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Meyer Shank Racing names pair of 2019 IMSA champions to driver lineup in 2020

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Matt McMurry, who won the LMP2 championship in IMSA in 2019, will join Meyer Shank Racing’s GTP championship squad in 2020. There were only two full-season entries in LMP2 this past season, but McMurry gives team owners Mike Shank and Jim Meyer two reigning championship drivers in the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 EVO for the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

McMurray joins championship driver Mario Farnbacher in that car. Farnbacher and Trent Hindman won the GTD championship this past season.

“I’m really happy with the lineup that we have in the 86 Acura for next year and am looking forward to building on what we accomplished this season,” team owner Shank said. “Mario has done a stellar job and he has been a big asset to this team and getting the championship. Having Matthew come back onboard is also very exciting. He’s had plenty of seat time in the NSX over in Europe this year and he should be able to find his feet quickly over here.

“As always it’s an honor to continue our work with Acura Motorsports and HPD. It’s going on four years now and they have been great to work with and we hope that we can continue to deliver results for them next year.”

Farnbacher returns to defend his GTD title, the team’s first Sports Car championship after it began IMSA Sports Car racing in 2004.

Farnbacher will rejoin the Ohio-based team for the third straight season. Farnbacher’s first year at MSR (2018) saw him take on endurance duties in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3. The German ace was also recruited to make two starts in the team’s sister No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 at Detroit and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca which saw him, and Katherine Legge respectively take a victory and third place finish.

Farnbacher’s role expanded in 2019 with a full season drive alongside Trent Hindman. The pair won the Sahlen’s Six Hours of Watkins Glen and claimed four additional podium finishes on the way to clinching the IMSA GTD Team and Driver Championships at the season finale Motul Petit Le Mans. The Championship was the first full season professional championship victory for Meyer Shank Racing and Farnbacher.

“I’m excited to be back with the Meyer Shank Racing guys next year,” Farnbacher said. “We had a great 2019 season and we will head into 2020 with the same goal. I’m looking forward to working with Matthew, I know he drove the Acura NSX GT3 EVO in Europe in the Blancpain Endurance series, so he has experience with the car. I have raced against him and know him from the paddock and I’m looking forward to getting to work with him. As always with a new driver pairing, we will have to get to know each other a little bit better since we have never driven together but hopefully, we can do that during some testing which will start soon.”

McMurry is the newcomer and even though he only had to beat one other car to win the LMP2 championship, a title is a title and he won that title.

McMurry was the youngest driver to start and finish the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans at just 16 years old, McMurry had two Prototype starts with MSR in 2015 at Daytona and the Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

McMurry’s talent expands across the sports car racing field, competing in everything from Prototypes, to Prototype Challenge machines, to GT cars. The 2019 season saw McMurry claim six wins in IMSA LPM2 competition on the way to winning the LMP2 championship. In addition to competing stateside, McMurry drove an Acura NSX GT3 EVO in the European Blancpain Endurance series in 2019 with race outings at Circuit de Barcelona, 24 Hours of Spa, Circuit Paul Ricard, Silverstone and Monza.

McMurry’s work with HPD extends beyond the competition on track, having just completed a successful 10-week engineering internship with HPD.

“It’s an honor to be selected to join the Meyer Shank Racing team again,” McMurry said. “I can’t imagine a better place to be for the 2020 IMSA season than in an Acura NSX GT3 EVO at MSR. It’s a perfect fit coming from a great run in the NSX in the Blancpain Endurance Championship, a successful internship at Honda Performance Development, and an IMSA LMP2 championship. I’m excited to be driving with Mario this year too, he’s a great guy and I think we’ll make a good team. It’s not often you get two IMSA champions in one car! The Roar Before the 24 is quickly approaching and I couldn’t be more excited.”

The 2020 IMSA season will be the fourth consecutive season of IMSA competition for MSR and Acura Motorsports. Having transitioned from the Prototype class in 2017, MSR has fostered the progress of the Acura NSX GT3 to earn five wins, five pole positions,12 podium finishes and two championship titles with Acura, Acura Motorsports and HPD.

Meyer Shank Racing continues to finalize plans for the 2020 season for the team’s IMSA and IndyCar Series programs and will have additional updates in the coming weeks.

NHRA: Antron Brown takes major step toward team ownership

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There will come a day that when three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown wants to talk to his boss, he’ll need to look no further than in the mirror.

The New Jersey native announced Tuesday that he has begun to lay the groundwork to own his Top Fuel team, eventually branching out from Don Schumacher Racing.

“It’s definitely exciting, but at the same time, it’s also nerve-wracking because the buck stops here right now,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Now the coolest part is you get to help and drive and motivate and push the team forward, to make decisions and leave a legacy behind for my family.”

Brown will continue racing for DSR this season while beginning the transition to eventual sole ownership of the new AB Motorsports in the future. Even when he officially leaves the DSR camp as a hired driver, Brown and his new team will retain a technical partnership with the Schumacher organization.

Moving toward team ownership is just a natural evolution for Brown, who previously ran his own Pro Stock Motorcycle team from 1998 until joining DSR in 2002. It’s also a move that potentially may lead other current drivers to start thinking about their own futures.

It’s no secret that many of the biggest names in drag racing – both drivers and owners – are getting up in years. John Force will soon turn 72, while Schumacher is 75. They’re among several others in the sport who are making contingency plans for their teams to continue to operate once they’re gone – and Brown wants to do his part to help the sport grow and flourish.

“When you’re able to have ownership, you’re looking at the talent coming up,” Brown said. “You’re able to reach down and see and give other people opportunities that you had. When I came to race for Don Schumacher at DSR, he’s given all these people at his place this opportunity to drive.

“But what happens when the Don Schumachers, the John Forces, the Connie Kalittas go? You lose all the owners of our series, so who’s next in line to take over that lineage or carry that torch? It’s a necessary means for the future for the upcoming people.

Antron Brown’s plans to become a team owner were embraced by his current team owner, Don Schumacher. (Getty Images)

“I’ve been in this sport for over 20 years. This is the next evolution of my chapter, the next page of my book. What am I going to do when I decide to hang the helmet up one day? I want to be there to bring that new crop of drivers and talent up and help mold them to be the best version of themselves to carry the sport forward and to share with them what was shared with me over all my years in the sport, from Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Big Daddy Don Garlits, Mark Oswald and Don “Snake” Prudhomme, all the people I looked up to.”

While Brown will start as a single-car team once he transitions to ownership, he hopes to eventually build AB Motorsports into at least a two-car operation, with his Top Fuel dragster and a Funny Car.

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The path to eventual ownership began nearly a year ago when Brown and Schumacher discussed the future.

“Me and Don had a heart-to-heart talk,” Brown said. “When I told him what I wanted to do, Don said, ‘Antron, I know this is what you want to do. I’ll support you in this.’

“That’s a cool experience when you have a gentleman that has done everything in this sport, from over 350 national event wins, 17 world championships – and I’ve done three with him – and is in every motorsports hall of fame there is.

“What is he going to do next? He’s making the sport better by pushing people like myself to do what I’m doing now. No matter how long it takes, I know I have him on my backside, pushing me to get to that point.”

Like father, like son: Antron Brown and son Anson, who is following in his father’s drag racing footsteps. Photo: Antron Brown’s official Facebook page.

His family’s future also figured into Brown’s decision. His oldest son, Anson, soon turns 16 years old and is heavily involved in NHRA’s Jr. Dragster program, as are Brown’s other children. It’s likely his son some day will follow in his father’s footsteps.

But don’t think that the elder Brown, who turns 44 in March, is ready to hang up his firesuit just yet.

“I’ll stop driving when I feel I’m not capable to drive no more and I’m not having fun no more,” he said. “That’s nowhere in the near future. I know I’m going to drive for at least another 15 years.”

Heading into this season, Brown will retain current sponsorship from Mac Tools and Toyota, as well as associate sponsorship from Hangsterfer’s on his 11,000-horsepower dragster. Global Electronic Technology also has signed on as a new associate sponsor in a multiyear deal.

“It’s no secret this has been a goal of Antron’s for a while now, and I’m happy to be able to provide the tools and resources needed for him to be able to successfully branch out on his own,” Schumacher said in a team media release. “It’s important for me to see my team members grow.”

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Brown burst upon the NHRA scene atop a Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998, earning 16 wins over the next 10 seasons. He joined DSR in 2002 and made the switch to Top Fuel in 2008.

Since then, Brown – who now resides in suburban Indianapolis – has gone on to become one of the winningest drivers in Top Fuel history with 50 national event victories, as well as three championships between 2012 and 2015.

That performance recently earned him AutoWeek magazine’s Top Fuel Driver of the Decade.

Brown also announced Tuesday he is reuniting with former crew chief Brian Corradi, who returns to the team after spending the last two seasons as co-crew chief for 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. Corradi will share crew chief duties for Brown with NHRA veteran Mark Oswald.

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When he won his first title in 2012, Brown became the first African-American world champion in Top Fuel history. He hopes his move to ownership will continue to grow NHRA’s already significant focus on opportunities for minorities and females in the sport.

“I think it’s important across all spectrums, period,” Brown said. “I think a lot of fans see me, and they can relate to me because I am them. I came from a good, hard-working family in Chesterfield, New Jersey, which is right next door to Trenton.

“Everybody in my family from my great uncles to my grandpop made their own way, had their own businesses, from swimming pool to paving to septic tank businesses.

“One thing my grandpop said to me is the world is wide open. He said, ‘Son, you can have anything you want in this world, as long as you put the effort and put the work towards it.’ If people can resonate with my story from where I came from and where I’m heading, I hope it gives them this energy, this ray of hope that ‘if Antron Brown can do this, so can I.’

“That’s the only way for motorsports to grow. It’s for the young ones to get interested in it and I want them to know the opportunity is there. All they have to do is take it.”

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Brown will be among more than 30 Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers who will take part in this weekend’s annual preseason “spring training” test at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in preparation for the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals Feb. 6-9 in Pomona, California.

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