If it's one thing guys love, it's speed. When it comes to fast cars it gets no faster than drag racing. With speeds topping out at around 330 mph, the sport is the fastest and most dangerous of all auto racing. What you may not know is the best racer in the NHRA's (National Hot Rod Association) Top Fuel category is an African-American man by the name of Antron Brown.
Brown has been racing professionally for 14 years, racking up prestigious awards (Future Award in 1989) and victories (2011 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals) along the way. Coming off of a promising 2011 season that saw Brown finish 3rd in the Top Fuel Championship, he has so far dominated the present season and is going into NHRA's Super Bowl, the 48th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, as the point leader in the series.
We caught up with Brown in Las Vegas at the annual SEMA show as he competed against fellow Toyota Racing Drivers Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Alexis DeJoria in the Toyota Racing "Dream Build" Challenge. Brown's insane $100,000+ fabricated Toyota Sequoia aka "DragQuoia" didn't win the top prize, but he was able to earn a nice check for his charity, Racers For Christ.
Be sure to watch him Sunday, November 11th on ESPN2 as he looks to become the first African-American to win the Full Throttle series championship.
How much time did you put into building the DragQuoia?
The boys over at Motorsports Technical Center, all four of them Chuck, Marty, Rich and Sam are some really great fabricators. They burned the midnight oil on this thing. I came down there a few times with all my different concepts and we changed things a few times throughout the build and they nailed it. They put in some serious hours. They were working 14-hour days, 6 days a week to get it done.
How long was the process from the idea stage to the finished product?
It was a really cool deal because they had the truck and the body stripped off of the chassis and we were already working on that stuff as all the other stuff (four-link suspension, tubs, injectors) started coming together with it. They took every bit of three months to get it all together.
Tell me a little bit about the charity Racers for Christ.
Racers for Christ is actually like our church away from home. They are in all motorsports across the world. It is more than just a ministry. It is all about healing people and actually making people better for themselves. It is about helping each other when you're at the racetrack in that emotional time and in regular times, to keep you grounded, humble and poised. It’s just a big family. That’s what RFC means to me and that’s why I choose them for my charity.
You have a big race coming up in Pomona, How are you feeling going into the championship with a lead?
The thing about it is that everybody is chasing and last year, we went in there 18 points out the lead with a great chance to win the championship. This year we're in a lot better position and this is where we wanted to be. We wanted to end it before this but we just gotta keep on pushing. The whole deal is, we had a little mishap, this last weekend in Vegas. But we got the bugs worked out with an electrical problem so I'm just pumped up and amped up. [Brown’s Matco Tools dragster, encountered engine issues midway down the track forcing him to lose his first round race at the Big O Tires National event] I wish Pomona was right now!
How did you get into drag racing?
My dad and uncle were sportsman racers before I was born so I grew up around it. They had normal 9-5 jobs but they worked real hard at their jobs and on the side they built their own racecars. I grew up around it, working with them, building their racecars with them. Going to the drag strip, I developed a love and a passion for this sport, for NHRA. It was something that I've always wanted to do. This was a dream of mine and I just took it one step at a time, working my way up on a race team. I went from working to actually racing a Pro Stock Bike and went from racing a Pro Stock Bike to doing my ultimate goal, driving a Top Fuel dragster.
You're a family man and NHRA season is pretty much year round, how do you balance the two?
The only way that you balance it is you have to make your family a part of everything that you do. My wife comes to more than 70% of my races and when the kids are out of school they come to every race with us. That's what really makes it enjoyable. NHRA has always been all about family. A lot of races we go to, kids get in free and every ticket is a pit pass. That is how a kid like myself was able to make my dream a reality because when I was growing up as a kid I was able to go out there and see the racers. See what they were doing and how they were making it happen. The accessibility of our sport allows people like myself to go out there and live my dream.
For minority or inner city kids who see NASCAR or NHRA on ESPN and loves cars, what advice would you give them to be able to advance it from a dream to a career?
Well, I was that kid. I'm from Trenton, New Jersey, so I know what that's all about. If you want to be in racing, go to a drag race. You have to get yourself out there. Find the opportunities that are out there and go after them. That's what I've done. I didn’t go out there and say I want to be a driver and got a driver job. That didn't happen. I got out there by working on a race team. You don’t have to come from money. I didn't come from money. I came from a normal family. My dad busted his butt, worked hard, so did my mom and everybody else. I just stayed after it. When you get the opportunity you have to be ready to jump on it. Everybody gets an opportunity, but you have to be ready to grasp it and make it happen. I was very fortunate and blessed and that’s how it came to me.