While the Matco Tools team stayed on the West Coast this week getting a new Top Fuel Dragster ready for driver Antron Brown, the reigning NHRA world champion was back home in Pittsboro, Ind., getting his own tune-up.
The one Brown drove Sunday in the NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., was destroyed in a crash that occurred moments after an engine explosion. After Brown crossed the finish line at 300 mph, the detonation sent his dragster veering sharply to the left before flipping onto its side, backing into a concrete guardwall before sliding past of the dragstrip pavement and into the sand trap.
Brown, who won that race to advance to the semifinals round, escaped injury thanks to the quality of the Don Schumacher Racing-built chassis and revolutionary enclosed safety canopy developed by DSR.
“The canopy’s windshield is five-eighths-of-an-inch thick. Nothing got to me. When I hit the sand trap (at the end of the pavement), I saw stones flying all over the place, but I didn’t get dusty, nothing got into me. It really, really did its job.
“I remember turning the fresh air on because the (nitro) fumes were getting to me. Thank God that canopy is on our car because when we hit that sand trap it really kept everything away from me and the fire away from me.”
Brown returned to Pittsboro to reassure his wife, Billie Jo, and their three children that he was fine but he also visited his doctor for a quick check-up that determined all of his body parts were fine although he was a little sore.
He also stopped by DSR headquarters in nearby Brownsburg to thank the DSR fabricators who built a dragster capable of protecting him in the crash at nearly 300 mph.
“Our guys in the DSR fabrication shop prepared such a great, safe racecar. Everything is ready to rock. I’m ready to get to Phoenix and get back on that horse. That’s what it’s all about.”
NHRA rules mandate a driver can only compete in eliminations with the car he/she ran in the opening round. That prevented Brown from returning to competition in the semifinals against DSR and U.S. Army teammate Tony Schumacher, but Brown said he would have quickly jumped back into a back-up car if permitted.
“Absolutely. Absolutely. I got out of the car after the accident and walked away. I felt good. Being a racer, I love racing and I could have gotten right back in.
“Phoenix is a good place to get it going and get back on track. We had a good showing out there last year and want to get back and execute that same thing.
A year ago at Phoenix, Brown defeated DSR teammate Tony Schumacher for the Arizona Nationals title to post the first of his six national titles in 2012 that enabled him to become the first African-American to win a major U.S. auto racing championship.
Brown remains confident although he will be in a new DSR dragster.
“It’s never been down a racetrack, but I know the great job our guys do in our (fabrication) shop. We’ll take it one lap at a time and we get four laps in qualifying. We can get back into our routine. We’re feeling pretty good about going back out there.
“We won’t be going there in test mode; we’ll be going there in race mode and make the right moves so we can contend for the win.
“We have to start off one step at a time with qualifying and hopefully we can ramp back up to where we were last year.