Antron Brown is a three-time NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world championship after securing the title Sunday at the NHRA Toyota Nationals.
Brown outlasted his two closest chasers, Doug Kalitta, who lost in the quarterfinal round to Steve Torrence, and Shawn Langdon, who fell in the first round to J.R. Todd, to capture the season crown.
In other drag racing, John Force in Funny Car, Steve Torrence in Top Fuel, Shane Gray in Pro Stock, and Jerry Savoie in Pro Stock Motorcycle were event winners at the 23rd of 24 scheduled races for NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. The final race of the year will take place in Pomona, CA November 10-13.
In Top Fuel, Brown is celebrating his second consecutive world championship. He also clinched the title at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to win in 2015. His first championship came in 2012. It is the first time in seven years that a Top Fuel champion has won back-to-back titles.
“Brian (Corradi) and Mark (Oswald) and our entire team has worked so hard and I’m just privileged to drive that racecar for Don Schumacher Racing because Don makes it all happen,” Brown said. “When you come to a sport with all this access, it makes dreams like mine—a kid from New Jersey—come true. My dad, uncle—everybody, they instilled it in me at a young age: work hard and you can make great things happen.”
Brown took the Top Fuel points lead at the Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, IL on July 10 and never relinquished the top spot. During the famed West Coast Swing, he made a final round appearance at Denver and raced to his fourth win in Seattle. His success continued during the Countdown to the Championship, piloting his dragster to three victories in the first four races.
John Force Defeats Daughter Courtney for 147th Career Win; Torrence, Gray & Savoie Also Win in Las Vegas
John Force powered his Chevy Camaro to a 3.884-second pass at 327.19 miles per hour to defeat daughter Courtney Force who raced a 3.906 at 325.85 in her Traxxas Chevy Camaro. It is John’s 147th career victory, fourth of the season, and sixth at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I’m really excited,” said Force, a sixteen-time world champion and the winningest driver in NHRA history. “I mean, I never like beating my daughter. We got two wins in the Countdown just a little bit late. It’s pretty exciting when I see the stands packed. The way NHRA and the way our TV deal has really been hopping, sold-out crowds, and so many things going on. To be a part of it still at my age is really awesome.”
It was the fifth time father and daughter had faced each other in the finals, the most recent being in Denver, a race John also won. He defeated John Bojec, Chad Head, and Matt Hagan in the earlier rounds on his way to victory. With the semifinal finish, Hagan moves to second in the points, 86 behind Ron Capps who fell to Courtney in the semifinals.
In Top Fuel, Torrence piloted his dragster to a 3.734 pass at 323.81 to defeat J.R. Todd’s 3.762 at 321.96 in the final. It is Torrence’s third win of the season, eighth of his career, and first in Las Vegas.
“It’s been a good weekend altogether,” Torrence said. “We kind of struggled the first few races of the countdown and dropped the ball. I mean heck we had to turn it on and come up here and try to do some good. The Capco guys have really stayed focus and stayed driven and done what it took to overcome just some bad luck and a couple screw ups on my part. We have a really good team. We have a championship-caliber team, I believe.”
Torrence defeated Richie Crampton, Doug Kalitta, and Leah Pritchett to get to the finals while Todd faced Shawn Langdon, #1 qualifier Clay Millican, and 2016 champion Brown in the earlier rounds.
In Pro Stock, Shane Gray raced his Chevy Camaro to a 6.719 pass at 204.76 to defeat teammate Drew Skillman for his first win of the season, fifth of his career, and first at The Strip.
“It was a great weekend,” Gray said. “It was a really good weekend for me. We were talking out there. I think I’ve been in nine semis this year and I haven’t won since the U.S. Nationals in 2014. It was a great day. I’ve got one more race to run and then my son is getting in the car so I can’t think of a better time to win. Awesome day.”
Gray had victories against Deric Kramer, Bo Butner, and Greg Anderson before reaching his first final round of the season. His win moves him into third in points. Jason Line and Anderson remain in the first and second spots, respectively, with both falling in the semifinals.
Alligator farmer Jerry Savoie rode his Suzuki to a 6.915 at 194.13 to defeat Andrew Hines in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final round for his second win of the season, sixth of his career, and first in Vegas.
“To do what we did here, we’ve been working hard,” Savoie said. “Tim (Kulungian) went back to the shop and looked at a bunch of notes, and got on a dyno and an engine we had back home and did some work. It’s like football and anything else—the harder you work, the better you get. It all came together this weekend. Number-one qualifier every round, and we got a fast motorcycle. It’s going to be very, very interesting when we get to Pomona.”
Savoie defeated Scott Pollacheck, LE Tonglet, and Matt Smith in the early rounds and is now three points behind Harley-Davidson teammates Hines and Eddie Krawiec who are tied for the points lead.
NHRA Pro Stock Point Standings
1. Jason Line 2,532 2. Greg Anderson 2,513 3. Shane Gray 2,438 4. Vincent Nobile 2,394 5. Drew Skillman 2,371
NHRA Funny Car Point Standings
1. Ron Capps 2,546 2. Matt Hagan 2,460 3. Tommy Johnson Jr. 2,433 4. Jack Beckman 2,395 5. John Force 2,387
NHRA Top Fuel Point Standings
1. Antron Brown 2,581 2. Steve Torrence 2,424 3. Doug Kalitta 2,413 4. Brittany Force 2,366 5. Shawn Langdon 2,365
NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Point Standings
1. Eddie Krawiec 2,509 Andrew Hines 2,509 3. Jerry Savoie 2,506 4. Angelle Sampey 2,399 5. Chip Ellis 2,359