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Brown’s Goal Is To Grab Every Point He Can In Top Fuel Countdown

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 15 2016
Top Fueler Antron Brown began his Texas Motorplex points-grab Friday by earning the provisional pole. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

Top Fueler Antron Brown began his Texas Motorplex points-grab Friday by earning the provisional pole. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

ENNIS, Texas – Antron Brown says a driver never can get too greedy in drag racing, so pardon the two-time/reigning NHRA Top Fuel world champion for treating every bonus qualifying point like solid gold.

“This is what I always say about our sport _ our sport is such a no-flaw sport _ and what I mean by that is you don’t have chances to make errors and regain your composure,” Brown said late Friday night at Texas Motorplex. “Once you make an error in this sport you’re done and you’ve got to suck it up, pack it up, go to the next race and try to recover. And you’ve got to make a recovery quick.”

Brown was whip-quick during the second/”Night of Fire” session of time trials for the 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, covering the 1,000-foot distance in a Motorplex track-record 3.682-seconds and 330.55 mph. That pass in conditions Brown glowingly described as “cool, calm and brisk” allowed the Don Schumacher Racing ace to claim the provisional pole and increase his lead over runnerup Doug Kalitta to 80 points/four rounds of racing.

“It was an incredible run,” said Brown, driver of the Matco Tools for the Cause/U.S. Army dragster. “That was a crucial point for us in the run for this championship because we got some more quality (bonus) points. I mean, that car never stopped pulling. It was a little edgy in the beginning and made it through it and then it was just hauling the mail. I’m just blessed to be on this incredible team with (co-crew chiefs) Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald and all these boys. They go to work.

“I guarantee you every team out here when they see these conditions come they start licking their chops. I hit the gas pedal and once it got through the zone where it could be iffy _ which is the first 100 feet and I felt it stay hooked-up _ I was like, ‘We’re going for a ride. Please stay glued-down!’ That’s all you hope for as a driver. When I went through the traps and saw that number pop up on the board, I don’t know what the mile per hour was but I saw the ‘68’ and said, ‘That’s what I’m talkin’ about.’^”

Brown, the event champion here in 2012, has won six races in 10 final-round appearances this year to take control of the point chase.

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also emerged as provisional qualifying leaders down the Motorplex’s famed all-concrete surface. The race is the 22nd of 24 on the schedule and fourth of six in the NHRA’s Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.

“We’re in a great spot right now (point-wise) but we could be in a better spot going into Vegas, and that’s our goal right now,” said Brown, a two-time Countdown race-winner who moved from third to first in the second session. “Six races to win a championship puts enough pressure on everybody but if you can go in and get yourself distanced away from everybody you actually have a deal where you can make a mistake. And in this sport, mistakes happen all the time. There’s only a few ways to win but a thousand ways to lose out here. We know how brutal this sport is.”

DSR teammate Leah Pritchett is second after a pass in 3.698-seconds and 327.43 mph in her Papa John’s Pizza dragster. Pritchett, making her first appearance in the Countdown, is seventh in points. Kalitta, meanwhile, slipped from second to seventh in the late session after a best pass of 3.745-seconds and 321.04 mph in his Mac Tools dragster fielded by Kalitta Motorsports.

Hight ripped off the third-quickest run in Funny Car history _ a track-record 3.839-second 1,000-foot pass at 332.02 mph _ to move around point-leader Ron Capps of DSR and into P1 after the second session. The 2009 world champion for John Force Racing, Hight began Friday mired in eighth place, 175 points behind Capps but determined to not fade away over the Countdown’s final three races.

”That was pretty impressive,” Hight, driver of the AAA Texas Chevrolet Camaro SS, said of his nighttime blast. “You know, going up to that run (crew chief) Mike Neff told me that he thought we could run 3.84. And to me, looking at that you think, ‘We’ve never run 3.84, so how do you go about doing that? How are you so confident that it’s going to run 3.84‘when we’ve never done that?’ And to go up there and run a little quicker at 3.83 shows he’s got a really good handle on it and I’m not going to question him.

“We got five points today on our competitors and I think that got me up into seventh. Some of these new parts (Alan Johnson cylinder heads) we’re putting on the car I think are showing a lot of potential. To say you’ve ran the third-quickest run in history _ we’re just getting started and I think the future is bright for the AAA Texas Camaro.”

A two-time winner at The Plex, Hight has 48 pole positions in his career and one this season at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., outside St. Louis.

“Fast” Jack Beckman posted a 3.843-second pass at a track-record 333.66 mph in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T to qualify second.  Tommy Johnson Jr., Beckman’s DSR teammate, powered his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T to a 3.847-second pass at 325.06 mph to claim third.

Line pushed his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to the provisional No. 1 spot in Pro Stock with a quarter-mile pass of 6.568-seconds and 210.34 mph. The two-time world champion has tallied eight victories and five runnerup finishes in 2016. He won this event in 2011 and 2013 and is two sessions away from securing his seventh pole of the season and 48th of his career.

 “I think we could’ve (gone faster), but maybe we weren’t willing to be aggressive enough to make that happen,” said Line, who leads the Pro Stock point standings. “We felt like we were reasonably safe with the first run and all-in-all it was a good day for us.”

Greg Anderson, Line’s Ken Black Racing teammate and the point runnerup, raced his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro into the second spot at 6.579-seconds and 210.11 mph. Anderson, a four-time Motorplex winner and four-time world champ, has notched seven wins and six runnerup results this season.

Alex Laughlin of nearby Granbury, who claimed the first win of his career at Gateway, is third at 6.586-seconds and 208.46 mph in his Gas Monkey Garage Camaro.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to the top spot with a quarter-mile pass in 6.812-seconds at 195.42 mph during the first session. Hines, the five-time/reigning world champion, has 38 poles in his career and two this season. He currently leads the points via five victories in eight final-round appearances. He also won the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals in 2014.

“We were hoping to improve (in the second session),” Hines said. “What ultimately happened was it cooled off and the water grains came up with it and took the performance out of the motorcycle. That makes it harder to go through the air because it’s a little thicker and it makes the engine unhappy. Tomorrow I think we’ll have closer weather conditions to what we’ll see on Sunday.”

Hines’ teammate, three-time world champion Eddie Krawiec, powered to the No. 2 spot at 6.821-seconds and 195.42 mph aboard his Harley V-Rod. Krawiec, who won this event in 2013, is second in points via four wins and two runnerups results.

Saturday’s qualifying sessions are set for at 12:45 and 3:45 p.m. (CDT). Eliminations will begin Sunday at 11 a.m. Fox Sports 1 (FS1) will carry one hour of qualifying Saturday at midnight (CDT), with a repeat Sunday at noon. Sunday’s pre-race ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. (CDT), with Nitro class eliminations starting at 11 a.m. FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage Sunday starting at 1 p.m. (CDT).

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Friday’s qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex, 22nd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations:

Top Fuel _ 1. Antron Brown, 3.682-seconds, 330.55 mph; 2. Leah Pritchett, 3.698, 327.43; 3. J.R. Todd, 3.723, 322.96; 4. Brittany Force, 3.727, 322.50; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.729, 324.44; 6. Richie Crampton, 3.741, 315.64; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.745, 321.04; 8. Clay Millican, 3.746, 321.04; 9. Tony Schumacher, 3.769, 317.94; 10. Steve Torrence, 3.770, 325.14; 11. Larry Dixon, 3.807, 320.20; 12. Terry McMillen, 3.835, 309.84.

Not Qualified _ 13. Troy Buff, 3.843, 314.02; 14. Scott Palmer, 3.993, 271.62; 15. Terry Haddock, 4.423, 184.98; 16. Kebin Kinsley, 8.730, 77.98.

Funny Car _ 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.839, 332.02; 2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.843, 333.66; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.847, 325.06; 4. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.851, 330.23; 5. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.854, 323.50; 6. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.857, 326.95; 7. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.864, 322.96; 8. John Force, Camaro, 3.873, 329.02; 9. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.919, 322.19; 10. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.952, 284.99; 11. Chad Head, Camry, 3.957, 322.42; 12. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.961, 321.96.

Not Qualified _ 13. John Bojec, 4.231, 229.55; 14. John Hale, 4.704, 182.18; 15. Dave Richards, 8.605, 81.58; 16. Brandon Welch, 9.012, 67.72; 17. Todd Simpson, 9.592, 55.47.

Pro Stock _1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.568, 210.34; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.579, 210.11; 3. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.586, 210.73; 4. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.591, 209.39; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.594, 210.34; 6. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.610, 209.49; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.612, 209.26; 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.614, 210.67; 9. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.614, 209.82; 10. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.631, 208.46; 11. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.641, 208.30; 12. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.648, 207.78.

Not Qualified _ 13. Erica Enders, 6.652, 207.75; 14. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 6.658, 207.24; 15. Aaron Strong, 6.673, 207.72; 16. Alan Prusiensky, 6.726, 205.54.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.812, 195.42; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.821, 195.42; 3. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.831, 195.68; 4. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.858, 194.16; 5. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.863, 194.60; 6. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.863, 194.94; 7. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.868, 194.24; 8. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.877, 192.38; 9. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.879, 194.04; 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.889, 193.99; 11. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.905, 194.77; 12. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.914, 190.14.

Not Qualified _ 13. Karen Stoffer, 6.933, 193.79; 14. Shawn Gann, 6.958, 192.30; 15. Angie Smith, 6.981, 191.19; 16. Joey Gladstone, 6.999, 192.19; 17. David Hope, 7.023, 186.10; 18. Joe DeSantis, 7.046, 188.10; 19. John Hall, 7.047, 186.51; 20. Mike Berry, 7.051, 186.25; 21. Lance Bonham, 7.325, 181.59; 22. Gunner Courtney, 7.367, 176.19.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 15 2016
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