National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
July 10, 2013
SCOTT SMITH: Next up we do have Antron Brown. Thank you for joining us this afternoon.
ANTRON BROWN: Anytime. Thanks for inviting me.
SCOTT SMITH: Antron has two wins this season and one number one qualifying position. He's led the points so far this year, earlier this season. The flipside, he's had five first-round losses in the last six events.
Antron, how much of a rollercoaster season has this been for you and your guys?
ANTRON BROWN: It's been one of those deals where we've just been fixing issues, different problems, different gremlins biting us. I guess from running so many laps that we do from the previous years and testing, we're finally seeing some other things we've been working on biting us. The luck has been going the other way this year.
We've just been attacking it with a lot of hard work, keeping our head down. We're not going to quit.
We saw some light at Chicago, which was two races ago, where we made it to the semifinals. The last race we went out and we went through all the rounds in qualifying. Definitely at the turning point. Lost a close first-round match-up against alBalooshi.
The Western Swing coming up with the three races in a row has always been real good to us. We go out to Denver, do well. Sonoma, we win a lot. We pulled off a Swing back in '09 in Seattle.
Our idea is to get out to the Western Swing and turn everything around and be ready for the Countdown, and hopefully we can use this Western Swing to get back on the positive side of things.
SCOTT SMITH: Thank you very much, Antron. He is correct in saying he did take the Western Swing in 2009. Doing so, is the most recent racer to do that.
We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Mr. Force said winning the first one is tough. Winning the next one is really tough. Talk a little bit about repeating the championship.
ANTRON BROWN: Well, it's going to be really, really tough. As you can see, our class just gets stronger and stronger each and every year. It's a dogfight just to be in the top 10, to make the Countdown. I guarantee you, we have anywhere between 14 and 16 cars on any given Sunday that can win a race in Top Fuel. Everybody is cutting great lights, putting a consistent package together.
With that being said, coming off last year from winning the championship, trust me, nobody is cutting our Matco Tools car any slack. We just got to step up and we have to be better than what we've been. I know Brian and Mark, our whole team and crew, we're putting our heads down. We've been taking all the bumps and bruises, and we can feel that turn is coming up where we have to have that kind of turn come up. If not, our main goal is to focus and to contend for another championship. It's definitely going to be 10 times harder than it was last time because everybody is throwing their best shot at us.
Q. I asked John Force as an owner of a Top Fuel car, the subject is the canopies on Top Fuel cars, only because it's the most visible addition to driver safety. Everybody sees the canopy. Especially you and Tony, you've been through some rather tough moments with canopies on your car. Do you love this thing or does it get in your way?
ANTRON BROWN: Let me tell you something. That's not even a question anymore. If any car I ever drive, the decision is all up to me, that's all I would ever drive from now on. It's definitely a lifesaver. It's just like anything else, we're racing racecars that go over 330 miles an hour. Funny Car has been fully enclosed for a while. Big Daddy came out with a fully enclosed cockpit years ago. It kind of went back to would you rather be in a convertible or a hardtop?
After my accident in Pomona, it raised some eyebrows. I guarantee you by the end of next year, they'll build other cars where they'll transfer over to it. DSR and John Force Racing, Brittany being in one. We're all about safety, going fast, contending for championships, but we want to do it in a safe way and walk away and see our families Monday after a Sunday race.
I was very blessed and able to do that, what happened to me after Pomona. I definitely love the canopy.
Q. Could you explain the differences between the next three tracks that are coming up. What is it that made it possible for you to win all three in a row four to five years ago?
ANTRON BROWN: We came real close to doing that in 2011 again, or was that last year? It might have been last year. No, maybe 2011.
The thing about it is, all three tracks are different. There's nothing alike about them. When you go to Denver, Denver is all by itself. It's the only racetrack we race at a high altitude where it's hard for our nitro cars to make power. You're using 30% of your power at Denver. That makes it tough on the crew chiefs. You have less oxygen, so you can't burn as much fuel, have to cut the fuel back. You cut the fuel back, you have less power. It can get hot up there. When it gets hot up there, it makes it even worse.
Then you go from a place where you can't make power, to Sonoma, you're at sea level, back to making killer power because you're at sea level, and it also gets cool out there because you're by the ocean. You have make good power, have nighttime qualifying at Sonoma where you can get close to setting the ET record, run some mid to low 70s on Friday night.
Then you leave Sonoma where you have great conditions, you go up to Seattle, you're still close to sea level up there. But Seattle gets hot that time of year, it gets humid, muggy. You're not halfway in between them, but you come to a racetrack where you're racing almost like at a, I would say, a Bristol, Tennessee, or something like that, where you get decent air, good air, but then it gets muggy.
So you have three different environments. What makes it even more taxing is that our crew guys are driving from track to track, out there working. It's like a marathon of races where you have to maintain, not to be worn out and try to stay upbeat, keep your mind right and focus while you're being tired and trying to get the job done because it's back-to-back.
That's what makes the Western Swing so grueling, all the climate changes, then the car for the crew chiefs to tune them, then for all your crew members, the drivers and the crew chiefs, what they go through mind and body set of all the atmosphere conditions, too. Then trying to put all that together and maintain focused and do your job on Sunday and get those round wins.
It makes it taxing and grueling to win the Western Swing, almost impossible. Yet we were able to get it done back in '09.
Q. Did you have any major adjustments after you ran some laps there in the Virginia area in a stockcar versus a dragster?
ANTRON BROWN: Adjustments?
Q. Did you have to adjust when you got back into your Top Fuel car?
ANTRON BROWN: No. Me driving a Top Fuel car is like a duck going back into water again. Doesn't make a difference. It's a part of me. I mean, I'm a drag racer. This is what I do week in and week out. Getting back in my Top Fuel car was like me being back at home again. There was no adjustment at all, trust me.
SCOTT SMITH: Antron did win Denver and Sonoma last year back-to-back, then lost in the second round to Shawn Langdon at Seattle.
We'll continue with questions.
Q. I know you're getting ready for the Western Swing. I notice you started to climb in behind different steering wheels. I know NHRA is near and dear to your heart. Have you been on a motorcycle since you went Top Fuel? Are you looking at other forms of motorsports?
ANTRON BROWN: Yeah, I mean, I have been on some different street bikes, playing with my dirt bikes at home and stuff like that. At the end of the day, I love every realm of motorsports, from motorcycles to all different sanctioned bodies, IndyCar, NASCAR. Don't make a difference.
Like always, when you step on the gas of a nitro car, there's still nothing quite like that. You know what I mean? That's what I mean. I love everything out there. If NHRA let me, I'd race all four professional categories, trust me.
Q. Have you been on another Pro Stock bike to try it again or you've moved on from then?
ANTRON BROWN: Hey, trust me, it's always in me. I haven't been on one. I did a couple burn-outs when Don had some Pro Stock bikes when I was driving Top Fuel. I did a couple burn-outs to scuff some tires in for him. But, no, I haven't been on one in quite some time. Still watching them.
The class is definitely very competitive right now for sure, too, with everything that NHRA and the class has done, it's very competitive.
Q. You won this Western Swing back in 2009. Where do you rate that as far as your accomplishments? How important is the Western Swing because you're coming down to the Countdown to the title? It's an important three-race swing, isn't it?
ANTRON BROWN: Absolutely, absolutely. When you go out on the Western Swing, gets everybody in gear. Playtime is over. Everybody is really buckled down. They start finalizing what they're going to run in the Countdown, whether it's clutch disc or anything like that. Getting to the nitty-gritty.
When they get the team, the driver, crew chief want to get in the groove and get that symmetry going on. After the Western Swing, we have Brainerd, then we have the U.S. Nationals, then right after that we're right into the Countdown. This Western Swing can build you some momentum and give you some confidence.
When you go into those races, you're ready to be in attack mode for sure. The Western Swing has a big, big part of that.
Q. Antron, you mentioned when you were describing the differences between the three tracks that Sonoma always has been a good track for you. What is it about Sonoma that makes you a winner? Something about your driving style, crew chief setup? What's your secret at Sonoma?
ANTRON BROWN: I think it's one of those tracks that really just goes with our setup that we have in our racecar as a team as a whole and the mindset when you're in Sonoma. When you get out there, you're in Napa Valley, it's like a breath of fresh air. It's one of those racetracks where you're more relaxed.
The fans are incredible where they come by your pit, pump you up, push you and your team up, and it gets you going. When I go to Sonoma, I always take a deep breath, take it all in. I always have a lot of energy up there.
You go up there, you kind of feel good. It's like the air out there, the weather, it makes the car run good, but it also makes your human body feel good. It's just the atmosphere around you that really makes our team really gel and do well in Sonoma. It fits the way we run our car, too, a lot.
SCOTT SMITH: Thank you, Antron, for joining us today. We'll let you get back to your afternoon and will see you next week in Denver.
ANTRON BROWN: Sounds great. Thanks for having us on. Look forward to seeing each and every one of you soon.
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