Antron Brown Nets First Victory At The Four-Wides
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – NHRA 2009 Funny Car champion Robert Hight was the only familiar face in the Four-Wide Nationals victory lane Sunday at zMAX Dragway as three veteran drivers celebrated first-time wins in the unique event.
Antron Brown, the 2012 Top Fuel champion and the weekend’s fourth qualifier, earned his first NHRA Four-Wide Nationals victory with doublehole shots. Norrkoping, Sweden’s Jimmy Alund, driving for Greg Anderson who’s recovering from heart surgery, became the NHRA’s first international winner in Pro Stock, and three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Andrew Hines collected his first Four-Wide victory.
“When you go into a final round and you’ve got two Kalitta cars and an Al-Anabi car, it’s pretty much docked against you because the Kalitta team and Al-Anabi team work really close together. So that’s like three teammate cars against one,” Brown said after earning his 27th Top Fuel victory and fourth in five years in the Four-Wide for Don Schumacher Racing. “So they definitely have the advantage. You don’t try to add pressure to yourself because you have enough pressure with all the people out there.”
Brown, who raced Pro Stock Motorcycle before moving to Top Fuel, now owns 43 career victories. However, the first African-American to capture a major U.S. auto racing championship said he doesn’t think about history or breaking records.
“I don’t worry about the stats we’ve just achieved. I worry about achieving more and more each and every day,” Brown said. “One day when I kick the boots up and take the helmet off and I don’t get any darker from being on fire, I can look back and go, ‘What a career!’ Hopefully, I can leave that legacy behind for
my kids to look at and say, ‘My dad was somebody!’ instead of the guy that puts them on punishment all the time.”
In Sunday’s final round, Brown’s ET of 3.800 was identical to runner-up Shawn Langdon’s; however, he got off the starting line ahead of his opponents. Brown maintained second in the standings, but cut leader Doug Kalitta’s advantage from 73 to 25 points.
Hight’s victory made him the first Funny Car driver to win the event twice. His first came in 2012 and just like Sunday, he defeated employer John Force to secure the victory.
“We all joked all day long that we didn’t have lane choice,” said Hight, who’s only the second person in Four-Wide history to finish second in the first two rounds and then win the third. “We said we had table scraps. We went out there and we still won from the (third) lane that everybody said was bad.”
Hight’s second win of the season and his 31st career victory also marked the first time he’s defeated Alexis DeJoria in a final round.
“This is my fourth final in a row,” noted Hight, who won with an E.T. of 4.074, defeating all of this year’s
event winners. “We’ve only missed two rounds this year. We lost second round at Pomona.”
Hight stretched his lead over Force in the standings from nine to 35 points with his victory.
Alund’s victory came in only his second start in the Four-Wide Nationals. He raced his own Pro Stock car in the inaugural Four-Wide Nationals in 2010, but Sunday was his first-ever final round appearance in the NHRA.
“This format, the four-wide, everybody wants to go in there and stage first and be ready. That actually fits me a little bit better because over in Europe when we race it doesn’t take as long as it does here, setting the wheelie bars and rolling in,” said Alund, an eight-time FIA Pro Stock champion who posted and E.T. of 6.562 in the final round. “For me, doing what they do over here takes forever. For me, doing this weekend felt natural. I think that helped me a little bit.”
Point leader Erica Enders-Stevens made it to the final round, but encountered problems and finished fourth. However, she maintained the Pro Stock standings lead.
Hines, who qualified third in Pro Stock Motorcycle, won the first round and was the runner-up in the second before taking his 33rd career victory in the final quad with an E.T. of 6.859. He is now third on the all-time Pro Stock Motorcycle victory list.
Steve Johnson, who led the standings entering the event, failed to qualify for Sunday’s elimination round and fell to sixth. Hines assumed the point lead with his victory in the second of Pro Stock Motorcycle’s 16 events.
Sunday wasn’t a good day for the event’s top qualifiers. Langdon, who won the 2013 Top Fuel title, made it to the final round, but had to settle for second. He now has three career runner-up finishes at zMAX Dragway. Ron Capps, the top qualifier in Funny Car, never advanced past the first round, as was the case for Pro Stock Motorcycle competitor Michael Ray. Pro Stock No. 1 qualifier Chris McGaha reached the second round, but stumbled and didn’t reach the finals.
The only track record set during the weekend was established by Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle. His 198.32 mph run on Friday broke the old one of 196.79 mph set by Eddie Krawiec in September 2011.
– Deb Williams can be reached at email@example.com