Brown Wins Historic Top Fuel Title
Cruz Pedregon drove his Toyota Camry to the Funny Car victory, while Brandon Bernstein earned the win in Top Fuel, but it was fellow Toyota driver Antron Brown who walked away as the biggest winner of all in earning the Top Fuel series championship in today’s Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Pomona, Calif.
Bernstein’s win concluded a strong Countdown run that saw him climb from eighth to fourth in the final standings. In the process, he eliminated two of the three drivers that were championship contenders to begin the day in knocking off Spencer Massey in the second round and Schumacher in the final. Bernstein used an impressive .037 reaction time on the way to a hole-shot victory in the final round.
Pedregon earned an elusive first 2012 win during a season where he earned five number one qualifiers and qualified in the top two in each of the last three races. The two-time Funny Car champ ran a gauntlet of top contenders, defeating three drivers that joined him in the overall top five. He beat Mike Neff in the second round, eventual Funny Car champion Jack Beckman in the semi-finals and Courtney Force in the finale.
The two victories gave Toyota Nitro drivers 13 wins on the season with 11 in Top Fuel and two in Funny Car, to go with 17 number one qualifiers.
In Top Fuel, Khalid alBalooshi joined Bernstein as the only two Toyota drivers to advance beyond the opening run of eliminations. He defeated Doug Kalitta in the first round and then lost a narrow match-up with Schumacher in the second round. After qualifying first, Shawn Langdon was eliminated in the opening round after failing to get a clean pass. Third-seeded Morgan Lucas also lost in the first round after struggling to get down the track, as did Brown who lost after suffering a broken fuel hose that resulted in a fiery blaze.
In Funny Car, Jeff Arend advanced to the second round where he lost a tight duel with Beckman. Alexis DeJoria and Tony Pedregon each were eliminated in the opening round.
- Antron Brown captured his first NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing world championship in Top Fuel, edging Tony Schumacher by eight points. Shawn Langdon tied with Brandon Bernstein for fourth place, while Morgan Lucas placed seventh. In the Funny Car Countdown, Cruz Pedregon placed fourth overall, with Jeff Arend finishing in 10th-place finish.
- Today’s win is the first of the season for Brandon Bernstein and the 19th Top Fuel victory of his career and the first with Morgan Lucas Racing. It comes in his third Finals appearance of the season and the 39th of his Top Fuel career.
- Brandon Bernstein’s win today marked the fifth time in six Countdown races that he advanced to the semi-finals or beyond. The only time he didn’t win at least two rounds in the Countdown was in Las Vegas.
- Today’s victory is the first of the season for Cruz Pedregon and the 30th Funny Car victory of his career It comes in his second Finals appearance of the season – previously having lost in the final at Charlotte. The win comes in his 67th career finals appearance.
- After opening the season with 12 consecutive first-round losses, Khalid alBalooshi finished the season by advancing past the first round in nine straight races.
Antron Brown, Matco Tools Toyota Top Fuel Dragster: “To win the world championship against this type of competition is just unbelievable. I feel so blessed right now. The fans have just been great. The entire Schumacher team just elevated to a new level this year. The entire Schumacher family has welcomed me with open arms and I’m so happy to give them this championship.”
“You want to race for the title, but in the end, we just had to sit and watch and there’s nothing you can do about it. It just went our way today. You don’t wish anything bad on anyone, but it happened for us in the end. (On his first-round incident with a fire in the car) I just tried to stay calm and get out of the car as quick as possible. I burned my hands a little, but I’m all good now.”
(On becoming the first African-American to win a major American auto racing title) “I’d like to be an inspiration to kids – all kids, not just African-American – but, maybe to kids who have always been told they could never achieve something. Never settle. If I can do that for a young kid who doesn’t think he has a shot, that’s what it’s all about.”
Brandon Bernstein, ProtectTheHarvestcom/MAVTV Toyota Top Fuel Dragster: “It was just awesome. I’m so proud of our ProtectTheHarvest MAVTV Toyota team. I didn’t have a job a year ago at this time and Morgan (Lucas) called me up over the winter and we put this together. It’s a really good team with a lot of good people. We’ve been so close on the tune-up all year. We really just made the decision that we needed to go out and be as consistent as possible and that’s what we did (in advancing to the semi-finals five times in the final six races). We wanted to end on a really good note and now we can take some momentum into the off-season and have something to build on for next year. I was really happy in helping a really good friend in winning the championship. I’m really happy for Antron."
Cruz Pedregon, Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry Funny Car: “We’ve probably left five or six races on the table this year and we put it together this weekend. But we’ve always had a fast car. The new Toyota Camry body really had a big affect in a good way this season. Toyota created a body that’s as good as any in the field. We placed third overall last year, and after winning today, we finished fourth this year and I think we’ve proved we belong with the top teams. We’re a smaller independent team, but with the way we finished, I think we can build on this and be one of the favorites heading into next season.