Antron Brown: Things Didn’t Go Our Way

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 15 2013

Antron Brown's title defense off to slow start in North Carolina. (RaicnToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

CONCORD, N.C. – Antron Brown’s Top Fuel dragster shut off before he completed his final qualifying run Saturday and the category’s defending champion found himself eliminated from zMAX Dragway’s Carlyle Tools Carolina Nationals, the opening event in the six-race Mello Yello NHRA Countdown to the Championship.

“You never imagine this kind of thing happening,” said Brown, who three days earlier had talked about new quality control measures his team had implemented. “We just went out there and we were trying to run hard. Things just didn’t go our way. That’s how racing can be. You can do all the right things and they still come up wrong. Some days you do all the wrong things and they come up right.”

Brown and his Don Schumacher team’s struggles mirrored the last four months in which they lost in the first round in eight of the previous 11 events.

After two rounds of qualifying at zMAX, Brown was 14th quickest with a 3.847 elapsed time. He dropped to 15th in the third round with an ET of 4.464. Terry McMillen was one position behind him with 4.822. In the final qualifying round, Pat Dakin jumped from 17th to 12th with a 3.822 ET, Leah

Antron Brown a DNQ. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Garry Eller)

Pruett dropped to 15th with a 3.860 and McMillen took 16th with 3.885. Brown still had to make his run, but when his car shut off before it reached the finish line he was left with an ET of 3.893, 17th quickest.

“All of our guys have had their heads down working to the best of their ability and this weekend just wasn’t our weekend,” said Brown, who was seeded sixth entering the event. “We’ll go back and regroup and just keep our heads up. There are five races left in this Countdown. It’s never over. We won three races last year, but had other things that went wrong, too. It’s still anybody’s championship to win.”

Entering Sunday’s elimination round Morgan Lucas, who’s seeded eighth, had the distinction of being Top Fuel’s No. 1 qualifier for the second time this season and the 10th of his career. Lucas equaled the track record in the Friday night second-round qualifying session with an ET of 3.749 seconds and no one was able to unseat him Saturday in temperatures that were warmer than expected.

“Being that it’s a new car, I over drove it and it got a little inside in the lane, I over corrected, got the thing loose a little bit and got the tires spinning (in the third round),” Lucas said. “In the last round we didn’t change much from Q3. We just wanted to see what would happen. We knew we were in, so when we tried it, it just went right down the track. When we looked at the computer it didn’t look like it did anything weird. I feel like we’re on the right track. We just need to get more information.”

If Lucas and teammate Brandon Bernstein survive their first round matchups, they’ll meet in the quarterfinals and Lucas noted “there’s never been anything close to a team order in our camp.”

“It’s always been about racing and letting the chips fall where they may,” Lucas said. “I don’t agree with team orders. I don’t like that whole thing. Even if it came down to the finals at the end of the year, I wouldn’t want to win a championship or win a race based on knowing that part of it was a gimme.”

Lucas faced something similar in 2007, the first year of the Countdown, with then teammate Melanie Troxel. The site was Reading, Pa., and it was the last race before the Countdown was to begin. If Troxel had won the first round, she would have made the Countdown, but Lucas, who didn’t have a chance to gain entrance into the championship battle, defeated her. They were criticized by media and fans, but they knew they had done the right thing by running a true race.

“I actually offered it up and that’s when I learned my lesson,” Lucas said. “I learned something from her. At first, I thought she was being kinda weird about it. I thought it was a good opportunity for everybody, but she wanted to race.

“I learned a lot from her that day and especially looking at all of this NASCAR crap going on right now. I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to be the guy who gets his ass chewed for doing something like that. At the end of the day, we were both honest with what happened and that’s all you can really ask. I can sleep better at night knowing that we didn’t do anything stupid.”

Just like Top Fuel, the No. 1 qualifiers in Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle didn’t change during Saturday’s final two qualifying rounds. Cruz Pedregon enters Sunday atop the leader board in Funny Car as do Jason Line in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 15 2013
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