle that came down to the last round of the last race of the year.
The former Pro Stock Motorcycle racer, who finished second in the final standings three times from 1998 to 2007, scored wins in Phoenix, Chicago, Denver, and Sonoma during the 2012 regular season and was runner-up at the season opener in Pomona and in Las Vegas, Houston, and Brainerd.
Despite losing in the first round at three of the six Countdown events, including at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals in Pomona that seemed to doom him to another second-place finish, Brown won back to back in Dallas and St. Louis and had a runner-up in Reading that, because he earned 20 points for setting the national record (3.701), counted the same as a victory.
Said Brown, “This award makes you sit back and reflect about all the things we’ve gone through on our team. Being the driver, everyone says your name, and that’s the one on the car, and they talk about how you did this or that, but actually, this is a team award. When you look at all our guys together, including the ones back at DSR, that’s who Antron Brown is. So when people say my name, I think about all the people who work with me on the car and others back at DSR. This is a tribute to what we have accomplished together as a team. Thank you to all Racer readers.”
Racer editor David Malsher said, “My favorite stat about Antron Brown is that he’s the only NHRA race winner on both Pro Stock Motorcycles and Top Fuel, a record he established back in his debut Top Fuel season of 2008. Since then, his career has just skyrocketed, and 2012 was the third time in four years that he ended a season with six wins. Consistent excellence like that had to bring its reward eventually, and so when he clinched the NHRA Top Fuel title last November, there probably couldn’t have been a more popular winner. I’m thrilled that the Racer readers – who voted in record numbers this year – have brought this proud but modest man of immodest talent yet another accolade.”
Force, a national event champion in Top Alcohol Dragster, reached four Funny Car finals in her 2012 rookie season. In July, she defeated reigning Funny Car champion Matt Hagan in the Seattle final for one of the most well-received victories by any driver in any drag racing class all season. A runner-up finish to Cruz Pedregon in the Pomona final showed that she’ll be a Funny Car title contender in 2013 – and victory at the season-opening O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries confirmed it.
“I want to thank the readers of Racer magazine for voting for me asRacer Rookie of the Year. To be considered with top NASCAR, IndyCar, and F1 rookies is an honor just in itself, and to be voted as Rookie of the Year is unbelievable,” said Force, the 2012 Automobile Club Road to the Future Award winner. “I have to thank all my fans and especially Racer magazine for this honor. I also want to thank my dad, John Force, Ford, and my sponsor, Traxxas, for being so supportive last season.”
Said Malsher, “If Courtney Force thought she had a tough battle on her hands in NHRA Funny Car last year, she had an even tougher battle in the Racer Rookie of the Year award. Or so you’d think, considering she was up against Simon Pagenaud in IndyCar and Daniel Ricciardo in Formula 1. But actually, Courtney wiped the floor with all of them, earning over 60 percent of the readers’ votes, and became the first NHRA driver ever to win this award. Scoring a win and fifth place in the championship standings in your first year of wrestling an 8,000-horsepower, 300-mph car is a heck of an achievement, and Racer readers clearly understand that.”
The Spring 2013 issue of RACER includes full coverage of RACER of the Year presented by Hawk Performance, a wide-ranging interview with Ryan Hunter-Reay and the man he replaced as IZOD IndyCar Series champion, Dario Franchitti. The issue also features previews to the 2013 IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, ALMS, Grand-Am, WEC and NHRA seasons. RACER is beginning its 21st year of publication and is offered in print and digital editions and also in iTunes, Kindle and Android apps. It is also available at national bookstore newsstands in the USA and Canada. Visit www.racer.com for all the latest racing news and subscription offers.
RACER Rookie Racer of the Year Hall of Fame:
2006 Colin Braun
2007 Lewis Hamilton
2008 Joey Logano
2009 Ben Spies
2010 Ryan Dungey
2011 James Hinchcliffe
Other 2012 winners voted for by RACER’s readers include:
RACER of the Year – 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay
Road Racer of the Year – 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay
Oval Racer of the Year – 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski.
Drag Racer of the Year – 2012 NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown
RACER’s editors also selected these 2012 winners:
Car of the year: Toyota TS030 Hybrid WEC LMP1 Hybrid
Career Achievement: Sebastian Loeb, 9-time FIA World Rally Champion
Race of the Year: Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix
Team of the Year: BMW’s DTM squad