Brown Would Love To Swing Into A Championship

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, August 3 2012

Antron Brown is two-thirds of the way to a Western Swing sweep, but a long ways from the ultimate goal. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

With two victories already bagged, and with a third victory and history-making sweep of the NHRA’s legendary Western Swing perhaps just 17 seconds away, Antron Brown was ready for THE question. And his answer was yes.

And no.

Yes, Brown – who, with four round victories on Sunday in the O’Reilly Northwest Nationals in Seattle, can become the first driver ever to sweep the Swing twice – said, he is jacked about making history. But no, he also said resolutely, The Swing is not the thing.

Not the main thing. Not even close.

The main thing on his mind as he heads to Seattle’s Pacific Raceway, Brown said during a telephone conversation Thursday, is taking another step toward winning this year’s Top Fuel championship.

“Our main goal this year is to compete for that world championship,” Brown said. “That’s where our hearts and minds are at right now. That’s what we’ve been using the Western Swing for: To get ready for our post-season, the Countdown to the Championship. ”

Brown and his Don Schumacher Racing crew are already locked into the Countdown, which is now just three events away. And the way they are running right now, they’ve got to be considered to be the favorite to win the 2012 championship – Brown has won four events this season and three of the last four. He’s won 32 times in eliminations heading into Seattle.

But Brown has had superb seasons come up wanting before in Top Fuel. Twice, he’s had six-win seasons. The

Antron Brown celebrated with a broom and a Wally after his 2009 sweep of the Western Swing. (NHRA file photo)

last of those came a year ago. And, of course, there was 2009, when he became the seventh and most-recent Western Swing sweeper.

But he’s yet to win the championship. Hence his attitude toward winning a second Swing this weekend and his eyes on the prize game plan. Asked if his gut is telling him that this is his year, Brown said that sometimes gut feelings can be more about diet than premonition.

“To be honest with you, every year that we’ve raced it feels like it could be the year that we ran for the championship,” the 36-year-old former Olympic-caliber sprinter who moved from Pro Stock Motorcycle to rails in 2008, said.

Brown arrived in Seattle this week tied for the Top Fuel points lead with teammate Spencer Massey. That’s great, he said. But, again, he’s not super excited about sharing a points lead with nine events left on the schedule.

“It’s a good thing to think about,” Brown said. “But we’ve got to keep working it and try to come into the Countdown in the No. 1 spot. So that’s our main focus. All these other races are great but the our main focus is the championship.”

Brown was asked if he and his DSR team, now that they are locked into the Countdown, would use the remaining races before the playoffs to experiment with new things – if they would use the next three races as semi-test sessions for the Countdown.

Kind of, he said.

“You learn stuff from every race you go to,” he said. “The more laps you get down the race track, the more you learn about your race car and your setup and your tune-up because you are always adjusting and applying things to see how it works. The more laps down the race track, the stronger you can get. The more reliable you get. For myself, you get more time to get your focus and get your mind right.

“Once you get yourself in position, once you get yourself qualified for the Countdown, trust me, all these teams (use races as tests). That’s why you don’t see teams testing a lot. We have six test sessions we can use this year and we haven’t used one yet. We try things at the race track for some runs because when it’s all said and done, you can have a 300-point lead heading into the Countdown and lose it. I tried some stuff in qualifying and you try to get yourself better.”

But don’t get the idea that Brown and his bunch would not love to become the first to twice sweep the Western Swing.

Pressed, he admitted, that the thought of making history can be powerful stuff.

“Yeah, it’s an incredible feat to go out and do,” Brown said, “when you look at all the stuff that’s involved in it. It’s three back-to-back races but its not just three back-to-back races. You start in Denver at a mile high where the conditions are totally different from anywhere you’ve raced. Then you go to Sonoma where it can be hot but can get cool. Then you move out to Seattle where it’s cool and then the track gets hot and greasy. Three tough race tracks and they’re all a thousand miles apart from each other.

“To put it in perspective, to try to win all three with the Top Fuel class we have right now that’s so competitive, that’s just ludicrous. It’s like crazy to even think about. And now we see ourselves with a chance of doing it. We just got take it one round at a time so you can put yourself in position to walk away with it.”

And walk into the playoffs in better position as a bonus.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, August 3 2012
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