(Photos courtesy NHRA)

2016 NHRA season in review: Top Fuel champion Antron Brown

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Starting today and continuing daily over the next three-plus weeks, we’ll break down the top drivers of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Each day, we’ll have one in-depth review of a driver that finished in the top-five in each of the four professional classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle), as well as select other drivers that did not finish in the top-five.

Today, we start with Top Fuel driver Antron Brown.

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2016_Antron_BrownDriver: Antron Brown

Age: 40

Hometown: Chesterfield, N.J.

Team: Don Schumacher Racing

Sponsor/car: Matco Tools dragster

Crew chiefs: Brian Corradi/Mark Oswald

2016 season finish: First in Top Fuel.

2016 season statistics: 24 races, 7 wins, 4 runner-up, 5 semifinals, 6 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier three times. Round-by-round record: 55 wins, 17 losses. Crowned 2016 NHRA Top Fuel champion.

Career statistics (includes both Top Fuel and previously in Pro Stock Motorcycle): 358 races, 61 wins (45 Top Fuel, 16 PSM), 47 runner-up (31 TF, 16 PSM), 74 semifinals, 93 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 47 times. Round-by-round record: 623 wins, 294 losses. 3 DNQ. Three NHRA championships (all in Top Fuel): 2012, 2015 and 2016.

What went right in 2016: Brown won his second consecutive Top Fuel championship, and his third in the last five seasons. … Won nearly one-third (seven) of the season’s 24 races. … Has become arguably the toughest competitor to beat in Top Fuel over the last five seasons. … Clinched the championship in the second-to-last race.

What went wrong in 2016: Very little went wrong for Brown. But, after winning the opening race of the six-race Countdown to the Championship, Brown did endure a scare in the next race when he lost at St. Louis in the first round to Shawn Langdon, one of only two first-round exits for Brown in the entire season. He came back to win the next two races, giving him three wins in the first four Countdown races, and then he clinched the championship in the fifth race (Las Vegas).

What to look for in 2017: Once again, Brown will be the man to beat next season. He’s in the prime of his racing career and could very easily win his fourth crown in six seasons. He’s looking forward to reaching 50 wins in Top Fuel and could likely do that in ’17.

Season reviews already posted:

— Antron Brown (12/12)

— Ron Capps (12/13)

— Jason Line (12/14)

Jerry Savoie (12/15)

Doug Kalitta (12/16)

Tommy Johnson Jr. (12/17)

Greg Anderson (12/18)

Eddie Krawiec (12/19)

Steve Torrence (12/20)

— Matt Hagan (12/21)

— Shane Gray (12/22)

— Andrew Hines (12/23)

— J.R. Todd (12/24)

— John Force (12/25)

— Bo Butner (12/26)

— Angelle Sampey (12/27)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Alexander Rossi’s Grand Prix of Alabama gamble fails to pay off

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Alexander Rossi bobbled for the first time in 2018 with an 11th-place finish in the Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

And to add insult to injury, Rossi also lost the points lead as a result.

Rossi got off to about as great a start to the season as possible. He finished third at St. Petersburg and sat third in the standings. He finished third again at Phoenix and climbed to second in the points.

Rossi won the Long Beach Grand Prix after starting from the pole and leading 71 laps. That put him at the top of the standings after three races.

Then, as quickly as he climbed to the top, he got knocked down a spot after finishing off the podium for the first time in 2018.

Rossi not only missed the podium, he finished outside the top 10.

“We didn’t get the result that we wanted,” Rossi said after the race. “That remains a mystery. But at the end of the day it was about survival. We couldn’t make the tires last; we couldn’t really get a great fuel number.”

The biggest negative was the one factor that was mostly out of his control. Rossi gambled that he was facing only a brief shower when rain began to fall with about 15 minutes remaining. He was wrong.

“We tried to be pretty aggressive on the dry tires and stay out and survive the rain, hoping it would dry out,” Rossi said. “And it didn’t really work.

“Sometimes you’ll have those days.”