BROWN MAY HAVE HOMETOWN ADVANTAGE AT MOPAR PARTS NATIONALS ENGLISHTOWN, N.J.-- Antron Brown is only a rookie in the extremely competitive world of NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racing, but he'll be one of the pre-race favorites at the 29th...
BROWN MAY HAVE HOMETOWN ADVANTAGE AT MOPAR PARTS NATIONALS
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J.-- Antron Brown is only a rookie in the extremely competitive world of NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racing, but he'll be one of the pre-race favorites at the 29th annual Mopar Parts Nationals, May 14-17 at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
The $1.6 million race is the eighth of 22 events in the $30 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
So what gives a young, largely untested two-wheel warrior this kind of status entering a race where the defending race winner is Winston champion Matt Hines, and veterans like John Myers and Dave Schultz have dominated there over the years?
Location. Location. Location.
Brown, a resident of nearby Chesterfield, N.J., has logged many test runs at the famed quarter- mile while his Team 23 was preparing for their 1998 season debut. Combine the adrenaline rush of competing in front of a hometown crowd with local knowledge of every bump and dip on the race track and it could spell trouble for some of the experienced veterans in the category.
"That track is so smooth," says Brown, who was hired to ride the Team 23 Suzuki GSXR by team owner Troy Vincent, who moonlights as a cornerback for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. "After I got my license last June, we tested there so much. I've got a real good feel for the track. Anytime you can race near home, it's pretty special."
Brown, 22, had his best outing April 26 at the Pennzoil Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park. He advanced to the semi-finals, where he lost in a close race with Team Winston's Angelle Seeling. After not qualifying at the season-opener at Gainesville, Fla., and losing in the first round at Atlanta's Fram Nationals, Brown's effort in Richmond showed the new team they can compete.
"That race definitely gave us some confidence, and we needed it," said Brown, a 10-year veteran of professional motocross racing. "I knew I could compete from the results of our test sessions, but I had never had to run under any kind of pressure. I'm starting to get a good feel for (the competition)."
While Hines is starting to pick up where he left off in 1997 with No. 1 qualifying positions and multiple wins, many in the Pro Stock Motorcycle pit area feel that Brown is one of the upcoming stars.
"I'm just trying to stay focused," Brown said. "I'm not going to listen to what anyone is saying. When I decided to run over here a lot of people told me how tough it was and that I'd be lucky to qualify. I didn't want to sell myself short then, so I practiced and really just focused on things I needed to do to be competitive and win races. That's our objective."
* Comparing bikes: While most people would assume there's no comparison between motocross and motorcycle drag racing, Brown says there are some similarities.
"The concentration on making consistent laps is the same," Brown said. "Whether you're going in a straight line or navigating a variety of different turns and jumps , you've got to be focused. You pull the same G-forces from a 40-foot jump in motocross as you do from the launch on one of these bikes."