Gateway Motorsports Park fan favorite Antron Brown will be shooting for his fourth straight Top Fuel title when he returns to the metro-east this weekend for the fourth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals in Madison.
Brown is not only the Top Fuel points leader, he’s coming off a win last week in a historic Top Fuel final at the Carolina Nationals, when he and J.R. Todd became the sport’s first African-Americans to square off in a final round.
Todd was the first African-American driver to win a race in the Mello Yello Series in 2006, paving the way for Brown’s 2012 Top Fuel championship.
“Even though we’ve been winning races, we’ve been growing and getting better and better,” said Brown, whose trip to the metro-east isn’t too far since he’s based in Indiana. “When you’re able to be quick and fast and can put consistency behind it, that’s when all the round wins come together like we’ve been having.
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“There’s no more second-guessing with the (crew) thinking about what they’re doing or how they’re going to respond,” said Brown, who has a nine-point lead over Don Schumacher Racing teammate and reigning world champ Tony Schumacher. “All the small mistakes are out the window now, where it’s more of a well-run sewing machine, making that same stitch every time. When we make changes, we’re seeing it down the race track.”
Area fans will be watching Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Motorcycle divisions and treated to cars flying down the drag strip at speeds of more than 300 mph. The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series will also compete this weekend.
The three-day event kicks off Friday and parking gates open at 6:30 a.m. with gates open at 7:30 a.m. and racing at 8:30 a.m. The competition continues at 8 a.m. Saturday, followed by the finale that begins at 10 a.m. Sunday.
The first Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions are set for 2:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. Friday.
Brown has four overall wins at Gateway, including 2009.
The season is winding down as this is the 20th of 24 stops on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and second of six races in the Countdown to the Championship.
Springfield-based driver Tim Wilkerson always has a huge cheering section (Wilk’s Warriors) to make him welcome at what has become a home track for the Levi, Ray & Shoup Funny Car driver.
“At Gateway, we’re just fortunate to have so many fans of our team who all come to the track decked out in their Team Wilkerson stuff, and they come to our pit to cheer for us like it means as much to them as beating the Cubs means to a Cardinals fan,” Wilkerson said. “They’re really passionate, and honestly it’s just an honor to try to do some good for them.”
Wilkerson is coming off a first-round loss at Charlotte, dropping him to ninth place in the point standings.
Gateway’s 2014 winners were Brown in Top Fuel, Courtney Force in Funny Cars, Dave Connolly in Pro Stock and Jerry Savoie in Pro Stock Motorcyles.
The win was the first at Gateway for Force, whose famous racing family includes father John Force, sister Brittany Force and brother-in-law Robert Hight.
Del Worsham is theFunny Car points leader, but is only six points ahead of Tommy Johnson and 34 up on Jack Beckman.
Erica Enders is a constant threat to win in Pro Stock and has seven wins this season. She also has an 83-point lead over Greg Anderson. Andrew Hines, Eddie Krawiec and Savoie are battling it out in Pro Stock Motorcycles.
Fourth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals
WHAT: 20th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Categories include Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, plus other racing divisions.
WHERE: Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday
TICKETS: call Gateway Motorsports Park at (855) RACE-TIK (722-3845), visit gatewaymsp.com or the box office.
FRIDAY SCHEDULE: Lucas Oil Series qualifying; NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series qualifying at 2:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.; Mello Yello Series qualifying at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m.
SATURDAY SCHEDULE: Lucas Oil Series eliminations; NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series qualifying at 1 p.m.; first round of eliminations at 3:45 p.m.; Mello Yello Series qualifying at 1:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.
SUNDAY SCHEDULE: Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.; Mello Yello Series eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
TV: Saturday TBA on ESPN2; Sunday 7 p.m. ESPN2
2014 WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Courtney Force, Funny Car; Dave Connolly, Pro Stock; Jerry Savoie, Pro Stock Motorcycle.