Brown turns in dominating Gatornationals performance
Antron Brown scored his first Top Fuel final round of the season to give Don Schumacher Racing their 200th NHRA Mellow Yellow Drag Racing Series victory in Sunday with a win in the 44th annual Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway in Gainesville, Fla.
Johnny Gray won in the Funny Car division, while Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana, Jr. also collected their first Gatornationals wins in Sunday’s eliminations.
Barely a month after his terrifying crash at the season-opening event in Pomona, Brown collect his first Wally of the season with a victory over Clay Millican in their first-ever final round matchup.
Brown took down Larry Dixon, Steve Torrence and teammate Spencer Massey to make it to his first final-round of the season and 74th of his career, taking on Millican, who advanced past Brittany Force, Khalid alBalooshi and top qualifier Doug Kalitta for his first final round since 2009.
In the final, Brown was out first with a .046 light and never trailed, posting the quickest pass of the weekend with a 3.761 at 318.77 mph to beat Millican, who posted a 3.813 at 319.67
It was the 22nd Top Fuel victory for Brown and his 38th overall victory - including 10 seasons competing in Pro Stock Motorcycle – and gave him the points lead by four points over Schumacher.
“It’s a great team effort,” Brown said. “It felt good to bring that win home and hopefully we can put Pomona behind us and keep moving forward.”
“To win you have to have every piece of the pie,” Brown said. “It was important to be consistent and as fast and quick as you can be. Every round was tough. It’s a great win for this team. It gives you great confidence as a driver to see the car running like this and come out and win after what happened in Pomona.”
“It’s incredible,” Don Schumacher said. “It started in 1970 in Indianapolis when I won the U.S. Nationals. I am not someone who ever counts things like that. I never thought it would happen or even considered it. Thanks to all of my drivers. They do an incredible job day in and day out.”
In Funny Car, Johnny Gray picked up his first win of the season with a victory over former teammate and 2011 Gatornationals Top Fuel champion Del Worsham.
Gray, who qualified second behind top qualifier Cruz Pedregon, posted the low ET of the weekend in his first-round win over Jeff Arend before beating out Alexis DeJoria and defending series champion Jack Beckman to advance to his first final-round appearance of the season over Worsham, who has victories here in both Top Fuel and Funny Car,
The money round went all Gray’s way, as he was first out of the gate and held on to the finish, going 4.053 at 315.49 mph to collect his fourth career victory and number 199 for DSR.
“The Gatornationals is such a prestigious race and to win it is just a great feeling,” Gray said. “I was disappointed last year we had a great race car and should’ve won it, but it wasn’t our day.”
“Don (Schumacher) has been great to me and to be a part of that it’s an awesome feeling for everybody down the line who has contributed to this, which started with Don winning the first one. To be a part of his organization is unbelievable.”
Defending Pro Stock champion Allen Johnson powered to a holeshot victory over Jeg Coughlin in the final round to notch his first win of the season and his first in the Gatornationals
Advancing past Matt Hartford, Erica Enders-Stevens and Jason Line to reach the finals, Johnson ran a 6.535 at 212.59 mph in the final, but his .005 reaction time gave him the victory over Coughlin’s quicker 6.514 at 212.25.
Johnson’s win was the 17th of his career and moved him up to third place in the standings.
“I think we’re one of the premier teams in Pro Stock now,” said Johnson, who moved to third place in the points standings. “We have a great team that makes great decisions based on scientific methods and data and we keep improving those decision making tools. We aren’t the fastest car right now, but we are consistent and we can win some races like that.”
Arana, Jr. faced an uphill battle on his march to the finals, facing Michael Phillips, defending Gatornationals winner and series champion Eddie Krawiec before taking down his father and 2009 Gatornationals winner Hector Arana, Sr. on a holeshot to face Johnson.
Facing each other in the finals for the first time, Arana, Jr. got the jump at the start and led wire to wire with a 6.888 at 195.65mph over Johnson’s 6.909 at 193.99, picking up his first win since October of 2011 at Phoenix.
Sunday’s event marked the first race with three Arana’s in the field, as brother Adam Arana joined Hector and his father as a third entry for their team. Adam Arana lost in the opening round to Andrew Hines.
“To grab the race win for Team Arana and Lucas Oil is a big accomplishment and it proves that having a third bike isn’t going to slow us down, but actually speed us up,” said Arana Jr.,
“I am looking forward to a very competitive season and some close racing this season. This is a step in the right direction. When my dad won his championship he won the Gatornationals and Eddie Krawiec has done that the last two years. I hope to keep that trend going this year as well.”
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