Photo courtesy Toyota Racing

NHRA: Antron Brown on verge of earning 50th career Top Fuel win this weekend at Phoenix

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When you’re used to winning championships – like three in the previous five seasons – any other season finish is disappointing.

That’s kind of how NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver Antron Brown looked at his fourth-place showing in the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

“At the end of the day, we had a very competitive season last year and made it to 10 final rounds,” Brown said. “But we got into the Countdown (NHRA’s six-race playoffs) and our timing was off.

“We struggled with a lot of problems we don’t usually have. Now it’s time for a new chapter for this team and time to get better. This is a new beginning for us and it’s going to be fun and exciting and we’re coming after them.”

Antron Brown hugs the NHRA Top Fuel championship trophy after winning it in 2016. (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire)

Brown had a good start to 2018, reaching the semifinals before losing to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher in the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

“We had a great performance at Pomona and I couldn’t be more proud of what our Matco/Toyota guys did,” Brown said. “Now we are going to Phoenix where we’ve won three times (2009, 2012 and 2014, and was runner-up in 2011) and we’ll just try to hit it hard and get a fourth.”

Next up on the NHRA 24-race national event circuit is the second race of the season, this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix (Chandler, Arizona).

Brown has definite plans to make it four wins in Phoenix. And if he does that Sunday, he’ll set a significant career milestone: it would be his 50th career win driving a Top Fueler and the 66th win overall (he won 16 races in Pro Stock Motorcycle before shifting from two to four wheels).

In so doing, Brown would become only the fourth Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to hit the 50-win mark. The others are Tony Schumacher (83), Larry Dixon (62) and Joe Amato (52).

This will be the second time Brown has been racing in Phoenix this month. He was part of the preseason test there for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock cars a week before the season began.

“Testing went really well there,” said Brown, leaving him optimistic that he can reach victory circle once again. “I love going back to Phoenix.”

Brown has been the most dominant driver in NHRA Top Fuel competition since 2012, winning more than twice the number of races (34) than the next most successful Top Fuel driver (16 by Schumacher) in that time period.

He also has a 71 percent overall win percentage, which exceeds both eight-time Top Fuel champ Schumacher and 16-time Funny Car champ John Force.

“I’m just pumped up, feeling like we’ve got some unfinished business from last year,” Brown said. “We had a good outing but didn’t close the deal, so this year, we’re looking forward to getting back there and getting off to a great start.”

NOTES: Brown will serve as honorary pace car driver for the March 4th Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Cup race at Las Vegas. He’ll be joined by teammates Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett in a weekend full of activities that they’ll all be involved in.

“I’m really excited,” Brown said. “It’s going to be my first experience as a pace car driver, and I’m just super stoked to go out there and drive the Camry pace car for Pennzoil and start those NASCAR boys off the right way. Throttle down, pedal to the metal. I just want them to get off to a great start.”

Brown has won four times at The Strip, the drag strip adjacent to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity,” he said. “It’s an honor to be out there with such talented drivers, and I know I’m going to really enjoy watching our NASCAR counterparts.”

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IMSA: Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring update – halfway through the 12-hour event

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We’re halfway through the 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring Raceway in central Florida.

Weather conditions have been perfect, with barely a cloud in the sky, although temperatures have started to climb from warm to borderline hot.

After the significant amount of action during the first three hours, things were somewhat subdued in the second three-hour segment as we head into the second half of the race.

Let’s get started with some of the highlights, follow class-by-class reports.

With about 7 hours, 42 minutes left in the race, the No. 66 Ford GTLM of Chip Ganassi Racing ran into trouble.

Dirk Mueller was behind the wheel when he was clipped on the right rear. A few moments later, the left rear tire blew out.

Somehow, the rear wing assembly also became dislodged on the right side, apparently from the initial contact, prompting Mueller to hit the pits to have the wing replaced.

The team worked on the car on pit road for close to 15 minutes before taking the car to the paddock for further repairs, or potentially retirement from the event.

On the restart, the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R in GTD spun with Christina Nielsen behind the wheel. Nielsen was able to get the car righted and resumed, running 13th in GTD and 34th overall.

Here’s how the three classes played out from the start of Hour 4 through the end of Hour 6, the halfway point of the event, which is slated to end at 10:40 p.m. ET.


Helio Castroneves checked out from the pack in the early stages of Hours 4 through 6 in the Team Penske No. 7 Acura DPI.

But by the end of the three-hour segment, Pipo Derani (No. 22 Nissan DPI) leads the pack, followed by Spencer Pigot (No. 55 Mazda DPI), Juab Pablo Montoya (No. 6 Acura DPI), Felipe Nasr (No. 31 Cadillac DPI) and Renger Van Der Zande (No. 10 Cadillac DPI).

About midway through the segment, the No. 32 Prototype of Alex Brundle spun and brought out a yellow flag when he temporarily could not get his car going.

He eventually did and rejoined the race, still in ninth among the 13 Prototypes.

The No. 10 Cadillac DPI has struggled for much of the last couple hours with water shooting out from behind the driver’s compartment, an indication that the car continues to overheat – not a good sign for the remaining six hours.

GT Le Mans (GTLM)

Connor De Phillippi in the No. 25 BMW M8 leads the GTLM class at the midway point.

Toni Vilander in the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE is second, followed by Nick Tandy (No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR), Laurens Vanthoor (No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR) and Scott Dixon (No. 67 Ford GT) in fifth place.

GT Daytona

Luca Stolz (No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3) leads, followed by Corey Lewis (No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3), Gunmar Jeannette (No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3), Katherine Legge (No. 88 Acura NSX GT3) and Mario Farnbacher (No. 93 Acura NSX GT3).

Closing in on the end of the sixth hour, Dominik Baumann in the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 had an unusual incident.

It’s unclear if he hit something or whether the hood popped up by itself, making it next to impossible for him to see.

Baumann continued on and then hit a sign on the side of the track, pushing the hood down enough where he could make it back to the pits for his team to put the hood back in place and he was back underway.


There also was a very strange incident during the second three-hour segment..

Just before the event reached the four-hour mark, an apparent wind gust lifted a small canopy used by fans over the fence and onto the run-off area by Turn 10.

The incident brought out a full-course yellow that lasted for about five minutes as track workers removed the canopy.

Also, check this out:

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