GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Exactly one month after Antron Brown's horrific crash at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Series season-opener at Pomona, Calif., the reigning Top Fuel world champion experienced diametrically opposite emotions.
On Sunday, in the NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla., Brown and his Matco Tools team led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald did more than just win the event title.
After Don Schumacher Racing teammate Johnny Gray set the table by winning the Funny Car title, Brown sealed the deal to give DSR its 200th NHRA national event title.
It wasn't just my team or his team, it was all of us together at DSR."
DSR owner Don Schumacher, who won the first of his five NHRA Funny Car titles in 1970, was emotional when he met with media members.
"It's a tremendous reward," said Schumacher, who will be inducted May 2 into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega, Ala.
"I can't say what this personally feels like. When we won both championships in November, my mother passed away on the day of the banquet the next day. I haven't had joy really since then.
"Today brings a special meaning to all of my efforts out here for all of these years."
For Brown, he reflects back to Sunday, Feb. 17, when an engine failure led to a crash that he was able to walk away from.
"Everything that Don has been orchestrating in all the years he's been in drag racing has been about building the quickest, the fastest and absolutely the safest cars. I believe he's done that, especially with the way I was able to walk away from that accident at Pomona."
Returning is one step, but dominating so soon is another.
"We knew we wanted to come out here and have some fun, but we had to execute. The Top Fuel class right now by far is the toughest it's ever been.
Different people are setting low ETs and you never know what to expect. To go up against our teammate in the semis, that was like a final too."
Brown guided his Matco Tools dragster to a 3.761 second run at 318.77 mph to finish in front of Clay Millican, who posted a 3.813 at 319.67, in the championship round.
Before that, Brown outran Larry Dixon, Steve Torrence and DSR teammate Spencer Massey in the first three rounds.
The win enabled the Matco team to move around teammate Tony Schumacher for the points lead.
Don Schumacher Racing