Brown’s success in Charlotte indicates just a small slice of the immense success the Don Schumacher Racing team has enjoyed in 2015.
Las Vegas — Top Fuel points leader Antron Brown will take plenty of momentum into this weekend’s 16th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after his first victory of the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season at the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte.
But Brown’s success in Charlotte indicates just a small slice of the immense success the Don Schumacher Racing team has enjoyed in 2015. Through four events this season, the DSR team has posted seven total victories in Funny Car and Top Fuel, winning in both classes at each of the past three events.
Always a top team in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, Brown has noticed even more progression in a number of areas at DSR this season, which could make things difficult for every other competitor in Las Vegas this weekend.
You have to pick at the fine details to get ahead and we lean on each other.
“What I contribute to that is the cohesiveness we have on this team,” Brown said. “You come into the shop and you see all the crew chiefs. It’s taken a long time to get where it’s at. Don has put all the right people in the right places. The crew chiefs are working together, sharing ideas, not to just make the cars run better but to make them safer as well, and to make things better.
“You have to pick at the fine details to get ahead and we lean on each other. We’re a tight-knit unit and we’re able to grow and run together. We work hard and grow together and we get things to work out. That’s helped us really jump out there.”
Last year winners
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) won last year’s event that will once again be televised on ESPN2. The race is the fifth of 24 events during the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and the next opportunity for Brown to build on his Charlotte victory in his 10,000-horsepower Matco Tools dragster.
Brown, the 2012 Top Fuel world champion, started the season with a final round appearance in Pomona, losing to Shawn Langdon in what has been the only non-DSR victory in Top Fuel and Funny Car in 2015. Brown, who has 48 total victories, followed that effort with back-to-back semifinal appearances in Phoenix and Gainesville before the victory against a star-studded lineup at zMAX Dragway.
But despite the early-season success Brown said his team, led by Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, has battled through a number of issues to get his dragster on track. That said, Brown was impressed how his team came together in Charlotte, posting a final round win against Steve Torrence, Richie Crampton and Clay Millican.
"We’ve been fighting some new combinations in our Matco car,” Brown said. “To sneak out with it this year, it was definitely a long road. It felt good to go out there and run (well) in that last run. We did what we needed to do to win that race and everything worked out for sure.”
Brown will again have to ward of a who’s-who list of championship contenders in Vegas, starting with his Top Fuel teammate and reigning world champion Schumacher, who started his run for a category record eighth world title in Vegas last season, defeating Doug Kalitta in the final.
Schumacher is the winningest driver in Las Vegas history with eight career victories, but will have to contend with the likes of three-time world champion Larry Dixon, a five-time winner at The Strip, Spencer Massey, Richie Crampton, Steve Torrence, J.R. Todd, Dave Connolly and Brittany Force. Along with the rest of the DSR teams, Brown has been motivated by the return of team owner Don Schumacher, whose battle with cancer caused him to miss the first two races of the season.
But he returned in Gainesville to watch Massey and Ron Capps post victories, with Brown and Jack Beckman giving Schumacher two more reasons to celebrate in Charlotte. Keeping that impressive streak going will also be fresh in Brown’s mind in Las Vegas.
“He comes back at Gainesville and we double up there and then we double up in (Charlotte),” Brown said. “Hopefully we can keep that streak going for him. It’s going to be hard with all the competition, but we’re going to try as hard as we can to keep that going.”
In Funny Car, Alexis DeJoria claimed her second career victory at Las Vegas in 2014, just two races after her first career win in Phoenix. Robert Hight, who fell in the final round to DeJoria, is seeking his first win at the track since 2012 and will be joined by John Force Racing teammates John Force and Courtney Force. Other top stars include five-time Vegas winner Ron Capps, defending world champ Matt Hagan, fall event winner Del Worsham, Tommy Johnson Jr., Charlotte winner Beckman, and two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon.
Pro Stock’s Erica Enders-Stevens made a major statement at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals last season, taking victory in both the national event and the K&N Horsepower Challenge bonus event. Enders-Stevens, who secured a category-leading six wins on the season, also finished with her first career Pro Stock world championship title, making her the first woman to win a championship in the category. Her rookie teammate Drew Skillman is off to a stellar start, while other championship contenders include Summit Racing Equipment teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line, Allen Johnson, Phoenix winner Rodger Brogdon, Shane Gray, Jonathan Gray, Vincent Nobile, Charlotte winner Larry Morgan and tough Texan Chris McGaha.