TOP FUEL DRIVER
To say Antron Brown has been on a tear the last two NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series seasons might just be the biggest understatement in all of motorsports. The driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) scored his second consecutive Top Fuel world championship in 2016 and the third of his career, and he left no doubt he continues to be the driver to beat each and every race weekend.
Brown’s team, led by crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald, certainly were a dominating force by winning seven of the season’s 24 event titles for the second year in a row, reaching 11 final rounds in all and earning the No. 1 qualifier position three times. Brown had an incredible won-loss record of 55-17 in elimination rounds in 2016, surpassing the 51-17 mark he achieved the year before.
Even though he is among the winningest Top Fuel drivers in recent years, there was a time Brown never truly believed that one day he would, let alone win a world championship.
His vibrant personality, perseverance, intelligence, athleticism and deeply held religious convictions helped plot the course toward earning a position driving in NHRA drag racing’s ultimate category of Top Fuel in 2008. And it took just four years for the New Jersey native to be crowned the 2012 NHRA Top Fuel world champion, making him the first African-American to win a major U.S. auto racing season championship.
That accomplishment, coupled with his commitment to helping young Americans, earned him two prestigious honors in 2013. In January, he was selected to NBC’s 2013 edition of “The Grio’s 100” list that features African-American industry, sports and community leaders, and he was featured on a segment of NBC’s Today show to help celebrate Black History Month. Eight months later, he was at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City along with Terry Bradshaw, James Worthy, Dave Winfield, Nick Faldo, Shawn Johnson and other renowned athletes at the 28th annual Great Sports Legends Dinner to benefit The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis.
“I never sat back and thought about it, but if I can be an inspiration for kids out there – not just African-Americans, but Americans, period – and give them somebody they can look up to, that’s a huge positive. I’m a living example of someone who never settled in life for things that people told me I may not ever achieve. Some of my own family members told me that I could never be a professional racer. I even doubted myself that I would someday be a Top Fuel or Funny Car racer because it just seemed to be so far out of reach. That’s what makes all of our accomplishments even more special.”
Brown lives in Pittsboro, Indiana with his wife Billie Jo and their three children. He is active in various community activities, including church, NHRA Junior Drag Racing, Boy Scouts and other youth-related programs. Perhaps more impressive than Brown’s three world championships, 61 NHRA event titles and 47 No. 1 qualifying positions entering the season is his commitment to faith, family and helping to motivate high school and college students by way of his approximately 30 speaking engagements around the country each year for sponsors Matco Tools and the U.S. Army.