As someone who experiences 5 G-forces consistently as part of their job, Antron Brown is one of the most down-to-earth men you’ll ever come across.
Brown pilots the Matco Tools/Aaron’s Toyota in the NHRA’s Full Throttle Top Fuel Dragster series, where cars go from 0-100 MPH in close to 0.8 seconds and are the fastest accelerating vehicle on land.
The Chesterfield, N.J., native and current Pittsboro resident is preparing to defend his 2011 MAC Tools U.S. Nationals crown starting this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway.
“That victory was huge,” Brown said of last year’s race. “That was like winning the championship inside of itself.”
Brown grew up with his dream job to race Top Fuel and Funny Cars, yearning ‘If only I could do that one day.’ After two U.S. Nationals victories in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class in 2000 and 04’, Brown’s perfect scenario occurred last year.
“I could never even fathom having a job racing a Top Fuel car,” he said. “When I got the chance to actually race the car and go out there and win the U.S. Nationals in my fourth year driving the car, I just fell down on the ground, looked up, and was just breathing it in. It was just a dream come true.”
And the dream can continue this season with back-to-back U.S. Nationals trophies being a possibility.
“I feel confident going in that we’re going to be very competitive,” Brown said. “We’re just going to go in there to push as hard as we can and see where we are at the end of the weekend. It would be awesome to win it again, but we have our work cut out for us to do that.”
The 15-year veteran has 35 career wins with 16 coming via the Pro Stock Motorcycles (1998-2007) and 19 in the Top Fuel series after making the leap in 2008. Brown, already a pioneer as one of the first African-Americans to have prominent success in motorsports, became the first driver in NHRA history to win events in both the Pro Stock Motorcycle and Top Fuel series.
“It’s kind of cool to be one of the drivers that is actually being a trailblazer,” he said. “Now we’re showing that people that ride motorcycles can drive racecars too. It opens up the spectrum. A lot of my peers that I raced with in Pro Stock bikes, they love it and cheer me on as I cheer them on when I watch them race motorcycles. It’s pretty cool to be able to be one of the first to actually go over and convert to top fuel. That was a pretty cool deal and if it paves the way for other people, I hope it does so. Because it’s something special to be able to get to live your dream and somebody to give you the chance to do it.”
Now in his fifth season in Top Fuel, Brown is in the midst of one his best seasons in Top Fuel. He sits atop the series points standings by 58 markers and is tied with Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey for a series-best four victories.
“We’ve been taking it one race and one round at a time,” Brown said. “Things have been going our way and we’ve been very competitive.”
Brown has won three of the last six races and appears in prime form entering the U.S. Nationals and the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship, their playoff featuring the top 10 in points in each class.
With the NHRA’s Labor Day tradition the last race before the Countdown begins, Brown is prepped to bring home his first NHRA championship after narrowly missing out last season with a third-place points finish.
“Our team is definitely peaking at the right time and I’m happy and confident of where we’re at right now,” he said. “I’m going into the Countdown with a lot of confidence in my race team, but it’s still the Countdown.”
Not that there’s ever a lack of motivation to win NHRA’s biggest race, Brown lives less than 20 minutes from LOR and DSR’s racing shop is only 2.5 miles away from the historic drag strip. The proximity of both magnifies the situation just that much more.
“It’s always motivating to win the U.S. Nationals, even if I didn’t live here,” he said. “The race is just so big. That’s our Super Bowl. That’s our Daytona 500. But now this being my hometown, it has a little bit more to it where I can keep it as a hometown boy.”
Brown said he enjoyed the experience of sharing his 2011 U.S. Nationals victory with those close to him.
“All of the people and our surrounding neighbors came out to watch us and support us,” he said. “It was cool last year just to see all of them in Winner’s Circle with my mom, my kids, and my wife. You get your kids to come back to you because their friends at school saw them on TV holding up the trophy with daddy. That was pretty special, so it definitely holds some merit being here in the hometown.”
He said his wife Billie Jo, daughter Arianna, and sons Anson and Adler all love living in Pittsboro.
“It’s very beautiful, we love the weather ... winter sometimes can be kind of brutal,” he said. “But besides that, it’s awesome. Our kids go to great schools and it’s just a really great area to live in and the people here are just fantastic to be around. That’s what really keeps us here in Indy — the whole area and the people around it. It’s just fantastic.”
Brown is a walking billboard for someone living his dreams, appreciative and thankful for what he has accomplished. The 36-year-old’s bubbling enthusiasm and passion backs that up consistently.
“I wouldn’t be doing what I do if I didn’t love it,” Brown said. “It’s definitely something as a kid that I always wanted to do and now that I get to do it, I don’t take any day of it for granted. And that’s why I work so hard at it because this is my passion, this is my life. After God and my family, this is what I do. This is what I love to do and I live for it.”