MADISON, IL – September 19, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – After winning in Charlotte to open the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, Antron Brown’s quest for a second straight Top Fuel world championship is already starting to look similar to 2015. Considering his previous dominance at Gateway Motorsports Park, that is definitely a good thing heading to this weekend’s fifth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals.
Brown has posted an impressive four consecutive victories at the pivotal race in his 10,000-horsepower Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster. A fifth straight win at the second of six races in the Countdown to the Championship is on the to-do list for Brown and his talented team, and it would be a victory that would put the reigning world champion one step closer to his third career Top Fuel world championship.
“We’ve got to prepare for two days, head to St. Louis and we’ve got to go to work again,” Brown said. “I’m ready and my team’s ready, and we’ve got to be all in and we have to be ready together. That’s what it is going to take to compete and try to pull off some round wins against these teams. Nobody can relax right now. There’s still five races to go and we have to fight. This Countdown puts a lot of pressure on a lot of teams and a lot of teams step up. You can’t take anybody lightly.”
Del Worsham (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 for the first time. The race is the second of a three-weekend stretch and one where Brown, who has five wins this season, has enjoyed immense success.
Brown may not know the exact reason why he has dominated at Gateway Motorsports Park in previous years, but he is confident in his team’s ability to rise to the occasion in pressure situations. The Countdown to the Championship certainly qualifies as that and Brown has thrived recently, winning five of the past seven playoff races, including three straight wins to start last year’s championship run.
After losing to teammate and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indy this year, Brown and his team, led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, knew they had to work even harder.
“It made all my guys take a look in the mirror,” said Brown, who has 59 wins, including 43 in Top Fuel. “We said, ‘The Countdown is coming and all of these races are just like the U.S. Nationals. We’ve got six of them in a row and how do you want to finish the season?’ We put extra effort in and go to work. We put the work in (at Charlotte) and we were fortunate enough to get a win. When the pressure comes you have to push.”
To do something as special as win a playoff event for the fifth year in a row, Brown knows he will have to be spectacular in St. Louis. He was quick and consistent during eliminations in Charlotte, beating Doug Kalitta in the finals. But Brown will continue to be challenged by Kalitta, who is second in points and seeking his first world championship.
“If we want to go out and compete for a championship, we’re definitely going to have to outdo that team,” Brown said. “That team is hungry and we have to keep working like we’re doing, and keep pressing hard. Hopefully we can be in the position where have a chance to bring another championship home.”
In Funny Car, 16-time world champion John Force won the Countdown opener to spur his hopes of catching points leader Ron Capps, who has five wins in 2016. Worsham’s victory a year ago was one of four Countdown wins en route to the world championship.
Skillman earned his first Pro Stock victory last year and will try to stop the dominant season of points leader Jason Line, who won in Charlotte to push his win total to eight.
Chip Ellis started the Countdown with the Pro Stock Motorcycle win, knocking off points leader Andrew Hines in the final, while Arana Jr. is after back-to-back wins at the track.
The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will also feature competition in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 24, at 1:45 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 855-RACE-TIK (722-3845). Tickets are available online at www.gatewaymsp.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more info, visit www.NHRA.com.
AAA INSURNACE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: Fifth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, the 20th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the second of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Gateway Motorsports Park, Madison, Ill. – located five minutes from downtown St. Louis at the intersection of Interstates 55/70 and Ill. Route 203 (Exit 4).
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 445 feet above sea level; Track direction is south to north.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Sept. 23-25
FRIDAY, Sept. 23 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, Sept. 24 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 1 p.m.; first round of eliminations at 3:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 25 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, Sept. 23, FS1 will televise an hour of live qualifying coverage at 7 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 25, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 2 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 25, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 2 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Del Worsham, Funny Car; Drew Skillman, Pro Stock; Hector Arana Jr., Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Top Fuel – 3.718 sec. by Steve Torrence, Sept. ‘15; 329.99 mph by Dave Connolly, Sept. ‘15
Funny Car – 3.883 sec. and 330.47 mph by Matt Hagan, Sept. ‘15
Pro Stock – 6.492 sec. by Greg Anderson, Sept. ’15; 213.47 mph by Jason Line, Sept. ‘12
PS Motorcycle – 6.796 sec. and 198.58 mph by Hector Arana, Sept. ‘13
Top Fuel – 3.671 sec. by Steve Torrence, July ’16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.822 by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: Order tickets by phone at 855-RACE-TIK (855-722-3845). Tickets also are available online at www.gatewaymsp.com.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway, the 19th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
1. Antron Brown, 2,226; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2,184; 3. Steve Torrence, 2,126; 4. Brittany Force, 2,110; 5. Tony Schumacher, 2,099; 6. J.R. Todd, 2,074; 7. Shawn Langdon, 2,067; 8. Leah Pritchett, 2,054; 9. Clay Millican, 2,052; 10. Richie Crampton, 2,046.
1. Ron Capps, 2,194; 2. Del Worsham, 2,152; 3. John Force, 2,144; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,132; 5. Matt Hagan, 2,122; 6. Courtney Force, 2,094; 7. Robert Hight, 2,093; 8. Jack Beckman, 2,084; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,067; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 2,036.
1. Jason Line, 2,233; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,183; 3. Vincent Nobile, 2,129; 4. Bo Butner, 2,123; 5. Allen Johnson, 2,095; 6. Chris McGaha, 2,082; 7. Shane Gray, 2,081; 8. Drew Skillman, 2,073; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 2,052; 10. Erica Enders, 2,020.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Andrew Hines, 2,205; 2. Chip Ellis, 2,161; 3. Angelle Sampey, 2,156; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,120; 5. LE Tonglet, 2,106; 6. Jerry Savoie, 2,099; 7. Hector Arana Jr, 2,083; 8. Hector Arana, 2,052; 9. Matt Smith, 2,042; 10. Cory Reed, 2,032.
About National Hot Rod Association
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 23 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Source: National Hot Rod Association