NHRA’s Brown Makes Statement In Topeka

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 17 2022

Antron Brown rediscovered the winning formula in Topeka.

By John Sturbin/Senior Writer

Antron Brown’s breakthrough victory as an NHRA Top Fuel team-owner/driver momentarily has silenced the skeptics of AB Motorsports, an organization that admittedly struggled during the first half of the 2022 season.

A three-time world champion in NHRA’s premier category, Brown enjoyed a monumental Sunday at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kan., earning his first win since exiting Don Schumacher Racing in the final of the 33rd annual NHRA Heartland Nationals.

Paired against four-time/reigning world champion Steve Torrence in the final, Brown powered to a 1,000-foot run of 3.902-seconds at 309.49 mph in his dragster to earn his 53rd Top Fuel triumph and 69th overall. Brown’s first victory since the third race of the 2021 season also snapped a 30-race winless streak.

On a personal note, the win was Antron’s first since he added the duties of team-owner to his resume. Brown started race day with round-wins against point-leader and 2016 world champ Brittany Force followed by wins against Josh Hart and Justin Ashley. That set up a marquee matchup with Torrence. Brown used a starting-line advantage to post a wire-to-wire win, setting off a huge celebration for the popular star.

Prior to Sunday’s victory, Brown had only five round-wins on his 2022 scorecard but sensed the team had turned a corner during the recently completed Western Swing _ particularly at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., where Antron ran consistent in the summertime heat.

“People weren’t even talking about us anymore, we weren’t even in the conversation,” said Brown, the world champ in 2012, 2015 and 2016. “You could see it on some people’s expressions on their faces when the media was writing us off. But those on the outside didn’t know what was going on behind the ropes and what goes on at the shop.” 

Indeed, AB Motorsports had advanced beyond the first round only three times through the first 13 races of the Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

With temperatures lingering in the high 90s all weekend, Topeka presented a set of challenges to the tuning duo of crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald.

Brown defeated Force in Round 1 and Hart in Round 2 by clocking consecutive 3.8-second passes. In the semifinals _ Brown’s third appearance of the year _ the Brownsburg, Ind., resident faced technical alliance teammate Ashley. Both drivers pedaled down the track with Brown coming out on top to set up a battle against Torrence, who also was seeking his first win of the season.

The longtime friends were nearly even leaving the starting line but Brown quickly pulled ahead and never trailed, posting that 3.902-second pass to Torrence’s 4.443 to collect the first Wally trophy for AB Motorsports.

“I knew we turned the table there in Sonoma (Calif.), and we just needed to qualify a little better and start getting in the right spot,” said Brown, a 46-year-old native of Chesterfield, N.J. “We didn’t get in the right spot when we got here, but everyone put their heads down and you grind. Once we got past first round and through second round and third round and went up against Steve-O in the final, and that win light came on, it was just like ‘Boom, is this real? Yup, it’s real!’ All that sweat and hard work, it was all worth it.

“This has been a lifelong dream, and I never imagined we were going to struggle like we did, but we all got through it together. It was high emotions and I only wish my grandmom could’ve been here to see it. We lost her in December, and I know Brian has a heavy heart, too. He lost his mom a year prior and it’s one of those deals where it doesn’t feel real because it’s a dream when you think about it from where we came from.

“I worked on motorcycles, Brian worked on cars, and never in a million years did we think we’d ever be able to go out on our own as a team. We talked about it for years; my wife, my family, and you never think it’s a possibility but here we are. We’ve been working our tails off, and we have such incredible support from Matco, Lucas Oil, Hangsterfer’s, Toyota, SiriusXM, Western Tech, and Summit coming aboard; all of the people who make this possible. When it all comes together and you look at where you started to where we are now, the struggle is real, but this makes it all worthwhile.”

The victory also moved AB Motorsports back into the Top Fuel top-10, with Brown advancing two spots to 10th with two races remaining before the NHRA Countdown to the Championship Playoffs.

“From here on out, we’re only going forward,” Brown said. “We put that one on the map for AB Motorsports. It’s our first, but it’s not going to be our last. We’re right where we want to be and we’re just going to keep getting better. I love it and here we come, baby.”

Torrence reached a final for only third time this season but the 79th time in his career via victories against Kyle Wurtzel, Seattle winner/eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher and No. 1 qualifier Mike Salinas. Force, meanwhile, maintained the championship lead but saw it shrink to 31 points over Salinas after her first-round loss to Brown.

Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Troy Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Joey Gladstone (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also emerged victorious during the 14th of 22 races and heading into this weekend’s annual stop in Brainerd, Minn. The 40th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals is the penultimate race of the regular season and Brown is aiming for a second straight win.

“Once you get your chance, you’ve got to shine,” said Brown, who competed in Pro Stock Motorcycle from 1996-2007. “We’re not going to slow down and we didn’t show all we had (in Topeka). A lot of good came out of Topeka and we’re really looking forward to Brainerd. It’s always been a great track for us. It’s going to be great weather and we’re looking at running in the 3.60s. Once we get that, it’s game-on.”

Torrence (Top Fuel) and Matt Hagan (Funny Car) won the 2021 Brainerd event. This weekend’s race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and the FOX network, including eliminations coverage starting at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) Sunday on FOX.

“To get that (team) synergy and to get everybody on the same page, it was a lot,” Brown said. “We went through it and it was like the school of hard knocks, but it was everybody coming together, believing in the same vision. We’re family when we race. The Countdown is two races away and we’re going to give it all we’ve got.”

In Funny Car, Bob Tasca III remained red-hot in his Ford Mustang by edging-out the legendary John Force in the final with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.999-seconds at 316.82 mph. Tasca scored his second victory in the past three races _ his fourth final round in the past five events _ and the 11th win of his career.

Tasca posted round-wins against Jack Wyatt and three-time world champ Hagan to reach the final, improving to 4-0 in championship rounds against Force, a 16-time world champion. The performance also wrapped up another dominant weekend for Tasca, who won for the first time in Topeka and continued to strengthen his title chances.

“The guys worked so hard, and we’ve been working a long time for this,” said Tasca, a 46-year-old native of Hope, R.I., whose Ford is tuned by crew chiefs Jon Schaffer and Mike Neff. “It was challenging conditions for our team, but these guys are awesome and we got it done.

“Getting ready for the Countdown is what it’s all about right now. To get four finals in the last five races, and win two races in the last three, I think we’ve got things in gear. These were really tough conditions and to see this Mustang go up and down the track like it did, it was great.”

“Brute” Force reached the final for the second straight year in Topeka, knocking off two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon, two-time/reigning world champ Ron Capps and John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight. It also was Force’s third final this year and the 264th in his legendary career.

Hight, a three-time world champ, owns a 237-point advantage over Hagan with Tasca fifth in the standings.

Troy Coughlin Jr. didn’t have to wait long to record his second career Pro Stock win, making it two in a row with a strong weekend in Topeka. Troy’s performance was topped by a final-round quarter-mile run in 6.680-seconds at 206.54 mph in his JEGS.com/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS to defeat five-time/reigning world champion Greg Anderson.

Not only did Coughlin win his second straight race, he also denied No. 1 qualifier Anderson his landmark 100th career win. Coughlin reached the final with victories against Chris McGaha and Fernando Cuadra Jr. before trailering point-leader/Elite teammate Erica Enders for a second straight race. Coughlin was first off the line against Anderson in the final to throw his name into the championship mix.

“It’s extremely meaningful,” said Coughlin, a 31-year-old resident of Delaware, Ohio. Troy’s father won in Topeka in 2002 in Pro Stock. Troy Sr. earned three victories in the “Factory Hot Rod” class, as well as 12 in Pro Mod. Uncle Jeg Coughlin Jr. is a five-time Pro Stock world champ.

“Anytime you can win at the same track as your father, it’s extremely memorable,” Troy Jr. said. “I remember when I was in sixth grade and he’s in the final round, and I’ll just never forget this elation. It’s a lot of work with these Pro Stock cars. When you struggle with one, it’s like struggling two times. But that’s kudos to everyone at Elite Motorsports. Everyone there, every car, they rally around it.”

Anderson reached his 169th career final and second this season by defeating 2017 world champion Bo Butner and teammate Kyle Koretsky. Enders, a four-time world champ, maintained a 126-point advantage over teammate Aaron Stanfield.

Joey Gladstone completed a perfect Pro Stock Motorcycle weekend by posting a quarter-mile pass in 6.876-seconds at 195.59 mph aboard his J&A Service Suzuki Hayabusa to defeat Eddie Krawiec in the championship round. The performance gave Gladstone his second straight _ and second career _ victory in the two-wheel class as the rising star made the quickest run of every session in both qualifying and eliminations.

After a dominant performance in qualifying, Gladstone spent race day trailering David Barron and Angie Smith to set up the final with Krawiec. Gladstone denied Krawiec, a four-time world champion, his 50th career win by posting his seventh straight run in the 6.80s.

Gladstone also took over the point lead on Saturday and pushed it to a 64-point advantage over three-time world champ Angelle Sampey with his stellar showing in eliminations as Pro Stock Bike competed in Topeka for the first time since 1997.

“This is what dreams are made of,” said Gladstone, a 32-year-old resident of Milton, Del. “I’m just so thankful and so proud of this team. They’re so awesome and this is unbelievable right now. Our guys gave me a perfect bike this weekend and we kind of lucked up into a tune-up. We put something that we thought would be close and we nailed it. We just had to make small adjustments to it, and I just had to keep doing my thing.

“It’s taken quite some time to do this, and these (bikes) are extremely difficult to ride correctly. My tuner is doing a terrific job and to be doing it in this style, it’s so cool.”

Recall that Gladstone earned his first Wally trophy by defeating Krawiec in the final of the 34th annual Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals in California last month. A long-time factory Harley-Davidson rider, Krawiec moved into third in points by defeating Ryan Oehler, five-time/reigning world champ Matt Smith and 2016 world champ Jerry Savoie.

Final finishing order (1-16) at the 33rd annual NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kan. The race was the 14th of 22 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _ 1. Antron Brown; 2. Steve Torrence; 3. Mike Salinas; 4. Justin Ashley; 5. Josh Hart; 6. Tony Schumacher; 7. Shawn Langdon; 8. Leah Pruett; 9. Doug Kalitta; 10. Clay Millican; 11. Austin Prock; 12. Brittany Force; 13. Kyle Wurtzel; 14. Doug Foley; 15. Buddy Hull; 16. Terry Totten.

Funny Car _1. Bob Tasca III; 2. John Force; 3. Robert Hight; 4. Matt Hagan; 5. Ron Capps; 6. Alexis DeJoria; 7. Paul Lee; 8. Jim Campbell; 9. Chad Green; 10. Jack Wyatt; 11. Blake Alexander; 12. Cruz Pedregon; 13. Tim Wilkerson; 14. J.R. Todd.

Pro Stock _ 1. Troy Coughlin Jr.; 2. Greg Anderson; 3. Erica Enders; 4. Kyle Koretsky; 5. Bo Butner; 6. Dallas Glenn; 7. Aaron Stanfield; 8. Fernando Cuadra Jr.; 9. Cristian Cuadra; 10. Deric Kramer; 11. Camrie Caruso; 12. Matt Hartford; 13. Chris McGaha; 14. Mason McGaha; 15. Fernando Cuadra.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Joey Gladstone; 2. Eddie Krawiec; 3. Jerry Savoie; 4. Angie Smith; 5. Matt Smith; 6. LE Tonglet; 7. Angelle Sampey; 8. Karen Stoffer; 9. Marc Ingwersen; 10. Steve Johnson; 11. Ryan Oehler; 12. David Barron; 13. Chris Bostick; 14. Jianna Evaristo.

Final Pro and Sportsman results from the NHRA Heartland Nationals:

Top Fuel _ Antron Brown, 3.902-seconds, 309.49 mph def. Steve Torrence, 4.443-seconds, 201.49 mph.

Funny Car _ Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.999, 316.82 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.131, 311.27.

Pro Stock _Troy Coughlin Jr., Chevy Camaro, 6.680, 206.54 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.701, 204.85.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.876, 195.59 def. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.935, 195.36.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Julie Nataas, 5.343, 274.61 def. Mike Coughlin, 5.326, 268.76.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ Shane Westerfield, Chevy Camaro, 5.600, 261.47 def. Sean Bellemeur, Camaro, 5.857, 258.22.

Competition Eliminator _ Doug Engels, Dragster, 7.428, 178.73 def. Bruno Massel, Chevy Cobalt, 7.104, 193.29.

Super Stock _ Tyler Cassil, Chevy Camaro, 9.608, 139.47 def. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, Foul/Red Light.

Stock Eliminator _Tyler Cassil, Chevy Camaro, 10.080, 131.14 def. Tyler Bohannon, Chevy Corvette, 10.529, 124.22.

Super Comp _ Austin Williams, Dragster, 8.889, 176.63 def. Jessica Bogacki, Dragster, 8.875, 174.73.

Super Gas _ Don Nichols, Chevy Camaro, 10.170, 133.25 def. Bo Butner, Chevy Corvette, Foul/Red Light.

Super Street _ Jordan Pratt, Chevy Camaro, 10.908, 142.01 def. Dell Hall, Pontiac Grand Prix, 10.928, 142.04.

Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers _Todd Stallbaumer, Chevy Camaro, 7.212, 193.85 def. Greg Lair, Camaro, Foul/Red Light.

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Anthony Bertozzi, Dragster, 7.284, 174.66 def. Paul Nero, Dragster, 7.352, 183.10.

Pro Modified _ Justin Bond, Chevy Camaro, 5.862, 243.90 def. Rickie Smith, Ford Mustang, 8.832, 101.51.

Final round-by-round results from the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals:


ROUND ONE _ Josh Hart, 3.823, 315.56 def. Austin Prock, 3.895, 258.86; Tony Schumacher, 3.779, 316.23 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.774, 320.81; Antron Brown, 3.816, 310.70 def. Brittany Force, 4.123, 219.40; Mike Salinas, 3.811, 323.89 def. Terry Totten, Broke; Justin Ashley, 3.842, 320.81 def. Buddy Hull, 12.432, 31.96; Steve Torrence, 3.771, 325.69 def. Kyle Wurtzel, 4.489, 179.54; Leah Pruett, 4.161, 264.70 def. Doug Foley, 5.149, 139.75; Shawn Langdon, 3.814, 318.09 def. Clay Millican, 3.819, 314.68;

QUARTERFINALS _ Ashley, 3.843, 317.57 def. Pruett, 4.810, 225.26; Brown, 3.812, 312.42 def. Hart, 3.940, 279.15; Salinas, 3.802, 324.83 def. Langdon, 4.544, 171.51; Torrence, 3.833, 320.13 def. Schumacher, 3.969, 298.73;

SEMIFINALS _ Brown, 4.757, 174.77 def. Ashley, 5.399, 208.39; Torrence, 4.105, 242.36 def. Salinas, 4.717, 179.52;

FINAL _ Brown, 3.902, 309.49 def. Torrence, 4.443, 201.49.


ROUND ONE _ Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.973, 322.19 def. Jack Wyatt, Dodge Charger, 4.323, 220.22; John Force, Chevy Camaro, 23.671, 53.29 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, Foul/Red Light; Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.003, 273.05 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.062, 310.13; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.944, 316.52 def. Chad Green, Mustang, 4.155, 306.26; Paul Lee, Charger, 4.250, 234.04 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 5.309, 143.87; Ron Capps, Toyota Supra, 4.401, 245.49 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 8.729, 97.17; Alexis DeJoria, Supra, 4.416, 200.74 def. J.R. Todd, Supra, DQ/Tech;

QUARTERFINALS _ Hight, 3.987, 320.05 def. DeJoria, 4.580, 184.45; Tasca III, 3.983, 318.32 was unopposed; Hagan, 3.999, 312.71 def. Lee, 7.341, 86.41; Force, 4.033, 318.77 def. Capps, 4.047, 312.21;

SEMIFINALS _ Force, 4.000, 321.27 def. Hight, 4.052, 309.70; Tasca III, 4.011, 316.30 def. Hagan, 4.406, 223.06;

FINAL _ Tasca III, 3.999, 316.82 def. Force, 4.131, 311.27.


ROUND ONE _ Bo Butner, Chevy Camaro, 6.701, 204.91 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.711, 204.57; Fernando Cuadra Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.687, 205.04 def. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.661, 205.13; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.669, 205.04 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.679, 205.07; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.685, 205.57 def. Mason McGaha, Camaro, Foul/Red Light; Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.662, 206.76 def. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, Foul/Red Light; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 13.718, 62.38 was unopposed; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.662, 206.35 def. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, Foul/Red Light; Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.659, 207.02 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.753, 203.43;

QUARTERFINALS _ Anderson, 6.691, 204.63 def. Butner, Foul/Red Light; Enders, 6.673, 206.45 def. Glenn, 6.693, 204.91; Koretsky, 6.706, 205.66 def. Stanfield, 6.703, 206.16; Coughlin Jr., 6.676, 207.15 def. Cuadra Jr., 6.707, 205.07;

SEMIFINALS _ Anderson, 6.693, 204.98 def. Koretsky, 6.719, 205.44; Coughlin Jr., 6.692, 206.70 def. Enders, 6.711, 206.13;

FINAL _ Coughlin Jr., 6.680, 206.54 def. Anderson, 6.701, 204.85.


ROUND ONE _ Angie Smith, EBR, 6.908, 197.86 def. Chris Bostick, Suzuki, Broke/No Show; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.933, 194.21 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, Foul/Red Light; Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.915, 196.87 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.946, 192.99; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.911, 195.45 def. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.943, 194.66; Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.970, 196.02 def. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, Broke; Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.834, 197.48 def. David Barron, EBR, 7.512, 154.71; Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.908, 196.16 def. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 7.081, 192.36;

QUARTERFINALS _ Gladstone, 6.859, 196.82 was unopposed; A. Smith, 6.945, 197.10 def. Tonglet, 6.939, 194.69; Krawiec, 6.874, 196.36 def. M. Smith, 6.896, 198.52; Savoie, 6.964, 193.32 def. Sampey, 9.020, 85.32;

SEMIFINALS _ Krawiec, 6.913, 195.25 def. Savoie, 6.992, 193.54; Gladstone, 6.872, 196.87 def. A. Smith, 7.080, 195.11;

FINAL _ Gladstone, 6.876, 195.59 def. Krawiec, 6.935, 195.36.

Point standings (top-10) following the 33rd annual NHRA Heartland Nationals:

Top Fuel _1. Brittany Force, 1,122; 2. Mike Salinas, 1,091; 3. Justin Ashley, 989; 4. Steve Torrence, 960; 5. Josh Hart, 736; 6. Leah Pruett, 726; 7. Shawn Langdon, 709; 8. Doug Kalitta, 659; 9. Tony Schumacher, 625; 10. Antron Brown, 613.

Funny Car _1. Robert Hight, 1,334; 2. Matt Hagan, 1,097; 3. Ron Capps, 1,008; 4. John Force, 1,002; 5. Bob Tasca III, 921; 6. J.R. Todd, 741; 7. Cruz Pedregon, 718; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 712; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 611; 10. Jim Campbell, 488.

Pro Stock _1. Erica Enders, 1,156; 2. Aaron Stanfield, 1,030; 3. Kyle Koretsky, 798; 4. Greg Anderson, 781; 5. Troy Coughlin Jr., 696; 6. Dallas Glenn, 668; 7. Mason McGaha, 604; 8. Camrie Caruso, 570; 9. Matt Hartford, 553; 10. Bo Butner, 528.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Joey Gladstone, 724; 2. Angelle Sampey, 660; 3. Eddie Krawiec, 628; 4. Steve Johnson, 621; 5. Matt Smith, 615; 6. Angie Smith, 577; 7. Jerry Savoie, 541; 8. Karen Stoffer, 534; 9. Marc Ingwersen, 378; 10. Ryan Oehler, 298.

Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1995) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service, Ford Racing and Used Car Dealer magazine).




| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 17 2022
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