Little changed Saturday in the Top Fuel lineup for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, as Antron Brown rode his track-record 3.737-second, 326.79-mph Friday performance to his third No. 1 qualifying position this year.
But Brown can't help but wonder how his Aaron's Dream Machine/Matco Tools Dragster will behave against first-round opponent Bruce Litton in Sunday's eliminations, because it acted up in Saturday qualifying at Gateway Motorsports Park at Madison, Ill., near St. Louis.
"Today was a little struggle," Brown said after moving one point ahead of Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey so far in the tight points battle in this third race of the Countdown. "We couldn't get the car slowed down enough. We've got our work cut out for us."
Just the same, he said, "Tomorrow's going to be a great race day."
Brown hasn't overlooked the significance of qualifying bonus points.
"They're more important than qualifying No. 1 half the time," he said. "If you get three of the quickest runs, that's nine points. And nine points add up really, really quick. That can get you ahead of somebody."
Brown and Massey each earned four this weekend, but Shawn Langdon picked up five, and Tony Schumacher outdid everybody with eight.
Just four more races remain in the Countdown for the final Full Throttle Drag Racing Series championship, as the series sponsor will switch to Coca-Cola's Mello Yello soft drink brand.
Massey is the No. 2 starter for Sunday's race, and he'll open his day against part-time but pesky T.J. Zizzo.
Even in the thick of the points battle with Brown, Massey has been the consummate teammate, Brown said. Both DSR drivers had made eye-popping runs Friday night on Gateway's 1,000-foot course. Massey had gone first and posted a 3.752-second elapsed time, daring anyone to beat that.
Brown did, as Massey sat up at the top end of the track, awaiting Brown's arrival. When Brown stopped the car and climbed out, Massey rushed over and helped him and helped him get his helmet off. Massey, who just turned 30 this month but exhibits pure, almost child-like joy at anyone's outstanding performance, breathlessly told Brown what Brown's incremental numbers were on that pass.
Then, just so Brown knew, Massey warned him, "We're still going to get it on on Sunday."
Shot back Brown, 'You got that right."
Brown said, "That's the way we roll at DSR."
Rolling into eliminations, Steve Torrence will face Bob Vandergriff, and Tony Schumacher will face Clay Millican. Other match-ups are Doug Kalitta vs. Brandon Bernstein, Khalid al Balooshi vs. Larry Dixon, Dave Grubnic vs. Terry McMillen, and Morgan Lucas vs. Shawn Langdon.
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