The inaugural Scag Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout presented by Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage is quickly approaching, but Feb. 8-10 can’t come soon enough for Top Fuel star Antron Brown. He’s one of the dozen Top Fuel drivers who will be competing for $250,000 when the biggest names in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock converge on Bradenton Motorsports Park to start the 2024 season.
“It feels cool to be a part of something new with the Top Fuel cars,” Brown said. “I’ve been there several times for the World Series of Pro Mod and the Snowbird Nationals and the radial races and saw how all the people are excited at that style of racing. To go down there in that world and bring nitro to the party, and the Pro Stock cars – this is kind of like merging both sides of it. We’re all just one big drag racing family.”
Aside from the competitive aspect of the event, Brown is looking at what is possible from an entertainment perspective.
“It’s kind of like grudge racing,” he said of the event. “We’re going to qualify the top eight elite cars down there and put on a show in a different way. You might get to see some Funny Cars race some dragsters, too. There’s going to be a VIP experience zone for people to get to do things they don’t get to do at a normal event with some DJs, some bands. It’s going to bring entertainment like you’ve never seen at a drag race before. What we are trying to do is bring some new, fresh, creative ideas and set the bar so we can start doing it at all the other drag racing events across the country.”
The $250,000 payout for Top Fuel and Funny Car at the PRO Superstar Shootout is also a big attraction to the competitors, especially those who are both drivers and team owners like Brown.
“It’s huge when you look at it,” Brown said. “When you look at the nitro categories, you’re talking about big budget, big money. We probably spend about $65,000 making eight runs at a race, if you have no mishaps. When you go and can race for $250,000, it swings it to the other side where it gives a smile to your face and you’re like, ‘Man, that’s some big money up for grabs.’ You can set your race program for four races if you win that race. To see that big payout, now you’ve finally got a prize that’s worth the risk. That gets you excited.”
Bradenton Motorsports Park will be open for testing in the days leading up to the PRO Superstar Shootout, which will provide the teams with extra track time going into the race.
“We’re going to be testing from Tuesday all the way to our first qualifier on Thursday night, so when we go out to qualify, there’s big money on the table to be the number one qualifier,” Brown said. “At the last six races of the Countdown, the top 12 cars were separated by about five hundredths of a second, so what do you think it’s going to do when you have people testing there for 2-3 days and it’s got big-money qualifying? What do you think they are going to do at this race? The hairs are standing up on my arms right now because I’m so excited and giddy to get there because I know the intensity and atmosphere is going to be unreal. The track is going to be on throwdown. It’s going to be the right time of year where everyone is going to bring their A+ game to get after it.”
While the race will feature a qualifying aspect to set the number of competitors, it doesn’t set a ladder for eliminations. The pairings will be done using a random chip-draw format. Where drivers and teams might look favorably at qualifying pairings, who they line up against will be completely random at this event.
“I think it’s very exciting because once you make the show, it doesn’t make a difference where you qualify at,” Brown said. “You could be No. 1 and pull No. 2. You could be No. 5, thinking that you should be racing No. 4, and you might end up racing No. 1 first round. You could be No. 7 and you could race No. 8 first round, so it can work in all kinds of different ways.
“As tight as the competition is anyways, to be honest with you, you can line them up the way you want to line them up and the top eight cars, No. 1 is going to have a tough first round because No. 8 is going to be no joke,” Brown added. “No. 8 might only be a hundredth and a half away from No. 1 anyway. You’re going to have to be on point to make the show.”
While Brown does have some experience in a door car at Bradenton Motorsports Park, this will be the first time modern-day NHRA Top Fuel cars have gone down the track in competition.
“I’m super excited about going down there with the fuel car because they have definitely stepped that racetrack up,” Brown commented. “It’s as wide as any of our national events, it’s got plenty of shutdown, and they are making all the necessary changes and everything else and the facility was already top notch.”
The former Pro Stock Motorcycle racer turned Top Fuel dragster driver has claimed three championships in the latter category. A win at the inaugural PRO Superstar Shootout would fit right in on Brown’s list of accomplishments.
“It’s going to be a high title for us because it will be one of those deals where we just won a shootout race of the best of the best,” Brown said. “To come away with that title is going to be something you can marinate on all season long to get ready for next year because you know you beat everybody at their best. They didn’t have just four qualifying runs to make it right, they had three days of testing to make it right. I’m going in there with my head up, eyes on the prize, and I want to chop the competition down like I’m a Scag mower.”
The Scag Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout presented by JHG, also featuring $250,000-to-win Funny Car and $125,000-to-win Pro Stock, will take place Feb. 8-10 at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Bradenton, Fla. Tickets are now on sale at https://bit.ly/scagpro. Fans can also watch the entire race live through FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3t04gHk.