Antron Brown's 3.773-second pass at 322.50 mph in the Matco Tools Dragster on Route 66 Raceway's 1,000-foot course at Joliet, Ill., Friday night was the loudest Top Fuel salvo of these O'Reilly Route 66 Nationals.
He beat the day's second severe storm and the rest of an incredibly strong field of dragster drivers to claim the provisional No. 1 qualifying position. And he did it by tying Larry Dixon's two-year-old track mark.
Long-overdue Shawn Langdon showed flashes of his Phoenix brilliance, challenging with a second-quick 3.784-second elapsed time at a faster-than-Brown's 322.73 mph pushed Brown to "dig deep."
But Brown said he had -- has -- so much tough competition. He named Hillary Will, whose lower-budget team is running a shortened schedule but still managed to be No. 6 overnight.
He named No. 8 Clay Millican, who -- like Langdon and so many others -- is a victory waiting to happen. He named No. 9 Terry McMillen, who has shown incredible progress in the past couple of races. His list would go on into the night if he were allowed.
But one of the most stout teams to watch out for this weekend is Spencer Massey's FRAM/Prestone team with tuners Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler.
Massey, Brown's Don Schumacher Racing teammate, was strong all day long, even before shattering the track speed record with a run of 326.79. He eclipsed Tony Schumacher's 323.12 mph from June 2010.
He teamed with Funny Car colleague Ron Capps seemingly to continue DSR's domination of the nitro classes. The Forth Worth driverswas quickest and fastest of the Top Fuel class in the first session with a 3.818-second pass at 320.74 mph.
Of his second-session blast, Brown said the minute he put his foot into the throttle "it got out of Dodge. It didn't stop pulling."
He credited every member of his crew and said, "I'm really stoked and pumped. We're starting off this weekend on a good note."
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