Gainesville: Antron Brown interview

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (March 5, 2008) -- Antron Brown has long been one of the more popular racers on the NHRA circuit. Now driving the Matco Tools dragster and competing in drag racing's premier category, Brown has quickly proven he can race on two or...

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (March 5, 2008) -- Antron Brown has long been one of the more popular racers on the NHRA circuit. Now driving the Matco Tools dragster and competing in drag racing's premier category, Brown has quickly proven he can race on two or four wheels. In 10 seasons as one of the elite riders in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, the New Jersey native collected 16 wins, 11 poles and twice finished second in the PSM standings. Two races into his new career as a Top Fuel driver, Brown and his David Powers-owned Matco Tools team earned the pole at the season-opening Winternationals and rank sixth in the hard-hitting Top Fuel division. In this Q&A the zealous racer discusses his move to Top Fuel, Pro Stock Motorcycles, his new teammate, and the regular confusion between he and fellow Top Fuel driver J.R. Todd.

Q: Discuss the transition from Pro Stock Motorcycle to Top Fuel?

Brown: The transition has been mind boggling. The Suzuki motorcycle and the car have very few things in common. The motorcycle helped most by causing me to be smooth. It's very sensitive and you have to feel things on the race track. When the dragster shakes the tires and does things, it helped with that. It didn't help with the ride in a Top Fuel dragster. There isn't anything that can prepare you for driving a Top Fuel car. I went to Frank Hawley's (Drag Racing) school and go my TA/D license and thought that would prepare me. When I sat in the Matco Tools missile, I found out I was in a totally different time zone. The biggest asset of the bikes was the tough competition that I competed against. That helped prepare me for all the great drivers in Top Fuel that I now have to race against.

Q: What's been the most difficult to grasp in a Top Fuel car?

Brown: The toughest thing right now is pedaling the race car because I haven't had a lot of experience doing it. At Phoenix when I had to pedal against Tony (Schumacher), if I could have been a little more on top of my game I could have brought that win home for our team.

Q: Are you happy with the team's progress through two races?

Brown: Yes, I'm very pleased. Coming out with a new team and to jell as quickly as we have has been great. To put our car on the pole at the first race and be sixth in the points, I think we're off to a good start.

Q: Were you surprised to earn the pole at Pomona?

Brown: I wouldn't say I was surprised. I was excited and happy. With the team that we have, we have a championship-caliber team. Lee Beard is no stranger to winning and I feel that way about our team as a whole.

Q: What has it been like working with Lee Beard?

Brown: Working with Lee has been a breath of fresh air. He's a very talented individual. He's very meticulous and lives up to his motto: it's all about the details. Being at DSR and owning my own team, I can see the difference of working with Lee. He's very good at coaching you on how to be a good driver. He works with positive motivation and doesn't degrade people. Plus, it's good to be around someone who can cut up and have some fun. It's more than just a race team here, it's more like a family and that starts at the top. It makes our work atmosphere very laid back and enjoyable. With that, we know we have to be on our game to win.

Q: Will it be strange when you get to Gainesville and see your Pro Stock Motorcycle colleagues for the first time in 2008?

Brown: Yeah it will. It will be pretty cool to see all my friends from PSM. They were very supportive when I first tested the car at (Las) Vegas. It's going to be weird to see the bikes race for the first time without competing. If it was up to me, I have the personality where I wish I could race every class.

Q: After 10 seasons racing your Suzuki, what has the reaction been like from your PSM competitors?

Brown: They've been very supportive. All the people that I competed against, we were still good friends off the track. The want me to go out and win for the bike class. A lot of them joke that I'm their hero. Most people always dream of racing Top Fuel or Funny Car, but it's tough to achieve that goal, but thanks to Matco Tools and DPM, they've made a dream into reality.

Q: Has Rod Fuller helped in your transition to Top Fuel?

Brown: For sure. Hot Rod (Fuller) has been very instrumental in every aspect. Whenever I have a question or if he sees me do something on the track, he'll talk to me about that. Without Hot Rod and Lee Beard I wouldn't have advanced as quickly as I have.

Q: Troy Vincent, a former NFL player, helped start your racing career. Do you keep in touch with Troy?

Brown: Oh yeah. I talk to Troy once every few weeks. He's been a big supporter of mine throughout my entire racing career. From business to personal life, he's been like a big brother to me. A lot of the times these days, the conversations are about family, how the kids are doing and racing comes later in the conversation. He still gives me a lot of pointers and constructive criticism.

Q: Are you ready to be a father for the third time?

Brown: Yes I am. Me and the wife (Billie Jo) thought we were done with two. We had the perfect family with one girl (Arianna) and one boy (Anson). I'll give a word of advice. Don't do like I did and take your wife to Norwalk and go to Cedar Point. We got on all those roller coasters and I think they shook a lot of the settlement loose. On a serious note, we're very happy about having our third child on March 8 at 9 a.m. We have a c-section scheduled for Adler Carson Brown, our second son. By looking at my wife's belly, he's gonna be a heavyweight.

Q: Finally, how many times have you been called J.R. Todd this year?

Brown: I've been called J.R. numerous times at both races this year from fans and even NHRA officials. It's ok. We're really good friends and we have a lot of fun with it. I carry conversations with people and let them believe I'm J.R. It's funny when the fans come up and apologize and say I'm sorry, I thought you were J.R. I know J.R. sure must be a good looking brother.

-credit: dpm

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , David Powers , Rod Fuller , J.R. Todd , Frank Hawley