Top Fuel’s Antron Brown Rolling At Right Time As NHRA Playoffs Open At Maple Grove

Story By: NHRA – READING, PA – Whatever difficulties Antron Brown and his team endured early in the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season appear to have been erased, putting the three-time Top Fuel world champion back on track to compete for another world title.

The road to the championship starts at this weekend’s 37th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, the first of six races during the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs. On the strength of two wins in his past three races, including the most recent NHRA U.S. Nationals, Brown enters the playoffs with plenty of momentum in his 11,000-horsepower Matco Tools dragster.

He’s jumped out to sixth in the Top Fuel points standings, a considerable leap in just a month thanks to victories in Topeka – which was his first as a team owner – and Indy. It’s a loaded field of title contenders heading to Reading, but Brown might be peaking at the perfect time this season.

“We’re in the conversation now. With the Countdown right in front of us and us jumping from being 12th a few races ago to being sixth, I think we’re going to be in that talk,” Brown said. “We’re just going to go out there and compete and race for a championship, and that’s our mindset and our gameplan right now. But this whole class is ridiculous right now. We just have to keep our head down and for the next six races, AB Motorsports says, ‘here we come.’”

Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year’s race at Maple Grove Raceway. This year’s playoff opener will be broadcast on both the FOX broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 (FS1) in 2022 and will also serve as the NFL adjacent broadcast on FOX, putting the NHRA on a huge platform to open its 2022 playoffs. It is the 17th of 22 races in 2022 and the first of six playoff races, and it’s also a race Brown won in 2015 and 2016.

Those seasons ended with Brown hoisting the world championship trophy, something he would love to repeat in 2022. It won’t be easy, as a number of star drivers are ahead of the three-time world champ, including points leader Brittany Force, Mike Salinas, who has four wins this season, Justin Ashley, the runner-up in Reading last year, four-time defending world champ Steve Torrence and rising star Josh Hart. But Brown loves the drive and work he’s seen from his team, which has the entire first-year organization motivated heading into the postseason.

“All of our team has put that work in to get these results. It’s a testament to all of them. We never lost the faith and never gave up,” said Brown, who now has 69 career victories. “We got through the hard times and then we started making some big strides. I knew it was coming. We just have to be consistent and stick to our game and come to compete at a high level. We’ve got to stay humble, poised, fierce and we’ve got to go out there and give it all we’ve got.”

In Funny Car, defending world champ Ron Capps is geared up for a run at his third career world title. He also won in Indy, picking up his first career U.S. Nationals win, and sending a strong message that he’s capable of becoming a three-time world champ in the loaded category. To do so, he may have to get past a pair of three-time champs in Robert Hight, who is the current points leader, and Matt Hagan, as well as the likes of John Force, Bob Tasca III, who has three wins in 2022, J.R. Todd and Cruz Pedregon.

But Capps’ huge weekend in Indy put him in the second spot to open the Countdown to the Championship — only 20 points back of Hight — and he’ll try to win for the second time in Reading in his 11,000-horsepower NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra. Capps also won at Maple Grove Raceway in 2017 and he enters the Countdown to the Championship with as much momentum as possible following his emotional first-time Indy triumph.

“This season has flown by, and I can hardly believe that we’re getting ready to head out to Reading to start the Countdown. We have a lot of excitement and momentum coming off our big weekend from the U.S. Nationals,” Capps said. “We’re all pretty excited to see what the Koretsky family has done since purchasing Maple Grove Raceway. Coming off of a big win like we did in Indy, it was nice to have a week off, but we’re excited to have the opportunity to put the car in the winner’s circle once again.”

Greg Anderson is after back-to-back wins in Reading, a race after picking up his 100th career victory as he also looks to defend his Pro Stock world title. Looking to stop him is points leader Erica Enders, who has six wins in 2022, Aaron Stanfield, Kyle Koretsky, whose family purchased Maple Grove Raceway earlier this year, Dallas Glenn and Troy Coughlin Jr.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith will look to start his title defense facing off with defending event winner Steve Johnson, Joey Gladstone, Angelle Sampey, Eddie Krawiec, Angie Smith, and Karen Stoffer.

The Pep Boys NHRA Nationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown category. On Friday, fans can witness all the thrills of a jet car exhibition after nitro qualifying, while the race also features the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League Shootout. On Saturday, fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds.

Top Fuel Motorcycle star Larry “Spiderman” McBride will be in action at Reading as part of the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals. McBride went an incredible 268.38-mph in Virginia to make the fastest motorcycle pass in drag racing history and the veteran will make exhibition passes in Reading, attempting to go even faster at a track where several record-breaking performances have taken place over the years.

Race fans at Maple Grove Raceway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals event winners.

As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Reading. This unique opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family. The new Pep Boys midway display will include tire change challenges, oil change challenges, a slot car track, and much more, adding even more excitement to the midway.

NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 4:45 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 16, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 12:15 and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 18. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday, 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, and then eliminations on FOX at 2:00 or 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. Check local listings for Sunday broadcast times on FOX in your area.

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