LAS VEGAS – Getting focused in the city of lights has never been a problem for Antron Brown for the three-time Top Fuel world champion. Brown has four career wins at the facility and will look for another in Las Vegas at the 18th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, which takes place Oct. 25-28.
It marks the penultimate race of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and that scenario has often brought out the best in Brown and his 10,000-horsepower Matco Tools dragster. Sitting 339 points out of first place one race past the halfway mark in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship likely means being in the running for a fourth title won’t be in the cards in Vegas, but that won’t stop the Toyota-sponsored driver from wanting to finish strong at the race.
“We’ve always run good in Vegas, and we seem to make good power and our combination works works there for some reason,” Brown said. “It’s always been a special place to us and you’ve got nothing to lose when you get there. I don’t let all the ambiance of Vegas get to me. I go there straight for business and I’m numb to everything else around me. The racetrack is the main focus for me, and we’re going to let it fly and show people what we’re capable of.”
Terry McMillen (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including final eliminations coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Oct. 28. It is the fifth of sixth races in the Countdown to the Championship and the 23rd of 24 races in 2018. For Brown, he is hoping to end a sometimes frustrating year on a resounding note.
Currently fifth in Top Fuel points, the 66-time event winner never found his groove for an extended time this season. Brown won in Seattle and has three final round appearances, but those are levels below what the star performer is used to. It’s been an arduous task at times as the team, led by crew chiefs Mark Oswald and Brad Mason, has worked through an up and down campaign, but Brown is steadfast in his belief that the struggles will make the team better in the long run.
“I’m thoroughly impressed with where we’re at as a team,” Brown said. “We’ve had little mishaps and the team has always bounced back, and then something else bites us. We’ve been fighting that all year. I wish we would have won 5-6 races by now, but we can still end the year strong and get a couple more wins. This year we’ve learned a lot and grown a lot. Our goal is to finish in the top three, but go to these next two races and do well, and maybe give ourselves a shot.”
Brown would need a major stumble from points leader Steve Torrence, to set up the possible miracle finish in Pomona, but simply ending the year in a positive fashion is important for the veteran. He’ll have to deal with the likes of Clay Millican and Don Schumacher Racing teammates Leah Pritchett and Tony Schumacher in Vegas, but Brown remains motivated to finish 2018 strong, knowing full well what it could do for next season.
“I’m okay with struggling as long as we’re learning from it to be better,” Brown said. “This year we’ve competed and fought hard, and that’s only going to make us stronger. You never grow if you keep doing the same things over and over. We’ve learned a lot and grown a lot this year, and once we get back on track and get better, watch out. Everyone better enjoy every minute of it right now because once we get on, we’re not letting off.”
Defending Funny Car world champion Robert Hight will look to get closer to a second consecutive world championship in Vegas, currently holding a 11-point lead on J.R. Todd.
In Pro Stock, second-year star Tanner Gray has posted seven victories in 2018, as he looks to claim his first world title.
Matt Smith’s win in Charlotte gave him the Pro Stock Motorcycle points lead as he seeks a second title. His lead is 41 points over LE Tonglet and defending champ Eddie Krawiec is 56 points back.The NHRA Toyota Nationals also features thrilling competition in the season-finale of the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. After Nitro qualifying, watch spectacular jet cars, including Segal Motorsports’ Shelly Segal running ‘FireStarter,’ Tim Smith running the ‘American Freedom Fighter,’ Tony Franco driving the Lucas Oil ‘Terminal Velocity’ and the El Arabe Racing “Majestic” driven by Juan Cantu. Known for exciting pre-run flame shows and after burner pops, jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines.
Those in attendance will also have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with some of the biggest names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This includes meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the NHRA Toyota Nationals include Joe Amato and Jim Dunn.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-644-4444. Tickets also are available online at www.lvms.com/tickets/nhra/. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
NHRA TOYOTA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 18th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, the 23rd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the fifth of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas. Track is located approximately 15 miles north of Las Vegas off I-15.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 2,100 feet above sea level; Track direction is south to north.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 25-28SCHEDULE:
THURSDAY, Oct. 25 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, Oct. 26 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
E3 SPARK PLUGS PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, Oct. 27 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
E3 SPARK PLUGS PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, Oct. 28 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
E3 SPARK PLUGS PRO MOD SERIES eliminations begin at 9 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 26, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise one hour of live qualifying coverage at 6:00 p.m. (ET).
Saturday, Oct. 27, FS1 will air an hour and a half of live qualifying coverage at 5:00 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 28, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. (ET).2017 EVENT WINNERS:
Terry McMillen, Top Fuel; Matt Hagan, Funny Car; Greg Anderon, Pro Stock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Andrew Hines, PSM, 5; Greg Anderson, PS, 7; John Force, FC, 6; Tony Schumacher, TF, 8TRACK RECORDS:
Top Fuel – 3.673 sec. by Tony Schumacher, Oct ‘17 and 332.67 mph by Shawn Langdon, Oct. ’15.
Funny Car – 3.854 sec. and 335.57 mph by Jack Beckman Oct. ’17.
Pro Stock – 6.559 sec. and 210.28 mph by Erica Enders, Oct. ’15.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.852 sec. by Jerry Savoie, Oct. ’15; 196.56 mph by Eddie Krawiec, Oct. ’11
Top Fuel – 3.628 sec. by Clay Millican, Feb. ’18, Pomona, Calif.; 336.57 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb. ‘18, Phoenix
Funny Car – 3.793 sec. by Robert Hight, Aug. ’17, Brainerd; 339.87 mph by Robert Hight, July ’17, Sonoma, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ’14, Englishtown N.J.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct ‘12, Reading, PA.; 201.01 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ‘18, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 644-4444, or visit www.lvms.com/tickets/nhra/.
Photos courtesy of NHRA
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, and E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates four racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California.