Las Vegas Is Brown’s Town

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 3 2017

Antron Brown added another Top Fuel Wally to his collection on Sunday. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series)

Nitro aces Tommy Johnson Jr. and Antron Brown collaborated to give Don Schumacher Racing its respective 299th and 300th NHRA victories Sunday, capping an historic ending to the 18th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals.

In addition to DSR’s performances by Johnson in Funny Car and Brown in Top Fuel, 17-year-old Tanner Gray became the youngest Pro Stock winner in NHRA history when he defeated Bo Butner in the final. The event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the fourth of 24 on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Brown, who also won Vegas-1 in 2016, covered the 1,000-foot distance in 3.747-seconds at 321.04 mph to defeat DSR teammate Tony Schumacher in the Top Fuel final. Schumacher, an eight-time world champion, ran 3.809-seconds at 325.14 mph in his U.S. Army dragster. Brown, the three-time/reigning world champion, posted his first win of 2017, 46th of his career and DSR’s 300th team victory.

“I never imagined I’d win my first Wally (trophy) let alone 300,” said Don Schumacher, who began the march to 300 when he drove his Funny Car to victory in 1970. “It’s not because of Don Schumacher. It’s because we have the best drivers and crew chiefs in the business and winning contributions from everyone at DSR, from the fabrication and machine shops to our management, hospitality, marketing, public relations and social media teams.”

Don Schumacher Racing entered 2017 with 293 NHRA national event titles. Johnson and Terry Chandler’s Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T team won its first Funny Car title of 2017 for DSR’s 299th with Brown and the Matco Tools team adding No. 300 moments later. The 68th double-nitro titles by DSR at the same race since 2003 also marked the third time in four NHRA events this year that DSR won both Top Fuel and Funny Car crowns.

Coincidentally, the same teams earned DSR its 199th and 200th wins _ Johnny Gray was in what is now the Make-A-Wish Funny Car sponsored by his sister, Terry Chandler, and Brown was at the wheel of the Matco dragster.

“It started out as a very challenging weekend because we had something that had been plaguing us, but the Matco Tools/U.S. Army boys just went to work,” said Brown, who has won 39 of his 46 Top Fuel titles and six of his 16 Pro Stock Motorcycle trophies with DSR. “Today, it was tough battles. In the second round against (pole-sitter) Steve Torrence, in the semis against my teammate Leah (Pritchett) _ those guys and her are doing a phenomenal job this year. And Tony, those Army boys kicked our tails in Gainesville (two weeks ago in the final).

 “When you race two of your teammates, you know you’ve got a battle on your hands because we all have the same quality parts and pieces that Don provides for us. So when you go up against them, you’ve got to throw everything at it. Especially Tony _ he hasn’t won eight championships for nothing _ believe me. He knows how to race, how to get wins.”

Brown now has won at least one race in all 10 seasons of his Top Fuel career. He is the only driver in NHRA history to have a win in 10 consecutive seasons. Brown’s car is tuned by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald.

“Brian and Mark and all of our boys had to push hard,” Brown said. “We qualified eighth this weekend and to get that win today was pretty spectacular. I feel like I just won my first race, that’s how tough the competition is this year.”

In Funny Car, Johnson claimed his first victory at Vegas since 2001 when he outran rookie Jonnie Lindberg over 1,000-feet at 3.933-seconds and 323.66 mph. Lindberg pushed his Head Racing Toyota Camry to a 4.016-second pass at 302.14 mph in his second consecutive runnerup result of 2017.

Johnson, who is working with crew chief John Collins and assistant Rip Reynolds, scored his 16th career win. The result enabled Johnson to move to second in points, trailing teammate and two-time world champion Matt Hagan by 44.

“It started off Friday with qualifying and just a very tricky racetrack and very few cars got down it,” Johnson said. “You kind of went into Saturday going, ‘Boy, I hope we can figure this thing out.’ The weather changed a little bit. We’re not used to running those conditions, but when the weather changed to a little warmer racetrack with sun on it, it kind of came to everybody. John and Rip just made the appropriate changes like we normally would to the car and it went right down the racetrack.

“Today was a trying day, too, because it was pretty hot. It’s probably the hottest track we’ve seen this season yet and we’re at a little bit of altitude so it changes the tune-up. And it kind of changes the clutch curve, so the guys really have to work at it and the guys did a great job.

“I saw John dive into the computer box (before the final) for adjustments. He was confident about it. It’s kind of neat to have chemistry like that with your crew chief. I can tell by the look on his face and the way he carries himself if he’s confident or if he’s scratching his head a little bit. When I saw him shut the lid on the box, I went, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to be good.’^”

Johnson defeated Jim Campbell, 2009 world champion Robert Hight and 16-time world champ John Force before facing Lindberg in the final. Lindberg defeated two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon, 2012 world champ Jack Beckman and veteran Gary Densham before falling to Johnson. Lindberg now is eighth in the point standings.

DSR exited Las Vegas with its drivers occupying the top three spots in Top Fuel, with Tony Schumacher passing teammate Pritchett at the top and Brown in third. Each of the DSR drivers has won at least one title this year.

Gray, a third-generation drag racer, drove his Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro to a quarter-mile pass in 6.681-seconds at 206.61 mph to defeat Butner and his Jim Butner’s Auto Chevy Camaro on a hole shot. Butner raced to a 6.678-second pass at 206.76 mph, but his reaction time of 0.088-seconds at the start could not overcome Gray’s stellar 0.010-seconds light.

“I can’t thank everybody enough,” said Gray, a high school student who celebrated with father Shane and grandfather Johnny. “My crew is definitely the reason I’m here. I do a small part. It feels really cool. I was pretty nervous. This was something I wanted to do since I was 10-years-old and I finally got the opportunity to do it. When I started this deal I told my dad I wanted to be the youngest Pro Stock winner. To be able to do that feels really cool.”

Gray began his weekend by qualifying fifth. “It started off really good,” Gray said. “(Crew chief) Dave Connolly made some good calls during qualifying and we ended up fifth. I made a few mistakes on Friday (during qualifying) when it counted and I think we had a little more in the car. But I think it showed out here today. I think we were first or second in the session on every run.”

Gray now is fourth in the point standings after trailering Drew Skillman, four-time world champion Greg Anderson and three-time/reigning world champ Jason Line before reaching the final. Butner _ a teammate to Anderson and Line at Ken Black Racing _defeated Alan Prusiensky, two-time world champ Erica Enders and five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. en route to his finals appearance.

The schedule will resume at the 30th annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas, near Houston on April 21-23.


Final finishing order (1-16) at the 18th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Top Fuel _ 1.  Antron Brown; 2.  Tony Schumacher; 3.  Doug Kalitta; 4.  Leah Pritchett; 5.  Terry McMillen; 6.  Steve Torrence; 7.  Brittany Force; 8.  Clay Millican; 9.  Steven Chrisman; 10.  Troy Coughlin Jr.; 11.  Steve Faria; 12.  Troy Buff; 13.  Scott Palmer; 14.  Tripp Tatum; 15.  Terry Haddock.

Funny Car _ 1.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 2.  Jonnie Lindberg; 3.  John Force; 4.  Gary Densham; 5.  Matt Hagan; 6.  Alexis DeJoria; 7.  Jack Beckman; 8.  Robert Hight; 9.  Jim Campbell; 10.  Tim Wilkerson; 11.  Courtney Force; 12.  Ron Capps; 13.  Phil Burkart Jr.; 14.  Del Worsham; 15.  Cruz Pedregon; 16.  J.R. Todd.

Pro Stock _1.  Tanner Gray; 2.  Bo Butner; 3.  Jason Line; 4.  Jeg Coughlin Jr.; 5.  Erica Enders; 6.  Greg Anderson; 7.  Shane Gray; 8.  Chris McGaha; 9.  Allen Johnson; 10.  Deric Kramer; 11.  Vincent Nobile; 12.  Alan Prusiensky; 13.  Tom Huggins; 14.  Matt Hartford; 15.  Drew Skillman.

Sunday’s final results from the 18th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals:

Top Fuel _ Antron Brown, 3.747-seconds, 321.04 mph def. Tony Schumacher, 3.809-seconds, 325.14 mph.

Funny Car _Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.933, 323.66 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 4.016, 302.14.

Pro Stock _Tanner Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.681, 206.61 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.678, 206.76.

Top Fuel Harley _Jay Turner, Dixie, 6.460, 215.10 def. Mike Pelrine, Harley, 7.433, 138.31.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Garrett Bateman, 5.384, 271.24 def. Casey Grisel, 8.195, 112.59.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _Shane Westerfield, Chevy Camaro, 5.547, 265.17 def. Doug Gordon, Camaro, Foul/Red Light.

Competition Eliminator _Alan Ellis, ’23-T Ford, 6.535, 187.89 def. Tony Mandella, Chevy S-10, 8.490, 155.45.

Super Stock _Mike Loge, Plymouth Barracuda, 11.549, 113.04 def. Tim Hall, Dodge Dart, Foul/Red Light.

Stock Eliminator _Chris Hall, Chevy Camaro, 11.013, 94.94 def. Phil Mandella Jr., Chevy Chevelle, Foul/Red Light.

Super Comp _Ryan Herem, Dragster, 9.056, 153.21 def. Luke Bogacki, Dragster, 9.049, 167.24.

Super Gas _ Rick Cates, Chevy Corvette, 10.155, 138.20 def. Tim Parker, Chevy Camaro, 11.894, 118.82.

Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com _ Chuck Phelps, Dragster, 6.603, 200.32 def. Kyle Seipel, Dragster, 6.941, 197.36.

Top Sportsman presented by RacingRVs.com _ Dean Hall, Chevy Corvette, 7.295, 188.89 def. Ed Olpin, Chevy Camaro, 7.160, 192.28.

Final round-by-round results from the 18th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals:


ROUND ONE _Clay Millican, 4.057, 230.84 def. Tripp Tatum, 10.253, 77.26; Leah Pritchett, 3.756, 328.30 def. Troy Buff, 5.415, 128.19; Brittany Force, 3.762, 329.26 def. Steve Faria, 4.505, 180.96; Tony Schumacher, 3.767, 327.98 def. Terry Haddock, Broke/No Show; Steve Torrence, 3.765, 324.51 was unopposed; Doug Kalitta, 3.743, 326.40 def. Steven Chrisman, 4.104, 248.48; Terry McMillen, 4.227, 269.03 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., 4.230, 194.32; Antron Brown, 3.752, 325.53 def. Scott Palmer, 5.501, 125.27;

QUARTERFINALS _Schumacher, 3.865, 316.45 def. McMillen, 3.916, 311.70; Pritchett, 3.770, 328.06 def. Force, 4.872, 153.39; Brown, 3.822, 318.24 def. Torrence, 4.035, 276.41; Kalitta, 3.778, no speed def. Millican, 4.913, 153.51;

SEMIFINALS_ Schumacher, 3.775, 320.97 def. Kalitta, 3.782, 326.87; Brown, 3.797, 320.89 def. Pritchett, 3.919, 311.20;

FINAL _Brown, 3.747, 321.04 def. Schumacher, 3.809, 325.14.


ROUND ONE _Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.036, 312.86 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.801, 173.01; Gary Densham, Mustang, 4.079, 287.29 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 5.118, 153.39; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.970, 328.54 def. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 6.251, 118.97; Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 4.332, 250.37 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 5.607, 125.26; Jack Beckman, Charger, 7.322, 90.06 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, Foul/Red Light; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.943, 320.97 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.714, 181.28; John Force, Camaro, 4.454, 213.64 def. Phil Burkart Jr., Charger, 5.853, 124.97; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.054, 320.97 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 9.752, 77.54;

QUARTERFINALS _ Johnson Jr., 4.068, 268.71 def. Hight, Broke; J. Force, 3.987, 321.81 def. Hagan, 4.043, 318.24; Lindberg, 4.017, 325.37 def. Beckman, 4.096, 312.42; Densham, 4.551, 190.73 def. DeJoria, Foul/Red Light;

SEMIFINALS _Lindberg, 3.991, 318.92 def. Densham, 5.916, 126.78; Johnson Jr., 3.997, 319.45 def. J. Force, 4.128, 282.13;

FINAL _Johnson Jr., 3.933, 323.66 def. Lindberg, 4.016, 302.14.


ROUND ONE _Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.703, 207.21 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, Foul/Red Light; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.734, 206.07 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, Foul/Red Light; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.683, 207.11 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.785, 205.94; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.665, 206.51 def. Deric Kramer, Dodge Dart, Foul/Red Light; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.676, 203.31 def. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.721, 205.41; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.659, 206.64 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.827, 177.00; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.673, 205.79 was unopposed; Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.747, 206.48 def. Tom Huggins, Dart, 6.842, 202.67;

QUARTERFINALS _Coughlin, 6.751, 206.10 def. McGaha, 20.745, 32.12; Line, 6.695, 206.10 def. S. Gray, 6.732, 205.91; T. Gray, 6.702, 206.57 def. Anderson, 6.717, 206.42; Butner, 6.695, 206.45 def. Enders, 6.713, 206.80;

SEMIFINALS _T. Gray, 6.691, 206.67 def. Line, 6.703, 206.26; Butner, 6.714, 206.42 def. Coughlin, 6.739, 205.10;

FINAL _T. Gray, 6.681, 206.61 def. Butner, 6.678, 206.76.

Point standings (top-10) following the 18th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals:

Top Fuel _1.  Tony Schumacher, 382; 2.  Leah Pritchett, 376; 3.  Antron Brown, 357; 4.  Doug Kalitta, 301; 5.  Brittany Force, 258; 6.  Steve Torrence, 251; 7.  Clay Millican, 187; 8.  Troy Coughlin Jr., 176; 9.  Terry McMillen, 164; 10.  Scott Palmer, 148.

Funny Car _1.  Matt Hagan, 368; 2.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 324; 3.  John Force, 314; 4.  Ron Capps, 275; 5.  Courtney Force, 218; 6.  Jack Beckman, 205; 7.  Robert Hight, 201; 8.  Jonnie Lindberg, 183; 9.  Jim Campbell, 180; 10.  J.R. Todd, 170.

Pro Stock _1.  Greg Anderson, 380; 2.  Jason Line, 367; 3.  Bo Butner, 299; 4.  Tanner Gray, 296; 5.  Shane Gray, 278; 6.  Jeg Coughlin Jr., 266; 7.  Erica Enders, 219; 8.  Chris McGaha, 193; 9.  Drew Skillman, 190; 10.  Vincent Nobile, 183.



| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 3 2017
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