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Brown Dusts Self Off, Climbs Back On 8,000 Horses

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, February 22 2013

Antron Brown is back in the cockpit this weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

When NHRA nitro cars blow up, they blow up good. Real good. Last weekend in the Sunday eliminations of the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., Antron Brown’s Top Fuel car blew up so good that it tore the giant rear slicks completely off their rims.

And after that, things got really ugly as the car slammed backward into the concrete retaining wall at something near 300 mph, flipped onto its side and skidded down the track like a hockey player’s tooth on an ice rink. With no brakes and no parachute deployed, it stopped only when it plowed into the gravel trap at the end of the paved portion of the dragstrip.

After some tense gravel digging by the Mello Yello Series’ Saftey Safari, Brown emerged. He popped upright but looked a little wobbly as he brushed debris from his fire suit and waved to the crowd.

This weekend, Brown will be back in his Don Schumacher Racing dragster as the series moves to Arizona to compete in the Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix.

This week as the defending Top Fuel champion prepared to get back in his car, his reaction to Pomona seemed to be: What wreck?

“I’m ready to get to Phoenix and get back on that horse,” Brown said. “That’s what it’s all about. Our guys in the DSR fabrication shop prepared such a great, safe race car. Everything is ready to rock. Phoenix is a good place to get it going and get back on track. We had a good showing out there last year and want to get back and execute that same thing. We have to start off one step at a time with qualifying and, hopefully, we can ramp back up to where we were there last year.

“We’ll bring out a brand new race car. It’s never been down a racetrack. We’ll take it one run at a time and we’ll get four runs in qualifying. We can get back into our routine. We’re feeling pretty good going back in there. We definitely won’t be going there in test mode. We’ll be going there in race mode and make the right moves so we can contend for the win.”

Brown took a few minutes to look back a couple of days.

“It’s just one of those instinct deals where it just kicks in when you’re in the moment,” he said. “In a situation like that, you have to know your race car and you have to know what it’s going to take to survive that situation.

“I guess it goes back to when I was a little kid racing dirt bikes and motocross – you always had to learn how to fall. If you didn’t know how to fall, you’d break a limb every time. I always learned the best thing to do is to just slow down and think about what you need to do to put yourself in a better position, and I guess that’s what happened there at Pomona. I just tried to think about what I needed to do to survive that accident. I was trying to get control of the car back but, once it was on its side, I just tried to turn everything off, hit the fuel shutoff and try to stop the engine from running, keeping it from revving up or anything else.

“When we were back in the shop building these cars, the crew guys would always crack on me, saying, ‘You’re always sitting in this car.’ Because, every time I got to sit in there, I was always practicing where everything is and I go through the progression – ‘Fire, fresh air, brake lever, parachutes, kill motor.’ I reach up and slap them down and got myself to where I was very aware of where everything was, so when a situation arises, I don’t have to think about it.”

Brown’s car was fitted with the canopy which his teammate, Tony Schumacher, helped develop last year.

Brown said he is living proof that the thing works.

“The windshield’s five-eighths of an inch thick, so nothing got to me,” he said. “When I hit the sand trap, I saw stones flying all over the place, but I didn’t get dusty, nothing got into me. It really, really did its job. The fresh air system and the fire system are there for me only because we now have the canopy. I could have turned my fire bottles on if I would’ve needed to. I was all coherent for that.

“The coolest part is, I can’t thank the NHRA Safety Safari enough because, when I was upside-down, I already saw their truck pulled up by the sand pit. I saw the guys running out there so I knew it was just a matter of time before they got to me. They were able to lift my car up on its side a little bit. They helped get my canopy open and I undid my seatbelts myself and I got out. I’m here to talk about it so everybody and everything did the job.”

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, February 22 2013
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  • Anthony says:

    I really wanted to be in Pomona, but it just didn’t work out. I was watching it on TV and when I saw that explosion, then saw him hit the wall… I just held my breath. You never want to see a wreck like that as such a high speed. Antron is a great guy and a great ambassador for the sport; glad he came out of this without serious injury.