Second Time Around Is Easier For Brown

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 14 2013

Antron Brown looking to go back to back. (File photo courtesy of the Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series)

CONCORD, N.C. – Defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown says going after his second title isn’t nearly as stressful as trying to get the first one.

“The first championship is the hardest, just like winning the first race, because you don’t know how to do it; you don’t know how to get the job done,” explains Brown, who enters the NHRA Mello Yellow Countdown to the Championship this weekend at zMAX Dragway, seeded sixth.

“You think you do, but you don’t until you’ve done it. Now we know the mindset we have to have going into the Countdown. You have to win every round that you can and every race that you can and hopefully, the chips fall your way at the end, but it’s not going to be easy for anybody by any means.”

Brown cited the U.S. Nationals two weeks ago at Indianapolis as a prime example as how the top 10 drivers who made the Countdown have a “solid shot at winning the championship.” In that event, Brown was the No. 1 qualifier, but was eliminated in the first round by Morgan Lucas, who was No. 16.

“Our mindset coming in here is you have to have that no lose attitude and not be timid … no matter who you’re racing,” said Brown, who was 14th after two qualifying rounds with an elapsed time of 3.847.

Jack Beckman enters the Mello Yello NHRA Countdown to the Championship without a victory this year and the defending Funny Car champion admits it’s been a frustrating season.

“When we teamed up with Don Schumacher and we knew we could win races and we could win championships, we fulfilled both of those,” said Beckman, who’s seeded fifth in the standings. “You set your expectations to a higher level for a team like this. It’s tough being 18 races into the season and not having a single win. You don’t know if your last win is your last win. We have just not pushed our car hard enough on race day to be effective.”

Two weeks ago at Indianapolis Beckman won the Funny Car Traxxas Nitro Shootout, a non-point event, and he admitted it “felt awesome standing in the winner circle again.”

After two qualifying rounds at zMAX Dragway, Beckman was 11th quickest with a 4.099 elapsed time.

Hector Arana Jr., the No. 1 seed in Pro Stock Motorcycle heading into the Mello Yello NHRA Countdown to the Championship, says he hopes all three of his family’s engines will be “pretty close” in power.

“As you can see, my dad’s is a rocketship,” Arana Jr. said before qualifying for the Carlyle Carolina Nationals began Friday at zMAX Dragway. “We put mine in at Indy. It wasn’t exactly a rocketship like his. We went back, put it on the dyno and found some things and we fixed it.”

After two qualifying rounds, Hector Arana was fourth quickest with a 6.898 elapsed time. Adam Arana was seventh at 6.932 and Arana Jr. was 12th at 6.982.

Keith Smith, the transporter driver for Victor Cagnazzi Racing, was overcome with emotion Friday when it was announced he was the winner of the first NHRA Pilot Flying J Truck Driver Challenge. Smith attempted to hide tears from those in the media center, including fellow transporter drivers, when he buried his face in his hands when it was announced he had won the $30,000 first-place prize.

Gary Cummin from V. Gaines’ team finished second and Rusty Derhammer of Rapisarda Racing placed third.

The program will return next year and expand to four events. It also was announced Pilot Flying J will pit the winners from NHRA, NASCAR and Indy Car in a special competition at the end of the year to determine an overall motorsports champion transport driver.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 14 2013
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