Antron Brown talks about his second Top Fuel world second championship
Brown claims his second Top Fuel world championship with seven victories and nine final-round appearances.
Antron Brown's Matco Tools dragster was one of the quickest and fastest of the season as evidenced by his six number one qualifying positions and his national record performance at Brainerd earlier this year.
Antron, kind of compare how does this championship compare to your first one?
ANTRON BROWN: Well, I'll tell you what, this championship right here, when you win this second one, the first one's always going to be sentimental because it's your first one. You finally as a team, a collective group, you figure out how to get the job done by winning that championship. Now the second one, we knew what was at task because what makes the second one so sweet, it makes it better than the first, is that the competition has evolved. The class as a whole has gotten extremely competitive, gotten extremely difficult, where we went from probably six to eight teams that were capable of winning races to now we have about 14 to 16 teams that can win races.
We literally had a solid 10-car field that can actually contend for the world championship. With that being said, when we came in, we knew all of our work was cut out for us. Our team, Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald, our whole Matco Tools team, we went out there and had a game plan from the beginning of the year to attack. We're going to attack every race like it's a Countdown race. We knew we were going to have some mishaps and hiccups here and there, but we treated it as such. We grew. We were just priming our self for when the Countdown started. We were able to make the necessary adjustments and peak at the right time like we wanted to.
Antron, you talked about that. You were no lower than fourth in the points, and you only had five first-round losses. Sometimes you look at a season, there's ups and downs, testing parts. You guys were just solid all season long. Was that the game plan when you unloaded in Pomona in the first race of the year?
Absolutely. And the key was, you said five first-round losses only, right? The funny part is that in 2012, we won the championship, we only had two first-round losses, which was the last two races of the year. We came in with the same amount of points lead that we had this year and almost lost the championship to our teammate Tony Schumacher back then.
That's the funny part. It shows you how much tougher this class is that we did have five first-round losses this year to very competitive teams. This whole year, I can honestly tell you that our team, we're on pins and needles every race first round because we always had a tough first-round matchup. Even if we qualified No. 1, we lined up against Shawn Langdon or something like that. It didn't make a difference where you qualified because that's how tough the field was.
One car had a mishap, ended up being in the bottom half of the field, couldn't bounce back up because of the weather conditions on Saturday, you had to race them first round. Vice versa, we were on the bottom half of the field where we went rounds and won, too. It just shows you how tough it is. Give you an example. What made it so crazy this year, we ran a .76. I believe that was in Dallas this year. It qualified as seventh in the field. No. 1 qualifier was .74 with a four. So 16-thousandths of a second was the difference between seventh to first. This class is at an all-time high. Lost this weekend to Kalitta by 5-thousandths of a second. We look at it now where you got to go out there and scrap. To get this championship done this year was very meaningful to our team. It's almost like if you could just win a race, it's nearly impossible. But to win the championship, you have done extremely a difficult feat in the class we have right now.
When you look back at this season, what do you believe is the greatest thing you've learned that helped you get to the championship?
I think the greatest thing that we as a team learned honestly, I would have to say is we were focusing on our car not just to make it run quick and to set world records. I think the thing that we learned the most is we learned a formula that we applied to our racing. Literally it's a formula to make our whole car more efficient, where we could produce the good numbers no matter what the track conditions are. For example, where you go out and the track could be 110 degrees, and before the best ET yielded on that was if you ran an 80 or 82 would be a phenomenal run, right? Now from a 110 to 120 degree track we can make our cars more efficient where we can run the 77, 78 time when the conditions get that hot. I think that's been the biggest key to our success this year, to put out those phenomenal runs even as the track heats up and gets hotter.
There are lots of drivers who win one championship. It seems like they don't win again. When someone wins a second championship and looks competitive enough to win even more, there's a difference in that person. You personally, what's the greatest thing you think you learned about yourself and about your effort?
I think the thing I learned about myself is, for one, I'm not the type of individual that likes to settle, okay? I can see that amongst our whole team as a whole because it takes more than just what I do behind the wheel of that racecar. I think what it really shows is I surround myself by unique individuals with the same determination and passion. Not just that, but the work ethic, willing to do what it takes to get to that next level. For me personally, I don't like losing. The thing about it is that I critique myself at a hard level each and every time.
I break things down, I break the film down. I come watch races. I have a TiVo, DVR, watch it, break it down as a science so I can go back and work on things where I'm weak at, where I need to be stronger at. The thing about it is, I don't want to be out there to be out there. Our careers are only so long in life. I don't want to look back and say, Hey, I wish I could have did this or could have did that. I want to look back and say, We accomplished some great things. Right now the way I've raced my career, I can honestly tell you I can't go back and change anything, because everything I did I put my all into everything. Every time I step into that racecar, I give my team my all, like they give me their all. That's the reason why I think we have been so successful over all these years that we've been in Top Fuel so far.
Antron, how do you stay hungry for Pomona? What is the team mindset going in? Is it a victory lap or put an exclamation on that and get that last win?
Let me tell you something. Right now, they were trying to crown us champs in Las Vegas. We got the championship. The thing about it is, we're still in competition. I literally told them, Pictures, do you want to do them now? I'm like, We still got a race we're racing. Our whole focus was still on Vegas. That's the same thing for Pomona. We're still trying to make a little bit more history before this year's out. I mean, we would love to end the year on a win. Even though we have won the world championship, it's all said and done, people may think that your work is done, but our work's not done. It's not complete yet. We have one more race on the table.
The only difference of it is, there's no strategy involved in this last race. There's no going up there and saying, Okay, we're racing first round, we know the track can go out and hold maybe a 74 or 73, but do you shoot yourself in the foot, try to run that, or do you go out there and try to run a solid lap like 76 to 78. Hopefully we have enough to get the round win. You got equation that gives you the higher probability to get the job done. Do you follow what I'm saying? We're going to Pomona, going up there to qualify. We're not worried about the qualifying points. We can go out there and have some fun with it, go, All right, in our gauge the track says it can hold a 71.
Maybe we can go out there and say, Let's see if we can run a 69. You get what I mean? Now we have the leeway to push it even harder, don't have to worry about what happens afterwards. You know what I mean? That will make it. You don't have to worry about tap dancing or doing strategy no more. Now we can go in there and let our hair down, but I don't have no hair to let down, so we'll give it all we got, have some fun with it, go out and be aggressive. The weather's going to be right and it's going to be fast enough to go out there and throw down.
Antron, what's been the biggest difference in this season compared to other seasons, including the title season? You guys are never lower than fourth all year long. Did that give you an added sense of confidence that you guys were going to do all right? In the past, you were up and down, you lose, drop in points. This year you've been right at the top all year long. Did you feel the pressure or did you welcome that pressure? How do you do that?
Well, I'll be honest with you. The funny part is that honestly, I never even realized we stayed in the top four all season long. I knew we were first coming out of Pomona, like third or fourth after that race in Phoenix, I think we came back, I don't know if we won Phoenix or not, something like that, we ended up going to No. 1 in points. I know we were back in fourth. But our whole goal was we didn't focus on the whole season. I'm going to be honest with you. What we focused on, it's something we just did, Brian, our crew chief, with Mark, they came into the shop, they said, You know what, guys, maybe we need to set up for the Countdown.
No, we're not going to do that. We're going to make sure we have enough stuff we can go all year long on, get a combination we can run all year and tweak it. Our goal is we're going to focus on each and every race, try to win each and every race. Some races we had to try some things because we couldn't test in between races. We tried a few things here and there. They weren't big things but little things that we thought could make us better. Some of them worked, some of them didn't. We tried them in qualifying once we qualified in the top half of the field. That's what we did through all the first races. When Indy came, we used all the stuff we ran so good with and refocused it.
That got us to where we were at. We were focusing one run at a time instead of looking at the overall picture. Even when we got into the Countdown, we continued that mindset. It paid great dividends at the end. The pressure didn't get to us because we didn't look at the whole picture at stake because we've been in so many Countdowns now where we did that and messed up, the pressure, we left one thing unbuttoned, something like that, bam, then your pants fall down. This year we made sure we had everything zipped up, buckled on tight. We took it one round at a time. We focused on every little step and it paid off.
One round at a time, that's an awful lot of rounds for a whole year...
Yes, it is. At the end of the year you look back and say, Hey, we won close to over 50 rounds, because you focus on each round without forgetting the small details that win races. That's what it boils down to.
That's a whole new concept, if you're just looking at the immediate goal. Are you going to change this for next year? Have you hit a formula that you want to keep?
I think we have a good formula that we want to keep. When we focus on the task that's right in front of us, you never miss the small details that will bite you. We've learned that. We learned that through experience through the other deals. Even when we won that championship in 2012, we should have sealed that deal up. All we had to do was win one round at Vegas. We had a deal that broke on us in that first round, something that never breaks, something that never goes wrong. We have a fuel line broke us on us at Pomona. We were out in front by a mile those first rounds. Something breaks on the track, don't even make it to the finish line because the power chute deploys.
There's a million ways to lose, and there's only a few ways to win. What we have to focus on is how to stop, go over the checklist, check things twice, have other people double-check each other, focus on all the small details we have to do before each round, not get consumed with all the other stuff that's happening outside of us. We did that this year, and it showed us how great we can be in them circumstances where it looks like we were unbeatable. The thing about it was we were doing solid runs and producing them each and every lap. That's what makes you contend and go for championships like we did this year.
Does that put pressure on you as a driver, knowing you have to do this each and every round?
Well, the thing about it is you know the pressure involved. That's the moment you live for. You live for these moments. The thing about it is, you don't let them define you, you know what I mean, you let them build the person who you are. Each of us, we know what we have to do. Like you just don't win the moment when it happens. It comes through preparation throughout the year. I look back and we prepared ourselves. You learn from your mistakes. We had some mistakes this year. We lost five first rounds this year. We lost some races that we should have won. You know what I mean?
We won seven races, but I could sit here and tell you it's probably 11 or 12 races we could have won this year. I made mistakes. We all made mistakes this year as a team collectively. The important part is that we learned from them and it helped us evolve into a team that came into the Countdown. Every time I came to the start line, especially since Indy, we could have won if we beat Dave Connolly. I messed up on the tree. I didn't mess up by much, I cut a 70 light. Dave cut a 50 light. That team beat us by a hole shot. What it did was for me it was a wake-up call.
The good Lord said, Hey, the Countdown is coming, you better be right. You can't go up there a half step any time. When I went up there in the Countdown every round, I made sure I was ready before I turned that stage bulb on every time. The guys made sure that car was prepared flawlessly. Brian, Mark, all the Matco boys, gave me a dominant car all throughout this season, including the Countdown, where they didn't skip a beat. We got down track first round, we improved every round of eliminations that we made it to. So with that being said, that's what wins championships.
With you winning the championship, Erica winning the championship, for the first time we have two racers of a diverse nature in the same season winning a championship. You've studied the sport. You know a lot about it. Having that distinction, is that a point of pride that shows how diverse and welcoming the NHRA is to all of our racers?
Yeah, well, the funny part is, like, we talk about this all the time, this ain't nothing new for our sport. That's the honest truth about it. It goes way back to Shirley back in the '70s. You know what I mean? That's what the sport of drag racing is. We all respect one another not for what gender or race we are. We're racers. I was a kid walking around the local drag strips, my dad and uncle racing the sportsman wrecks. I'm sure Del grew up that way. Erica grew up in junior dragsters. It's all we knew. We were working on cars and doing stuff.
The thing about it is, what it gives me is a great sense of pride of our sport, NHRA racing, because it has so many openings, and it's wide open for anybody to come out and race, whether it's on a moped, a go-kart, a four-wheeler, junior dragsters now, any kind of fast vehicle, doing it in a controlled environment. I think that's something that makes our sport so special. I was able to walk up as a kid and see my heroes and see how great this sport was.
That gave me my sense of hope to becoming who I am today because I was able to see it, touch it, and say, Hey, I could be here one day. That's something that's so special about our sport. You're able to come out and see the dream. When you're able to see it, touch it, feel it, it's very easy for you to become that dream. I'm living proof of it because I'm living the dream every day.
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