BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 18, 2017) - Antron Brown cherishes family time, even more so in a year that has seen the three-time and reigning NHRA Top Fuel world champion spending much of this year away from home filming the much-anticipated Top Gear America series, which begins airing on BBC America next month.
Brown and eldest son, Anson, 12, made the more than seven-hour drive from near Indianapolis to Bristol on Thursday in the family's motor home and relished Father's Day weekend in the track's motor home lot near Bristol Motor Speedway.
"The coolest part is that we miss so much family time being on the road as much as we are," said Brown, a father of three. "It was such a blessing to be out here with him and we really wanted to bring that win home, but this track has always been tricky for us."
The opening day of qualifying for the NHRA Mello Yello Series' annual visit to Thunder Valley, didn't see much joy for Brown and his Matco Tools/U.S. Army team as they struggled at the only track on the NHRA tour they have yet to master.
Brown made the lap of the day Saturday at Bristol Dragway with a 3.835-second pass in the third qualifying session to qualify the Matco rail in the No. 7 position. Brown's dragster was one of only two to make a full lap in the third qualifying session and he has now qualified in the top half of the field at each race this season.
On Sunday afternoon with a rare noon starting time for final eliminations, the Matco dragster scored the first win light of the day at Thunder Valley as Brown defeated Ohio's Pat Dakin as the first pair of cars to do battle on race day. In round two, as the Bristol track temperature continued to rise, Brown's Matco dragster struck the hides and smoked the tires a fraction of a second sooner than former DSR teammate Shawn Langdon, who scored the narrow round win at 4.251 to 4.310.
"That was the hottest track we've been on all year, it was really tough, but we live to fight another day," Brown said after his fourth quarterfinal loss of the season. "We almost got (Shawn) Langdon there. It was close at the end. It's not the outcome we were looking for, but we're excited to get to Norwalk (Ohio) and see what we can do at Matco's home track.
"We want to pick back up going rounds like we did at the previous three races, and why not at Norwalk. We fell back in the points a bit, but there are plenty of races left and we have Chicago and the Western Swing soon and we do well at those races."
The Matco Tools/Toyota team will return home to DSR headquarters in Brownsburg, Ind. on Monday before making the five-hour trip to Norwalk on Thursday for the series' only visit to the Buckeye state. Brown won the Norwalk race, which is located about an hour from Matco Tools' home office in Stow, Ohio, in 2014.
"We're hungry," Brown added. "The weather looks to be better at Norwalk, in the low 80s. It's not at altitude either. I think we'll be fine. These Matco boys have that look on their face and it's the same look I have. We're ready to win starting at Norwalk."
Event winner: Clay Millican (Stringer Motorsports)
No. 1 qualifier: Steve Torrence (CAPCO Contractors) 3.770 sec., 319.29 mph
ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster
Crew chiefs: Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald; Assistant: Brad Mason
Qualified: No. 7
First round: BROWN (3.952 sec., 286.62 mph) def. Pat Dakin (12.230, 56.62)
Second round: Shawn Langdon (4.251, 258.37) def. BROWN (4.310, 263.26)
FRIDAY: 4.910 sec., 151.34 mph, (Session 1); 5.595, 122.42, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.834, 318.62, (Session 3); 6.842, 100.15, (Session 4)
2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES TOP FUEL STANDINGS
(Unofficial after Bristol, Tenn.; 11th of 24 events; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. Steve Torrence (3) 954 -----
2. LEAH PRITCHETT (3) 943 -11
3. ANTRON BROWN (2) 934 -20
4. TONY SCHUMACHER (1) 801 -143
5. Doug Kalitta 678 -276
6. Brittany Force (1) 649 -305
7. Clay Millican (1) 639 -315
8. Troy Coughlin Jr. 443 -511
9. Scott Palmer 432 -522
10. Terry McMillen 424 -530