Toyota drivers combine for 14 wins in 2012 season

Antron Brown’s history-making run to a Top Fuel title highlighted a season that saw Toyota-sponsored drivers win 14 races and capture 17 number one qualifying positions during the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season.

Antron Brown
Antron Brown

Photo by: NHRA

Brown’s championship run came down to the final round of the season, but it wasn’t indicative of just how dominating a season it was as he registered series-highs for wins (six), final appearances (11), win-loss in elimination rounds (49-17, .742%) and registered the quickest pass in NHRA history with a 3.701-second run at Reading. The Matco Tools Toyota driver has become the dominant driver in Top Fuel racing, delivering his third six-win season in the last four years – something no other driver has accomplished more than once.

“This championship goes way back to when I started Pro Stock bikes,” said Brown, who became the third consecutive Toyota driver to win the Top Fuel title. “Being in this sport for 15 years as a professional and just working hard, keeping your head down to the grind, and I was very fortunate and blessed to be with some great, great crew chiefs. You look at where you're at right now and all the bumps and bruises and the deals where you didn't have sponsorship and you stayed out there and you fought through the struggle.

“We lost the championship three times in Top Fuel when we were so close in the last race,” said Brown who became the first African-American driver in history to win a major American auto racing title. “Last year, we were there at the end and we just lost it, and to come out now as the victor, you look at all those heartfelt moments, all the finger cuts, the grind that you see all your crew guys go through, all those test sessions, all the different things that you went through, and then to hoist that championship trophy with all your guys, words cannot explain how it feels. And it's one of the best feelings I've ever had in my life, and to share it with the guys on my team is incredible because they're like a family to me.”

Brown’s championship was among a number of NHRA highlights for Toyota in 2012. For the first time, all five Toyota-backed Top Fuel drivers won a race during the season, with four of the five qualifying for the Countdown to the Championship. In addition to Brown, Shawn Langdon and Brandon Bernstein would tie for fourth overall with each registering one victory. Morgan Lucas placed seventh, while recording three wins including the prestigious Gatornationals, and rookie Khalid alBalooshi earned his first career Top Fuel win on the way to an 11th-place showing overall. In addition, Toyota-sponsored drivers won five of the six Countdown to the Championship events.

In Funny Car competition, the new Toyota Camry Funny Car debuted with all four drivers at varying times over the course of the season.

Cruz Pedregon led the way with a fourth-place overall finish, culminating in his win at the season-ending NHRA Finals. He also earned five number one qualifiers. It marked the third time in five seasons with Toyota that Pedregon has earned a top-four finish in the season-ending point race after winning the title in 2008 and placing third last season.

Jeff Arend also earned a victory (Chicago) on his way to a berth in the Countdown to the Championship where he placed 10th. They were joined in the Funny Car ranks by rookie Alexis DeJoria, who advanced to her first-ever Funny Car final at Bristol and placed 13th overall, and Tony Pedregon, who made the switch over to the new Camry at mid-season and would finish in 14th-place.

Toyota Motorsports

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Tony Pedregon , Cruz Pedregon , Brandon Bernstein , Morgan Lucas , Jeff Arend , Shawn Langdon
Article type Special feature
Tags arend, benstein, brown, funny car, landdon, pedregon, top fuel, toyota