(Photos courtesy NHRA)

NHRA: Antron Brown continues to hit stride with New Hampshire victory

1 Comment

There was no stopping two-time and defending NHRA Top Fuel champ Antron Brown in Monday’s victory in the NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, New Hampshire.  That included beating two of his teammates along the way in the four rounds of eliminations.

After enjoying a first-round bye because he was the No. 1 qualifier, Brown defeated Don Schumacher Racing teammates Shawn Langdon in the second round and Tony Schumacher in the semifinal (the furthest the eight-time champion has gotten thus far this season), before getting past Steve Torrence in the final round to win the event. Brown now joins Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force as the only multiple winners thus far in 2016.

“It feels good,” Brown said in a media release. “We’ve been to a couple of other finals this year that we feel like we should’ve won.

antron brown NH win vertical 2016
Antron Brown celebrates after winning Monday’s Top Fuel segment in Epping, New Hampshire.

“This was a great race weekend. We’re still learning some different things on the car and we are growing. The car is showing us great signs of being a phenomenal racecar thanks to the work my guys led by (co-crew chiefs) Brian (Corradi) and Mark (Oswald) are putting in.

“We’re reaping the benefits. We had a couple of rounds today that went our way and it felt good to be able to capitalize on that in the final round.”

Ironically, Brown advanced past Langdon and Schumacher when both drivers uncharacteristically jumped the starting line before the green “go” light appeared.

“When you are amped up knowing how important having good lights are, you’ve got to push it,” Schumacher said. “I’d rather stand here and be disappointed that we got beat by trying too hard than to get beat on a holeshot and be saying we should have pushed a little harder.”

Brown is now just 46 points behind Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta heading into Brown’s home track in Englishtown, New Jersey for this weekend’s NHRA Summer Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. It will be the 10th race in the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Brown is the defending winner at Englishtown, where he captured his 50th career win of his overall NHRA career, first as a Pro Stock Motorcycle rider and then Top Fuel pilot. Since then, he’s gone on to win the 2015 Top Fuel championship and six other races (including his wins thus far in 2016).

And he comes into his home track on a big roll of late, having reached at least the semifinals, if not the final round, in each of the last six races.

“You don’t get more confident, you just have a little momentum where we’ve been going rounds,” Brown said. “We’ve been going a lot of rounds these last four to five races where we’re starting to get into that groove.

“You have to have some luck go your way, and you can set yourself up for luck by the way you qualify. With that being said, you have to take it while you can get it. This sport is the most humbling sport. We keep our head down and we give it all we got every single weekend.

“You always want more race wins and that’s what we are striving for. The competition right now is just ridiculous. It’s at an all-time high. There’s so many great teams that can come out here and set world records.

“To defend our title, we have to push ourselves to another limit. That’s what we’ve been working on, to be better than what we were last year. We just have to take it one round at a time and give it all that we’ve got each time.”

Here are the updated Top Fuel standings after New Hampshire:

  1. Doug Kalitta (785 points)
  2. Antron Brown (739 points, -46)
  3. Steve Torrence (658, -127)
  4. Brittany Force (623, -162)
  5. Tony Schumacher (483, -302)
  6. Clay Millican (475, -310)
  7. J.R. Todd (473, -312)
  8. Richie Crampton (450, -335)
  9. Shawn Langdon (399, -386)
  10. Leah Pritchett (360, -425)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

Leave a comment

Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).