Matco Tools is excited to announce that its NHRA Top Fuel driver, Antron Brown, has won the 2012 NHRA Top Fuel title. This makes Brown the first African American to win a championship in any NHRA pro series in the sport’s 61-year history.
“I never sat back and thought about it, but if I can be an inspiration for other kids out there – not just African-Americans, just Americans period – give them somebody they can look up to that’s positive and never settled in life for things that people told them they may not ever achieve,” Brown said. “Even some of my own family members told me that I could never be a professional racer. I even doubted myself that I would someday be a Top Fuel or Funny Car racer, because it just seemed to be so far out of reach.”
Matco Tools has been a sponsor of Antron Brown since 2003 when he rode Pro Stock Motorcycles. In 2008, Brown moved to Top Fuel and Matco Tools became his primary sponsor.
“I’m just beside myself right now. I feel so blessed to be in this moment,” Brown said. “I’m just glad we could bring this championship to Don Schumacher Racing and Matco Tools. It feels incredible right now.”
Brown and his Matco Tools team wrapped it up Sunday at Auto Club Raceway, but they needed help to achieve the milestone.
If one fiery explosion on Saturday night’s final qualifying session wasn’t enough to deal with, a broken fuel line on Brown’s first run Sunday in eliminations ended his day and a fuel fire nipped at his legs and hands before he could get out of the cockpit.
The fire caused minor burns to his palms, and he watched the rest of the racing with bandaged hands. More painful, was watching his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher trying to complete another miraculous comeback at Pomona to win his eighth Top Fuel world championship.
After the 21st of 23 NHRA Full Throttle events, Brown led Schumacher by 136 but his U.S. Army teammate cut the lead to 67 points before eliminations began Sunday. The only way Schumacher could pass Brown would be to win his third event title of the year.
Schumacher couldn’t have come closer advancing to the championship round. But, his 3.753-second run at 325.53 mph wasn’t enough to catch Brandon Bernstein’s slower run at 3.762 (320.81) because Bernstein had a slight edge leaving the starting line.
“It’s tough to go through something like we did today and know there’s nothing you can do. I felt like a kid back in elementary school when it seemed like days were 30 hours instead of 24 hours,” said Brown. “I would have rather it been where we were 20 points apart and Tony and I could race for it in the final. Instead of depending on someone else, you want to race for it.”
“We couldn’t be prouder to be associated with any driver or any team,” said John Green, vice president of marketing at Matco Tools. “Antron is an outstanding driver and he’s also the highest caliber of individual. Matco Tools is thrilled to be connected to this ground-breaking moment in history.”
Brown promised the crowd that the burns wouldn’t stop him from hoisting the championship trophy. At the end of the night he kept his word and removed the bandages because he didn’t want his hands wrapped in winner’s circle photos that will live on forever.
Soon those pictures will be displayed in the NHRA Museum as a tribute to Brown’s contribution to drag racing history.