National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
November 14, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We are joined Antron Brown. I just wanted to throw out a few stats. Antron raced to six victories in 11 final rounds this year, claimed three No.1 qualifying positions behind the wheel of his Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster. He took the title when Tony Schumacher lost a close final round to Brandon Bernstein at Pomona.
With the championship, Antron becomes the first African American to win an NHRA Full Throttle series championship as well as the first to win a major auto racing championship in the United States.
Antron, we've all seen Schumacher in those situations where he brings the magic at Pomona, at the final race. What were you thinking as you were watching him win round after round?
ANTRON BROWN: Well, the thing about it is, it literally puts things in perspective for all of our team, that we did the best job we could. It was out of our control, and we know Tony and his U.S. Army team with Mike Green and Neal and all those guys, they're incredible guys. They're our teammates, and they're used to making those storybook endings, and I'm like, no, I do not want to be a part of this story. You know what I mean? I don't want to make another Cinderella story for Tony, especially after the hard work that all of our Matco Tools guys like Brian and Mark and all of our guys put in, and our car just ran phenomenal all year, and it was our championship to lose, especially after Reading. We had that big lead, over a 100‑point lead, and we were like, all right, we've just go out there and race like we've been racing and we'll be fine.
So watch Tony doing that, I just saw all those hard blood, sweat and tears just going away. It felt like we climbed Mount Everest and we got to the top and we were almost at the top, and then we're balancing on that peak, and we're like, we're going to make it, we're going to make it, and I was already ready just to fall all the way back down the mountain again and start over from scratch next year with my boys and try to do the feat again.
And then when I saw Tony went out in the final, I was just like, I can't believe it, I can't believe it's all on my boys, I saw my crew chief crying, Brian, and Mark, my wife, everybody that was around our whole team jumping up and down for joy, and I saw racers from so many different teams and other crew guys and owners all over the place. It was just an incredible experience, and it was very heartfelt.
I think the way it ended made it even more special for all of us.
THE MODERATOR: That scene at the starting line when you won, you were just mobbed; it was incredible.
ANTRON BROWN: Yes, it was, and that's one of the things that you could take with you. I think that's the way it played out where the Countdown made it very, very interesting for the fans. You couldn't draw it out any better. Trust me, our team wanted to end it in Vegas. When we come to Pomona, we just go out and have fun and it doesn't make a difference what happens, and that wasn't in the cards. I mean, Tony and Spencer, Sean Langdon and the rest of them, they put on a heck of a charge, and Tony, that shows you why he's a seven‑time world champ and why his team is that kind of championship and he won all those championships when Allen Johnson was his crew chief, also, is because he's on great teams, and Tony knows how to rise for those big moments.
I'm just glad that the big moment was for our team. It was definitely heartfelt, and I'm still in awe. Our teammates are still in awe. We're still calling each other, and we don't even realize, like is this real? Is this real? We're just still living that dream.
Q. Can you put into words what this means to you personally?
ANTRON BROWN: What this championship means is it goes way back to when I started Pro Stock bikes. You talk about being in this sport for 15 years as a professional and just working hard, keeping your head down to the grind, and I was very fortunate and blessed to be with some great, great crew chiefs, started off in bikes from being out there with my crew chief Mark Peiser, who really helped me get to where I'm at today, and then I had Steve Tartaglia on the bikes, and I went to‑‑ after I got out of the bike category, I went over with Lee Beard and had some fun with Lee and Rob Flynn and Mike Gruber and them guys over at David Powers. Then I got teamed up with Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald. It's just that whole deal where you look at where you're at right now and all the bumps and bruises and the deals where you didn't have sponsorship and you stayed out there and you fought through the struggle, then you come back out and you're competitive, then you lose the championship several times in bikes and then we lost the championship three times in Top Fuel when we were so close in the last race and we lost it.
And then last year just losing it by just being‑‑ we're there at the end and we just lost it, and to come out now as the victor, you look at all those heartfelt moments, all the finger cuts, the grind that you see all your crew guys go through, all those test sections, all the different things that you went through, and you look back and you hoist that championship trophy with all your guys, words cannot explain the feelings on how it feels.
And it's one of the best feelings I've ever had in my life, and to share it with the guys on my team is incredible because they're like a family to me.
Q. First question is what exactly happened to the car in the first round?
ANTRON BROWN: The thing that happened was it was a freak deal. We blew up Saturday night, right. We actually had a piston come apart, we blew up, and it tore up a whole bunch of stuff on the race car. So we came out there that morning with everything on it brand new, all brand new fuel lines and everything else, and when I'm mashing the gas, the car was hiked up, everything was working perfect, management fits were working perfect, and what it did was the pressure of the fuel line from the dash 12 line that goes from our fuel pump to our management deal, it actually ‑‑ the fitting, the way it's crimped on the hose, didn't hold the hose and it blew the hose out. The hose just blew out. And when the hose blew out, you're talking about 600 pounds of pressure of fuel blowing out, and it leaned the engine out, then the engine backfired, then it caused the fuel line and the fuel on fire, it was blow torching underneath my car, going into my foot pan, and it was blowing back up in the cockpit at me on my feet, blow torching my feet and all the way up to near where my crotch is in the race car.
So that's what really happened, the fuel line just blew off the car.
Q. And after losing first round like that going out that way, Mark Oswald being a former world champion, did he give you any encouragement to hang in there and you still had a shot?
ANTRON BROWN: Absolutely, me, Mark and Brian, we all got together. We just looked down and said, hey, you know what, we gave it everything that we had. We possibly couldn't give it any more, and we said what's meant to be is going to be. It was just like we were at the mercy of the race. You know what I mean? But we're all firm believers, if the good Lord made this to be, it will be, and he did make it to be. He showed us that hey, I'm going to put you here to the last run, and I'm going to see how you guys are going to handle this, and we handled it like great sports.
I went up and gave Tony a fist tap before he went down the racetrack and said, hey, man, if it's meant to be it's going to be; good luck. And he said, hey, brother, likewise to you. And we watched him run, and then it was a bittersweet moment. It's bitter because you don't like to see your teammates lose, but it was sweet because we won the world championship.
Q. I went and watched the final round up in the bleachers, and I was actually sitting in front of your kids, and you might have a lot of fans, but you don't have any bigger fans than those two.
ANTRON BROWN: You are definitely, absolutely right. I mean, my kids are so heartfelt. My daughter Arianna is incredible; she always comes back and says, why you let those guys beat you. She says, Dad, come on, Pop, you've got to get our your game. That's how she talks to me. And Adler and Anson are so emotional, and then sometimes even when I lose, Anson looks at me, and he's like, okay, it's going to be okay, Dad, just get back in that car and it's going to be all right. And my son Adler goes, Daddy ‑ he doesn't know what's going on yet ‑ Daddy, did you lose? I go, yeah, son. He goes, Daddy, don't let that happen again.
Q. After the race you said when you started out, even some of your family members doubted that you could pull this off, and there wasn't a lot of encouragement there. I'm wondering, is that because of money or was it because you are an African American in a basically white sport? What was the mindset there that you are taking on this huge challenge?
ANTRON BROWN: Well, the thing about it is that when you're looking at it, to get to be a professional and do certain things, a lot of people look at a lot of people in the industry of motorsports in general that it takes a lot of money, okay. So I don't think it makes a difference what color you are, you know what I mean, and with our NHRA sport, its heritage is very diverse, so it's never been a white sport, it's just been NHRA drag racing. You go to a drag race, you'll see all people from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds. So we never had that problem.
But the deal of it is, it's just hard in general to make it happen. To go in Pro Stock bike and keep a deal out there‑‑ you've got guys sitting on the sidelines like Tommy Johnson, Jr., Hot Rod Fuller. You've got people out there that have been running for championships, ran for high‑dollar teams that do not have jobs. Larry Dixon, a three‑time world champion, is not out there. It's just hard to be out there.
And when I'm growing up as a little kid, you have to have somebody give you a chance. Like my family comes from Sportsman racing, not from Top Fuel racing, not from Funny Car racing, not from Pro Stock car racing. But you kind of have to know people, and you have to be out there to know them to get that chance, and I think that's why it makes to hard to be a professional at anything that you do.
But when I was growing up you have family members, all right, how are you going to make that happen, how is he going to give Antron a shot. People look at me as being Antron, and their little nephew or their little cousin growing up or some of my friends or whatever it is, because you don't see a lot of people make it that came from‑‑ that just came from a normal background that hasn't been in the sport, if you get what I'm saying. You know what I mean?
Like my dad's last name was not John Force. You understand, my last name wasn't‑‑ I didn't come from Prudhomme, or my last name wasn't Amato that already paved the way for you back in the '60s because he worked so hard. I had to do that now and this time in this arena to actually make that happen.
So I think that's what you call being so difficult. It's hard to get out there.
Q. I wanted to talk when you first got into the fuel car at length and what a change it was, that's where you used the analogy it was like being in "Star Wars" or taking off or something. Now that you've reached the championship after all of this, certainly in the music business as well as several others, the saying is it's rarely a failure of talent, it's a failure of character. And for you to have come through what you have the last few years and coming so close to the championship and then down to the last couple of thousandths of a second almost losing it again this year, certainly showing strength of character, and I would assume that comes from your family, from your parents. I would also assume that that's something that I know for a fact that's what people look forward to seeing in you and the influence you're going to have some kids down the road here in the next few years just by being the champion that you are, but I was wondering about where did the character come from, where did that strength come from?
ANTRON BROWN: I think the biggest thing if it is, it was instilled in me from a kid, from my grandpa to my dad, my uncle, from my grandma, my mom. It was just a simple deal where they said, you know, Son‑‑ and my great grandma, I'll never forget, she told me something before she passed away and different stuff, and she just looked at us and told us how many things she's seen and how many things she's been through. She was born in 1913. And she goes, you know, I've seen a lot of things, and our family struggled and we've made it to this point. America is so beautiful right now, and it's got so much opportunity, and she always told all of us from our family never walk around with a chip on your shoulder. Enjoy the people that surround you and treat people the way you want to be treated genuinely, and that's the way I always took life. I never look at somebody or looked back in history to see how bad things used to be. You've got to look how things are now, and that's what we focus on.
And that's what got me here, and then when I first became a professional racing Pro Stock bikes, I think the one thing with Troy Benson when I was with him, he used to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, defensive back, he owned my Pro Stock bike team for my three years, and he showed me so many incredible things, incredible things, how to be a professional and how to carry yourself and how to have determination and how not to settle. It's okay to be defeated, but how do you come back from that defeat? You don't sit there and mope about it, you don't sit there and say what if or what about. You get back and you figure out and you go back to work and work harder so you don't let that happen again.
And that's the motto that I took with me throughout my whole professional career is where I just keep the head down, no matter what the outtake is, is that when I get set back, it actually fuels my fire even more, actually burns my passion inside even deeper where I just put my claws down and I keep on climbing, I keep on grabbing. I think that's where it really got set into me.
And I actually spent a lot of time with the U.S. Army soldiers and going through basic training for five days where I saw how a person gets transformed from thinking about‑‑ it's human nature to think about‑‑ you always think like, okay, you always think about what you can't do. You know what I mean? And when you go through that training, and what Troy has taught me, it's like, okay, you can do it, you've just got to figure out how to do it, and that's by surrounding yourself with the right people. And when I learned that kind of mindset, it helped turn me to the kind of person I am today, and it actually helped me get to the level I am at today.
Q. You're pretty young to have a bucket list, but I'm thinking that by the time you get to be an old man, you're not going to have anything to go on your bucket list; you'll really be reaching. Have you ever thought about that?
ANTRON BROWN: I can always count on you out of the box, Big Daddy. That's why I love you. You are absolutely, positively right. I would definitely be reaching, from skydiving to bungee jumping to racing motocross as a kid to drag racing Pro Stock bikes to racing in Top Fuel, and to eclipse and fulfill a dream like our whole team has, to win a world championship, I'm enjoying life and I'm very blessed because the most important thing, of course, first is God and then I'm very blessed with my family. My family is just incredible, from my wife to my kids. I mean, I'm a very fortunate and blessed man. I don't know what else that a man could ask for. I don't know what else I could reach for.
I just don't know.
Maybe if I sit on the couch and my wife feeds me grapes, that might be the next thing on the bucket list. Maybe if I sat on the couch and my wife could feed me some grapes while I watch a movie, that might be the final thing I could reach for on my bucket list.
Q. Is there anything that you probably thought about, hey, I'd like to give that a try, that nobody even thinks about? For instance, mine is to drive a railroad train. Is there anything like that that you've ever thought about?
ANTRON BROWN: It's crazy because I always wanted to fly a jet fighter plane, and I actually got to do that a couple years ago with the Thunderbirds in Vegas. They took me up and they actually let me have the stick for a little bit, so I got to do that.
You know what, I think one thing on my bucket list I always would like to do is I always wanted to drive an F1 car, just to drive it, not to race in the series, but to drive an F1 car. I think that'll be pretty, pretty awesome.
I don't know what else I would want to do. That's pretty much the last thing on my bucket list that I really would love to do.
Q. What have you done to celebrate so far, and do you have any plans for the off‑season to celebrate your championship?
ANTRON BROWN: The thing about it, I know that when we get back to Indy, first our plans on the off‑season is to get back to work. We have a brand new car that's getting finished up. We have an enclosed cockpit that we're bringing out, and we're going to be like Tony's car. So we've got that in the rack to get done, and then we've got to rebuild the car that we just burned up, of course, and put a new front half on that, also, the guys do.
And then when we get back I think December 1st in Brownsburg, we're going to be in the parade, and we're actually going to have a float and we're going to put our Top Fuel dragster on the float and participate in the parade downtown.
And then besides that it's just going to be enjoying staying home and trying to get back in the gym and hit it hard and be at the racetrack helping the boys out, and then actually going to spend Christmas at home, not going nowhere, and enjoy just being settled at home. I think that's going to be the most enjoyable thing is going to be that week, and then after that we're back into it because the second week in January we'll be down in West Palm testing, back hitting it hard, and then we'll have a week break when we come back from that and then we'll be at Pomona again. It's going to be a short‑lived off‑season so I want to try to take it as slow as possible just to try to let this NHRA championship sink in.
THE MODERATOR: We want to thank you for calling in today, our 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Series Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown. Best of luck to you during the off‑season. Hope you get a lot of rest, and we'll look forward to seeing you back out there next year with the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
ANTRON BROWN: Thank you so much. I can't wait to go out there for that Mello Yello drag racing deal so we can go on yellow, baby. I can't wait. It's going to be a lot of fun. Thank you so much for all your questions, and thank you again for a great year and for what you guys and girls do for us out there.
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