BRISTOL — Defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown admitted there is more than a casual interest in NASCAR, but added he’s still focused on his day job.
“The thing about it is I’m a fan of every type of motor racing from open-wheel to NASCAR to sprint cars,” said Brown, who ran 20 laps in a stock car at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday. “I’m still getting my feet wet with NASCAR, but the thing is I’m a competitor and I hate to lose. I went out there and testing went well with Rev Racing. I’m going to test a late model later this year and might make a few late model races.
“That’s what you have to do before you go race NASCAR. It’s a process over there and I want to stay steady working on that, but I definitely have to focus on the NHRA championship because that’s what I’m paid to do. Right now, I’m going full steam ahead, trying to get another championship.”
Brown made history last season becoming the first African-American champion of a major American motorsport. There’s an extra bounce in his step these days as he hopes to conquer this weekend’s Ford Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
“It feels great to come out here with a little different walk,” said Brown, a 39-time national event winner. “As a team last year, we did that incredible feat, winning the NHRA Mello Yello championship. It feels good to come to Bristol, but the one thing missing from the trophy shelf is a Bristol trophy.”
The Wally for the season title was particularly sweet since Brown had come so close over his 16-year career both in the Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks only to fall short of his ultimate goal.
“I’ve been four times close in Top Fuel where we climbed that big mountain like Mt. Everest every year and to get to the top all you had to do was take that final step and that championship was yours,” he said. “We would miss it, fall all the way back down and have to start from scratch next year. All the hard work the boys do in the shop, all we do together, it makes it worth it. Everything we thought it was, it was times 10.”
The 37-year-old Indianapolis area resident is back in the championship hunt this season, third in the current point standings with early victories at Gainesville and Atlanta. Among those he is battling are a couple of Don Schumacher Racing teammates.
“Right now, Shawn Langdon has the points lead, but we’re all so close,” he said. “Spencer (Massey), Tony (Schumacher), myself and Langdon, we’re all within 150 points. It’s going to be a tight battle to the end. Our main focus is to be in the top three when the Countdown starts. Hopefully, we’ll be No. 1 so we’ll get those 20 bonus points.”
There is time to get to that No. 1 spot.
This week’s race at Bristol is the start of four consecutive weeks of racing for the NHRA Mello Yello Series. It’s followed by the vaunted Western Swing before wrapping up with racing at the Lucas Oil Nationals and the U.S. Nationals.
“There’s still a lot of racing to do this summer,” he said. “It starts here in Bristol where it looks like the weather is going to be good. We’re up for the challenge this weekend and ready to go after it.”