Antron Brown and his Matco Tools team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald dominated Top Fuel competition the past two years but 2016 produced a record-shattering season and their third world championship in five years.
The 41-year-old won a career-best seven NHRA Wally trophies and tied his career mark for No. 1 qualifying positions with seven last year.
His vibrant personality, perseverance, intelligence, athleticism and religious convictions helped plot the course to getting a job driving in the ultimate category of Top Fuel in 2008. And just four years later, the New Jersey native was crowned the 2012 NHRA Top Fuel dragster world champion.
Achieving that championship enabled Brown to become the first African-American to win a major U.S. auto racing championship.
Antron Brown starts 2017 as the driver with the most dominant team over the past years with the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster with crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald along with team manager/car chief Brad Mason.
Brown and his Matco team have won the past two NHRA Top Fuel world championships and three over the past five Mello Yello Drag Racing Series seasons.
The combination has recorded the most wins in Top Fuel over the past eight years by compiling 43 wins. Brown ranks fourth in all-time Top Fuel wins with 45.
Brown set personal bests for event titles (seven), final rounds (11) and elimination round wins (55). He also set career bests for elapsed time with at 3.679 seconds. In 2015, he became the first drag racer to complete a run in under 3.70 seconds.
His 45 titles ranks fourth all-time in Top Fuel, and 61 overall titles (16 in Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the eighth most among NHRA’s four professional categories.
And 2017 will only be his 10th in Top Fuel and 21st competing in an NHRA pro category.
Brown dreamed of driving one of the world’s most iconic racecars, but never truly believed that one day he would let alone win two world championships.
His vibrant personality, perseverance, intelligence, athleticism and deeply held religious convictions helped plot the course to getting a job driving in NHRA drag racing’s ultimate category of Top Fuel in 2008. And just four years later, the New Jersey native was crowned the 2012 NHRA Top Fuel Dragster world champion along with his Matco Tools teammates at DSR.
Achieving that championship milestone enabled Brown to become the first African-American to win a major U.S. auto racing season championship. That accomplishment, coupled with his commitment to helping young Americans, earned him two prestigious honors in 2013.
In January 2012, he was selected to NBC’s 2013 edition of “TheGrio’s 100” list that features African-American industry, sports and community leaders. He was featured on a segment of the NBC’s Today show to help celebrate Black History Month. Eight months later, he was at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City along with Terry Bradshaw, James Worthy, Dave Winfield, Nick Faldo, Shawn Johnson and other renowned athletes at the 28th annual Great Sports Legends Dinner to benefit The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis.
“I never sat back and thought about it, but if I can be an inspiration for kids out there – not just African-Americans, just Americans period – and give them somebody they can look up to that’s positive who actually never settled in life for things that people told them they may not ever achieve then it makes this accomplishment even more special.
“Even some of my own family members told me that I could never be a professional racer. I even doubted myself that I would someday be a Top Fuel or Funny Car racer, because it just seemed to be so far out of reach.”
Brown lives in Pittsboro, Ind., with his wife, Billie Jo, and their three children. He is active in various community activities including church, NHRA Jr. Drag Racing, Boy Scouts and other youth-related programs.
More impressive than Brown’s third world championship and 61 NHRA event titles (45 in Top Fuel and 16 in Pro Stock Motorcycle) are commitments to God, family and helping to motivate high school and college students through about 30 speaking engagements around the country for sponsors Matco Tools and the U.S. Army.
Brown grew up at dragstrips when he tagged along with his father, Albert, and uncle, Andre, who were – and continue to be – avid NHRA Sportsman racers. They followed the lead of late grandfather, Albert Brown, who began drag racing in the 1960s and passed the passion to Brown’s father and uncle.
In 2013, Brown passed the sport to his oldest son, Anson, and daughter, Arianna, by introducing them to NHRA Jr. Drag Racing, which is for youngsters as young as 8 driving one-half scale dragsters.
Anson, who turned 12 in July 2014, became the first fourth-generation Brown to compete in drag racing when he began driving an NHRA Jr. Dragster. He proved to be a fast learner by winning six race titles as a rookie in 2013. Arianna, who turned 15 in November, gave it a try and is the first Brown woman to compete in drag racing. Youngest son Adler competed will compete for the second year.
Brown first operated a motorcycle at age 4 shortly after learning how to ride a bicycle with training wheels. When he was 12, he began competing on 80-cc bikes in motocross.
His first competitive action on the dragstrip came during his senior year of high school aboard a Suzuki GSXR 1100 that Brown routinely guided to quarter-mile runs in 9.20 seconds at nearly 160 mph.
His passion for motorcycles never has waned.
While in his college dorm, he fielded a phone call from star NFL cornerback Troy Vincent, who asked if Brown was capable of riding a Pro Stock Motorcycle. Vincent, who was married to one of Brown’s cousins, started Team 23 Racing a year later and Brown’s dream or racing professionally became a reality. Another member of the team was famed NHRA rider Dave Schultz, who mentored the animated rookie. In 10 seasons on his Suzuki, Brown amassed 16 PSM victories in 33 final rounds, 11 No. 1 qualifying awards, and twice finished second in the points standings (2001 and 2006).
After a decade as one of the premier riders in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category, Brown signed with David Powers Motorsports to drive the Matco Tools dragster in 2008.
Brown made a seamless transition to the Top Fuel class, earning the pole in his first career Top Fuel race at the 2008 Winternationals at Pomona with a blast of 4.495 seconds when racing was at a distance 1,320 feet. He won in just his fourth Top Fuel start by edging three-time series champion Larry Dixon in the final round at Houston Raceway Park becoming the first driver in NHRA history to win races in both Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle categories.
In 2009, Brown drove for three different Top Fuel team owners, including Mike Ashley who sold his operation to DSR late in the season. That was a pivotal year for Brown because it was his first with crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, the 1984 NHRA Funny Car champion.
That year, Brown won seven No. 1 qualifying positions and six event titles after advancing to the championship round 10 times.
Brown, who had ridden a Pro Stock Motorcycle for DSR from July of 2002 through the completion of the 2007 NHRA season, was back in the DSR stable driving for the organization’s newest Top Fuel team.
Brown speaks to at least 30 groups of high school and technical students around the country representing sponsors Matco Tools and the U.S. Army. At NHRA events, he speaks to hundreds of students as part of NHRA’s U.S. Army YES (Youth Education Services) program. His talks stress the importance of setting goals and working to achieve them.
Brown excelled in football, basketball and track and field at Northern Burlington County Regional High School in Columbus, N.J.
He earned an Associate of Arts degree in business administration from Mercer Junior College.
While at Mercer, he competed on indoor and outdoor track circuits in multiple events including the long jump and 100-meter dash. He was quick enough in the 100 to receive an invitation to the 1998 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Brown was offered an athletic scholarship by Long Island University in 1997 but opted instead to pursue his professional drag racing dream.
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