SONOMA, CA – July 24, 2017 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Antron Brown was the last driver to sweep the famed NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Western Swing, doing so in Top Fuel in 2009. A victory on Sunday in Denver has him headed in the right direction to do it again, but the three-time world champ knows plenty of major challenges are waiting over the next two weekends.
The first comes at this weekend’s 30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, where ideal conditions and fast times are the norm a week after racing on the mountain. It’s a big adjustment, but it’s just the type of challenge the back-to-back world champion likes – and usually thrives on – driving his 10,000-horsepower Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster.
“It’s tough,” Brown said. “The conditions and the changes that these crew chiefs have to make in three weeks is what makes it so difficult. (Crew chiefs) Brian (Corradi) and Mark (Oswald) are the best of the best and we’ve done it before and we’d love to do it again. It’s getting tougher every year to win one race, let alone three in a row. We’re having a good season but there’s a lot more racing left to do and we just want to continue to get better every weekend.”
J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 30. It marks the 15th of 24 events in 2017 and the second of three stops on the NHRA Western Swing.
In years past, Brown and his team have shown an impressive ability to build towards something special as the season progresses, peaking perfectly during the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. This season seems to be going their way as well after winning for the third time in 2017 in Denver and moving to second in points behind five-time 2017 winner Steve Torrence. Brown, who knocked off Don Schumacher Racing teammate and three-time season winner Leah Pritchett in the final round, knows that nothing comes easy in the class, especially when lined up against his teammates.
“We race hard and that’s the hardest part when you’re racing your teammate — you have nothing to lose and you better bring your A-plus game,” said Brown, who has 64 career wins, 48 in Top Fuel. “It’s the same thing when racing all the other cars out there. Anybody can win on any given Sunday. It doesn’t matter where you qualify, it’s whoever has it together on Sunday. That’s been proven race in and race out this year.”
That level of competition brings out the best in Brown, who has managed to raise his performance each of the last two seasons. Reaching a new level is the goal over the final 10 events in 2017, with the hopes of possibly sweeping the Western Swing and certainly performing well in Sonoma, where Brown’s partnership with Toyota makes the weekend an important one.
“We’re where we’re at because we never quit,” said Brown, who has four Sonoma wins, the most recent in 2015. “Everybody wants to work together to beat each other. When you motivate each other to beat each other, you raise it to a different bar. We elevate each other to a new level. All the other teams have elevated themselves and it’s anybody’s race. You’ve got cars out here that can win and set world records every weekend. We’ve got to step up and try to go to another level.”
Funny Car legend John Force is looking to get his season on track with a second win. Teammate Robert Hight won in Denver, while everyone is chasing reigning champ Ron Capps, who has six wins in 2017.
In Pro Stock, Anderson claimed his class-best fifth win in Sonoma a year ago. He’s one of nine Pro Stock winners in 2017, led by points leader Bo Butner, who has three victories this year.
Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle event champ Tonglet has been on a roll in 2017 with four victories. The race also features the Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle, pitting eight of the top riders in the class against each other. Andrew Hines is the defending winner of the exciting race-within-a-race.
The event will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, and after Nitro qualifying, fans can watch the spectacular Muy Caliente Racing jet dragsters sponsored by Lucas Oil. Jet cars are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to 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. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers. Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:15 and 7:00 p.m. on Friday, July 28, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 29, at 1:10 and 4:20 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 30.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-870-RACE (7223). Tickets also are available online at www.sonomaraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
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 24 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 program 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; Gainesville Raceway 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