Top Fuel champ Antron Brown revels in role as his kid’s crew chief


Antron Brown is a two-time NHRA Top Fuel champ, including capturing last year’s title. He revels in the success he’s enjoyed in racing.

But when he’s away from the hustle and bustle of the 24-race NHRA national event tour, Brown revels in the time he spends watching his own kids, young sons Anson and Adler and daughter Arianna, compete in Junior Dragsters — scaled down versions of the kind of Top Fuel dragster dear old dad drives.

But that’s with a unique twist: instead of climbing in a race car, Brown serves as crew chief for his kids’ driving exploits behind the wheel of Junior Dragsters.

“My kids love it,” Brown told “My middle son, Anson, is the one that started the whole family into Junior Dragster racing.

“He loves every aspect of it. He breaks it down like a science. He’s a true student of the sport. He watches it on TV and in-person, plays all the different apps and drag racing and door slammer games on his phone and iPad. He also just loves to come out to the track with me.

“I’m also his crew chief on the drag racing games. He comes up to me and says, ‘Dad, make my stuff go faster, what have I got to do?’”

Most Wednesday evenings during the summer, Brown and family can be found at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis – just a stone’s throw from their home – racing their Junior Dragsters against all comers.

“We go out every Wednesday night for test and tune and have a blast,” Brown said. “The cool part is I’m a one-man show. I try to get in there a little earlier than everyone else, set up and so once it starts, we can hit the track and get as many laps as we can get.

“LOR has always been a Junior Dragster-friendly track. That’s what it takes, the Junior Dragster kids are the future of our sport. The kids are growing our sport, we’re getting them involved and start them early.

“I have a blast with my kids in teaching them about mechanics as well as great life lessons. That’s the main thing, is the life lessons they’ve learned: the agony of defeat and the triumph of winning. They learn that the work they put in is what they get out. Nothing just doesn’t happen; they have to work hard. It’s great life lessons, it’s a joy to do it with them and see them go through it.”


And two weekends ago, with the NHRA off, Brown and family went “on vacation” to – you guessed it – drag race at National Trail Raceway just east of Columbus, Ohio.

“Going with (Anson) to National Trail and spending time with my youngest son (Adler) and Arianna, our oldest daughter, it’s a real family deal,” Brown said. “As long as we’re together, we’re having fun.

“There’s nothing like being out there at the Midwest Junior Super Series, which is the series we race. It’s like the national series for Junior Dragster. It’s a lot of fun.”

Brown has spent the last two-plus decades as a drag racer, first in Pro Stock Motorcycle and then in Top Fuel. His kids are still relatively young, and competing with them in Junior Dragster competition helps make up for some of the long NHRA race weekends that he’s away doing his job.

“You know what the coolest part of racing with your kids is?” Brown asked. “It’s when you’re helping out or working with them, it reminds you of the stuff you forgot to tell yourself or what you forget to do.

“When I’m out there with all my kids racing, it’s just one of those cool, beautiful things. My son just turned 12 and came to me a couple weeks prior back and he said, ‘Dad, you know what, I want to apologize.’

“I asked him what he had to apologize for and he said, ‘You remember all those things you tried to teach me when I was young and I wasn’t listening? I understand now what you were trying to teach me or when you pushed me.’

“When he told me that, it was like a soft spot came out of my heart and it’s like he’s got it, he gets it. And now, before me telling him about something, he’s asking me about advice and going out and applying it to whatever he does, from racing to baseball, to soccer and basketball to life. I can see him growing from a young boy into a young man.”

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NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing

As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”


James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”