Antron Brown, in the Matco Tools Dragster, grabbed a share of Spencer Massey's Top Fuel lead Sunday by beating the FRAM Dragster driver in the final round of the Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma, Calif.
Brown won the 25th anniversary edition of this race at the former Sears Point / Infineon Raceway and currently nameless dragstrip to complete Don Schumacher Racing's first nitro-class sweep since last August at Brainerd, Minn., and set up a sweep of his own.
The Denver winner last Sunday is in position -- as is Pro Stock winner Allen Johnson -- to go for a trifecta in the so-called Western Swing as the tour heads to Seattle for this coming weekend's stop at Pacific Raceways.
"This weekend our team went through a whole bunch of little issues," Brown said, indicating that his march back to the winners circle and back to the top of the class standings was no cakewalk. So he had behind-the-scenes mechanical glitches that crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald had to handle.
Aside from that, the repeat winner here had a buzz saw of opponents in Steve Torrence, Tony Schumacher, Brandon Bernstein, and finally Massey.
And a lineup such as that -- once again proving exactly what he has been saying all season long about the quality of Top Fuel competition this season -- is what is preventing him from crowing about his chance to pull off a Western Swing sweep like he did in 2009.
"We can talk about sweeping if we can get to the final round of the next race," Brown said. "First we've got to qualify, and then we've got to get to the first round. Look at first round this week -- we had to race Steve Torrence and we both ran (3.)78s. That just tells you how hard it is to win one round of drag racing this year."
Moreover, Brown said, "there's over al million things on these race cars that can go wrong. You can get nicked by a dollar part, and you can get nicked by an expensive part. You have to go over your car with a fine-tooth comb."
Besides, the concept of luck is not part of his mindset, he said.
"I've never believed in good luck or in bad luck," Brown said. "I believe that what you do is keep your head down and create your own circumstances. You've just got to control what's in your lane."
Referring to Corradi, Oswald, and the crew, Brown said, "The boys made really great decisions each and every round, and the car performed flawlessly."
While Brown would not indulge himself in chatter about "brooms" and "sweeps," the team owner wasn't hesitant to bring it up.
Schumacher admitted that in certain circumstances he has favorites. "Love the FRAM guys (but) Antron came out of Denver with a win. It would have been wonderful for him to win the race here -- which he did, That way we have the opportunity to possibly have a sweep. There's an opportunity -- that's all I'm sayin'. I'm worried about Antron qualifying when we get to Seattle. I worry about that with all seven of my teams."
Brown said he wants to grab that points lead from Massey and keep it through the Indianapolis race and gather those bonus points that go to the "regular-season champion."
He said, "We're just trying to win as many races as possible. You've only got six races to win the championship. Last year Spencer and I both fell one round short. We were all within one round going to the Finals. Trust me, we're clawing for everything that we can get."
This was former bike racer Brown's third victory at Sonoma in four years in Top Fuel. (He was Pro Stock Motorcycle runner-up twice, as well.) And with Johnny Gray's victory in the Funny Car final over DSR mate Matt Hagan, the organization's dominance was obvious, especially considering the double-up victory at Denver the previous weekend.
"We're sharing information among the three (Top Fuel) teams. You can see that all of our teams work in unison," Brown said. "But we're each other's worse enemies, because we push each other to a whole other level. But that's what we want, and that's where Don wants to take this organization."
Schumacher, whose Brownsburg, Ind.-headquartered operation gained its 188th and 189th all-time victories here at Sonoma, said, "It's an incredible feeling to be able to have the cars and the teams perform the way they did this weekend and to have both Funny Car finalists and both Top Fuel finalist. I've been blessed by the people I've been able to surround myself with, both here at the racetrack and back at the shop. We have about 20 people at the race shop who don't come to the races. We build more than 200 different at this point.
"I'm blessed that I've been able to blend these guys together and they work together," he said. "Let me tell you, there's a lot of egos in all these drivers, and there's a lot of egos in all these crew chiefs. And getting them to blend together, work together, and cooperate is really a task."
Task complete. Mission accomplished. Now it's on to Seattle, which will end the Western Swing and leave only two more races until the Countdown fields are set. And as Antron Brown and Spencer Massey play tug-o-war with the points lead -- the distinction that yields 20 bonus points for the on who has it at the end of Labor Day -- the Top Fuel fight can only get more intense and dramatic.
Tony Schumacher is third in the standings, Torrence fourth, and this weekend's top qualifier, Doug Kalitta, fifth. Morgan Lucas, Shawn Langdon, Brandon Bernstein, Dave Grubnic, and Bob Vandergriff hold down places six-10 so far.
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