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Antron Brown Steps Into Ownership Role

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 30 2020
Top Fuel driver Antron Brown will drive and own in the NHRA in 2020. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Garry Eller

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Three-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown has expanded his brand to include the title and duties of team-owner/driver.

Brown and Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) have announced formation of AB Motorsports beginning with the 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. Championship-winning team-owner Don Schumacher is working with Brown toward the goal of sole ownership of AB Motorsports, which will function as a subsidiary of DSR.

“This is a dream come true. Never in a million years did I think I would be a professional Top Fuel driver, let alone have the opportunity to be a team-owner,” said Brown, who transitioned from a 10-year run in Pro Stock Motorcycle to Top Fuel in 2008. “I can’t thank Don Schumacher enough for not only the opportunity to race for him and represent DSR for many years but now helping me to pursue my dream. I also have to thank Steve and Samantha Bryson, as it brings me great happiness to welcome them to AB Motorsports with their Global Electronic Technology team.”

Brown finished ninth in the 2019 point standings topped by two-time/reigning world champion Steve Torrence, one of Antron’s closest friends. Brown’s best elapsed time in 2019 for 1,000-feet was 3.794-seconds at 322.38 mph. Brown, who joined DSR in 2002, won his championships in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

“Don’s provided me with the foundation to make it happen, and I’m truly grateful,” said Brown, a 43-year-old native of Chesterfield, N.J. “I’ve learned many things from Don over the years, but the one thing that stands out to me the most is him telling me to always work harder than your competitors. That’s something that’s always stuck with me and will continue to do so as I move forward.”

Schumacher, who launched DSR as a one-car operation two decades ago, said Brown has been looking to the ownership side of the sport for several years. “I’m happy to be able to provide the tools and resources needed for him to be able to successfully branch out on his own,” said Schumacher, whose team is based in Brownsburg, Ind. “It’s important for me to see my team members grow.”

DSR is the winningest organization in NHRA history, having claimed more than 340 national event titles and 17 world championships since opening its doors in 1998.

Brown, named “Top Fuel Driver of the Decade” by AutoWeek for his performances throughout the 2010s, will continue to drive for AB Motorsports. Former crew chief Brian Corradi has reunited with the 66-time race-winner to assume tuning responsibilities alongside current/longtime crew chief Mark Oswald. Brad Mason also has returned to assist with management of the car as well as act as liaison between the team and Toyota Racing Development (TRD). This group collaborated for 47 wins and Antron’s three championships.

The AB Motorsports team will lap for the first time during preseason testing at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway beginning today through Feb. 1.

The 2020 NHRA season-opening 60th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals is scheduled for Feb. 6-9 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Bo Butner (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of a race that will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including finals coverage beginning at 5 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, Feb. 9. It is the first of 24 events during the 2020 season.

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In a bid to reward driver endurance and encourage participation in regular-season events, NHRA officials have expanded the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs format for the 2020 season.

As in previous years, the top 10 drivers in each of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series categories at the conclusion of the prestigious U.S. Nationals from Sept. 2-7 outside Indianapolis will secure positions in the Countdown. New for 2020, drivers in the series who meet a minimum set of requirements also will earn playoff positions. 

In NHRA’s Top Fuel and Funny Car classes, collectively referred to as “Nitro,” drivers who compete at all 18 events in the regular season and run a minimum of two qualifying sessions at each event also will earn their place in the playoffs.

In Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, drivers who compete at all 13 or 11 events, respectively, in the regular season and run a minimum of two qualifying sessions at each event will compete for the championship in five events throughout the Countdown.

Drivers/riders who secure a position in the Countdown will have their points adjusted at the conclusion of the NHRA U.S. Nationals. In the Nitro categories, first and second place will be separated by 20 points and each consecutive position will be separated by a 10-point differential. In Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, first and second place will be separated by 20 points while second through fifth place will be separated by 10 points and all following positions will be separated by five points.

Accumulation of points will remain the same, with points-and-a-half awarded at the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals Nov. 12-15 in Pomona, Calif. The top 10 drivers at the conclusion of the Countdown will be recognized at NHRA’s annual awards banquet.

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Shawn Langdon will return to NHRA’s Top Fuel ranks with Kalitta Motorsports in 2020, ending a two-year stint in Nitro Funny Car for the team founded and owned by drag racing icon Conrad “Connie” Kalitta.

 The 2013 Top Fuel world champion, Langdon will drive the DHL Top Fuel dragster as teammate to 2019 Top Fuel championship runnerup Doug Kalitta in the Rob Flynn/Troy Fasching tuned Mac Tools Dragster. Meanwhile, J.R. Todd, the 2018 NHRA Funny Car world champion, will return to the seat of the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car vacated by Langdon.

Kalitta, who finished second to two-time/reigning Top Fuel world champ Steve Torrence by three points in 2019, again is ready to chase his first title. “We made an awesome run at the championship last season and I’m fired up for this season,” said Kalitta, Connie’s nephew. “We have a brand new design on the car and trailer for the Mac Tools team and we’re ready to get going. Everyone begins the season from the same spot at the Winternationals and we’re very focused on making a strong start.”

Langdon’s DHL dragster team will again be led by Connie Kalitta as crew chief alongside Kurt Elliott. Both dragsters also will represent new associate sponsors Mobil 1, NGK Spark Plugs, Osborn and returning sponsors SealMaster and WIX Filters.

“I had a great experience racing Funny Car the past two seasons,” said Langdon, who finished ninth in the final point standings topped by three-time/reigning world champion Robert Hight of John Force Racing. “I think it made me a better racer. I’m really looking forward to getting back into Top Fuel. I can’t wait to race for Connie and Kurt and the DHL team. The team has had a lot of success and I want to keep up the positive momentum.”

Langdon won seven races and seven poles en route to the Top Fuel championship in 2013, when he became the first NHRA driver to win championships in the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League, the Lucas Oil NHRA Drag Racing Series and the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Todd and the DHL Toyota Funny Car also will carry new sponsors Mobil 1 and NGK Spark Plugs as well as returning major associate sponsor WIX Filters. Todd, who finished seventh in the 2019 standings, will work with returning crew chiefs Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer.

“Last season didn’t go our way and had a lot of ups and downs,” Todd said. “The good news is we have a great team of guys over here with the DHL Toyota Funny Car team and I think we will be stronger because of our struggles. Everyone really had a good offseason and we’re looking forward to testing and then getting the season started. Our No. 1 goal at Kalitta is to win the championship and that’s what we are going to focus on every day.”

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Alexis DeJoria’s return to NHRA’s Funny Car class with Del Worsham’s newly-formed DC Motorsports team will be backed by a multi-year sponsorship deal with sponsors ROKiT Phones and ABK Beer.

ROKiT Phones _ creators of glasses-free 3D smart phones _ and ABK Beer branding will appear on DeJoria’s Toyota Camry, driver and crew uniforms, official merchandise and across her team’s transport fleet. Additionally, ROKiT Phones will create a series of exclusive 3D racing experiences which will give fans globally a new level of access to DeJoria, her car and on-track action.

“Joining Del Worsham’s DC Motorsports team was just the first step in re-igniting my quest at being the first female Funny Car world champion, and I’m thrilled that ROKiT is coming along for the ride,” DeJoria said. “I can’t wait to get back on the track and am energized and excited about all the things we have in store for the amazing NHRA fans.”

DeJoria’s busy offseason included induction into the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame in Rosemont, Ill. DeJoria’s family background includes Italian and Greek roots.

DeJoria will debut her new race look on Feb. 6 at the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. In 2014, DeJoria became the first woman to clock a sub-4-second run in a Nitro-fueled Funny Car with a 3.997-second elapsed time. The Wnternationals also will mark the seven-time NHRA national event winner’s return to the sport after a two-year hiatus.

“Alexis is a trailblazer and one of the most accomplished women in motorsports,” said Jonathan Kendrick, co-founder of ROKiT. ”She’s a world-class athlete known for her tenacity, drive for perfection, and innate ability to lead. These qualities, along with her unwavering desire to challenge the status quo, make her the perfect ambassador for our brands.”

ROKiT Phones makes affordable mobile devices with life-changing benefits, offering vital services such as telemedicine, pharmacy savings and life insurance.

ABK is an award-winning, hand-crafted Bavarian beer brand that has been brewing lager and ales since 1308 _ over 700 years _ in Kaufbeuren, Bavaria, Germany. It is owned and distributed by ROKiT Drinks, which is part of ROK Stars _ the consumer products company co-founded by John Paul DeJoria, Alexis’ father, and Jonathan Kendrick.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 30 2020
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