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

(Photos courtesy NHRA)
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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)

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AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”