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Winning Still A Hoot For Champions Like Force And Brown

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 19 2016
Antron Brown and John Force added to their resumes on Sunday when they won the Countdown-opeing Carolina Nationals. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Antron Brown and John Force added to their resumes on Sunday when they won the Countdown-opeing Carolina Nationals. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

CONCORD, N.C. – Top Fuel winner Antron Brown and Funny Car victor John Force gave each other a congratulatory hug in the media center at zMAX Dragway shortly after receiving their Wallys at the NHRA Carolina Nationals.

Both have won championships in their respective classes, but each time they add to their victory total they exhibit unbridled excitement. It’s that enthusiasm that makes them a favorite with the fans and the media.

For two-time Top Fuel champion Brown, his NHRA Carolina Nationals victory was his fifth career win at zMAX and his third in the September event. His fifth win this season allowed the top seed in the six-race Countdown to the Championship to maintain his No. 1 position in the standings. Brown now takes a 42-point advantage over Doug Kalitta, who he defeated in the final round Sunday, to the Sept. 23-24 event in St. Louis.

“I’m dreaming right now; somebody needs to come and pinch me,” Brown said. “This is the way you want to start the Countdown.”

The 40-year-old Brown admitted qualifying didn’t go the way his team wanted. He started seventh, but he noted his team kept digging.

“The track got to be the hottest we have had all year long,” the defending Top Fuel champion said. “We knew it would be tricky. We had some monster matchups.”

Brown defeated Clay Millican, Brittany Force, Pat Dakin and finally Kalitta en route to his 59th career victory, 42nd in Top Fuel.

“This Countdown puts a lot of pressure on a lot of teams,” Brown continued. “You can’t take anyone lightly. In the Friday night session we found something wrong with our car. It was an ignition problem. We got it cured and got our car back on point for that fourth round of qualifying. You don’t learn until you make mistakes.”

For 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, his 146th career victory wasn’t an easy one. In fact, he had to run down No. 1 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr. for the victory. The 48-year-old Johnson recorded a quicker reaction time — .032 to .059 – but the 67-year-old Force dashed Johnson’s victory hopes with a quicker elapsed time, 3.946 seconds to 3.987. Force’s performance moved him to third in the standings, 50 points behind leader Ron Capps, who he defeated in the semifinals.

Force is now 8-1 against Johnson in final rounds, 2-1 in the Countdown, and 6-0 against Capps in Countdown races.

“It’s tough on me. I’m beat up. I’m in the gym the last four nights in a row,” said Force, who was scheduled to test at zMAX the day after his victory. “When I’m on my game I can win. At the end of the day, it was just a fight. There’s no magic; some days you win, some days you don’t. These kids are real good and it takes everything I can muster to fight with them.”

Force admitted he should have been eliminated Sunday when he ran against Tim Wilkerson in the second round because he lost his brakes at the starting line.

“I pulled in and I couldn’t hold it,” Force said. “I shoved the clutch pedal in and the Tree came down on me and the first thing I thought was I had to get my foot off the clutch because if I hit it the motor could explode and it will blow the tires off. Then it takes away any chance of beating him. Wilkerson was gone. I let it out and I went.”

Force’s reaction time was .394 to Wilkerson’s .079, but when it came to the elapsed time Force’s was 4.013 seconds and Wilkerson’s 7.401. After the run, Force told one of his crew to change the brakes. He told Force there wasn’t anything wrong with them. The veteran vehemently disagreed.

“They ain’t seen a fit like that in a while,” Force said. “I said, ‘I’ve raced longer than your dad has been alive and you’re going to tell me there’s no brakes in this car, kid? Don’t ever do that again to me!’ They got it and they fixed it.

“I know the brakes. Don’t mess with my throttle, my brakes or my parachutes. The day I can’t do it right, I’ll walk away, but I’ll still be out here with you all. So you’re stuck with me until the shit hits the fan.”

Shortly thereafter Force walked out of the media center, but returned a few seconds later with two fans — a father and son. The man possessed a photo of Force and him as a boy. It had been taken at Rockingham when Force won at the North Carolina dragway. Now, he asked Force to have his picture taken with his son.

“This is what I’m talking about. This is what it’s all about,” a jubilant Force said.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 19 2016
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