Antron Brown was the last driver to sweep the 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 the next two weekends present plenty of challenges.
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.”
This season seems to be going Brown’s way 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.”
J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) captured Sonoma victories last year.
Funny Car legend Force is looking to get his season on track with a second win. John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight won in Denver, while everyone is chasing reigning champ Ron Capps, who has six wins in 2017. Capps leads his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan by 186 points.
In Pro Stock, Greg 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 LE 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 Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals will feature two rounds of pro qualifying at 4:15 and 7 p.m. on Friday, July 28, and two final 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. The event that will be televised on FS1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 1:30 p.m. (PT) on Sunday, July 30. It marks the 15th of 24 events in 2017 and the second of three stops on the NHRA Western Swing.
To purchase tickets or get more information, call 800-870-RACE (7223) or visit www.sonomaraceway.com.
30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals
WHAT: Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals
WHEN: July 28-30
CIRCUIT: Drag Strip
2016 WINNERS: J.R. Todd (Top Fuel); John Force (Funny Car); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle)
INFORMATION: 800-870-RACE (7223), sonomaraceway.com/nhra