READING, Pa. — Looking to make a storybook run at a second straight world championship, Top Fuel standout Antron Brown will try to extend his late season turnaround at a track that has already produced a number of special memories.
Coming off a win at last weekend’s AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, Brown and his 8,000-horsepower Matco Tools dragster can only hope to recreate his 2012 magic at the legendary Maple Grove Raceway during the 29th annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals, Oct. 3-6, the fourth of six playoff events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), V Gaines (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last season’s event winners. The race will also be televised by ESPN News and ESPN2HD.
Brown finished as the runner-up to alBalooshi a year ago, but he also set the Top Fuel E.T. national record after posting an incredible run of 3.701 seconds. Those bonus points certainly came in handy as Brown edged out teammate Tony Schumacher for his first world championship, and another impressive showing would go a long way in getting Brown back into the championship mix.
"That track holds phenomenal E.T.s," Brown said. "It's going to be interesting. A lot of people can run well at that track and Reading is definitely going to be exciting for everybody."
Brown had everyone talking after his record-breaking run a year ago and more quick times are expected at one of the most scenic tracks on the NHRA circuit. Brown can certainly be confident his team can come close to repeating that run this year in Reading after a much-needed win in St. Louis.
After struggling for much of the summer and not qualifying at the first Countdown race in Charlotte, Brown and his team dug deep last weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park, qualifying sixth and winning for the first time since early May. That drought had the team reeling, but Brown remained confident things would turn around.
After beating alBalooshi in the final round at St. Louis, Brown climbed to sixth in the points standings and is 102 points behind leader Shawn Langdon.
"It's not over until it's over and we're going to race every race like it's our last,” Brown said. We're going to push hard. A championship is still in our scope and we're going to give it everything we have."
It won’t be easy, as Brown will have to jump past Langdon, Kalitta, Spencer Massey, Morgan Lucas and Schumacher. That isn’t lost on Brown, who has been impressed with the competition all year in the loaded Top Fuel class.
"It's a dogfight out there," Brown said. "The hardest thing is to win a championship the first time, and then the next hardest thing is to repeat it. You know everybody is coming after you, and we've seen that. But the competition has gotten better this year and everyone is running at an all-time high. We just want to be in that fight. It's been tough for us this year, but we're not done yet. I've got a lot of fight in me and I'm starving right now."
The Matco Tools team will bank on the knowledge and data of last year’s record performance at Reading in hopes of another solid performance.
Brown knows that there can’t be any more slip-ups and premium performances will be necessary to make a late run at a championship, but pressure situations have often produced the biggest results in Brown’s terrific career.
"We just have to work as hard as we can," Brown said. "I think we've got it in a good zone heading into Reading where you know it's going to be fast. You have to bring your A-plus game and run well or else you're going to go home early."
The Funny Car class has been extremely intense all season and points leader Matt Hagan has held the top spot since June in his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger. Things got much tighter after 15-time champ John Force won last weekend in St. Louis and now sits just six points behind. Defending champion Jack Beckman is also in contention, as is Robert Hight, Cruz Pedregon and his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry, Ron Capps and Courtney Force.
In Pro Stock, former world champion Mike Edwards returned to the top position he has held for most of the season. Jeg Coughlin is only 10 points behind and Jason Line, who grabbed a win in Dallas, sits in third. Erica Enders-Stevens is making a hard charge after winning last weekend in St. Louis, and other contenders include defending world champion Allen Johnson and Shane Gray.
Matt Smith grabbed the points lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle after winning last weekend in St. Louis, dropping Hector Arana Jr. and his four wins into a tie for second with his father, Hector Arana Sr. Michael Ray and two-time Reading winner Eddie Krawiec are also in the championship hunt.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will also thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense competition on the track.
As always, every ticket purchased for the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals is a pit pass, which offers an extraordinary look behind the scenes in the world of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their race machines between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time with their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans will also want to check out NHRA Nitro Alley and the popular NHRA Manufacturers Midway where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and freebies.
The Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals qualifying opens on Friday, Oct. 4, with sessions at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Oct. 5, at 11:15 a.m. and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 6.
For tickets and other great ticket offers for the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals, please call Maple Grove Raceway at (610) 856-9200 or visit www.maplegroveraceway.com. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
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AUTO-PLUS® NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 29th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals, the 22nd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the fourth 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 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Maple Grove Raceway, Mohnton, Pa. Track is located off the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Exit 298), 10 miles south of Reading, Pa.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 3-6
THURSDAY, Oct. 3 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, Oct. 4 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, Oct. 5 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11:15 a.m. and 3 p.m.
SUNDAY, Oct. 6 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 5, ESPN News will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 11:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 6, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 3:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 6, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 8 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, Oct. 4, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
Saturday, Oct. 5, 6 - 6:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
Sunday, Oct. 6, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
(3720 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Khalid alBalooshi, Top Fuel; Mike Neff, Funny Car; V Gaines, Pro Stock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Tony Schumacher, TF, 4; John Force, FC, 6; Warren Johnson, PS, 4; Angelle Sampey, PSM, 6.
Top Fuel - 3.701 seconds by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12; 334.15 mph by Shawn Langdon, Oct. ’12
Funny Car - 3.986 seconds by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12; 321.81 mph by Robert Hight, Oct. ’12
Pro Stock - 6.477 seconds by Jason Line, Oct. ’11; 214.35 mph by Line, Oct. ’12
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.728 seconds by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12; 198.73 mph by Hines, Oct. ’12
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 21st of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the third of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship -
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 2,317; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2,284; 3. Spencer Massey, 2,282; 4. Morgan Lucas, 2,272; 5. Tony Schumacher, 2,245; 6. Antron Brown, 2,215; 7. Clay Millican, 2,198; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 2,192; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 2,134; 10. Steve Torrence, 2,115.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 2,336; 2. John Force, 2,330; 3. Jack Beckman, 2,292; 4. Robert Hight, 2,288; 5. Cruz Pedregon, 2,253; 6. Ron Capps, 2,225; 7. Courtney Force, 2,202; 8. Johnny Gray, 2,187; 9. (tie) Tim Wilkerson, 2,142; Del Worsham, 2,142.
Pro Stock: 1. Mike Edwards, 2,326; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 2,316; 3. Jason Line, 2,296; 4. Erica Enders-Stevens, 2,266; 5. Shane Gray, 2,261; 6. Allen Johnson, 2,257; 7. Greg Anderson, 2,188; 8. V. Gaines, 2,185; 9. Vincent Nobile, 2,162; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 2,073.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Matt Smith, 2,369; 2. (tie) Hector Arana, 2,294; Hector Arana Jr, 2,294; 4. Michael Ray, 2,277; 5. Eddie Krawiec, 2,253; 6. LE Tonglet, 2,226; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,224; 8. John Hall, 2,183; 9. Adam Arana, 2,123; 10. Shawn Gann, 2,093.