Brown sweeps NHRA's western swing at Sonoma
Antron Brown became the seventh driver in NHRA history to sweep the Western Swing by racing to victory Sunday at the FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway. Tim Wilkerson, Jason Line and Andrew Hines also were winners in their categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Brown, who won at Denver and Seattle the last two weeks, powered his Matco Tools dragster to the win over Cory McClenathan in the final round. Brown posted a 3.990 second run at 299.06 mph to finish in front of McClenathan, who clocked a 4.002 at 290.82 in his FRAM Tough Guard dragster. It was Brown's fifth win of the season and he increased his series lead to 199 points over Tony Schumacher.
"This doesn't feel real especially after we had so much turmoil in the off-season," said Brown, who joined Joe Amato (1991), John Force (1994), McClenathan (1997), Larry Dixon (2003), Greg Anderson (2004) and Schumacher (2008) on the short list of those who have won the trio of races in consecutive weeks.
"We weren't sure where we'd be and Mike Ashley came in and he's been a fantastic team owner," said Brown, who defeated Troy Buff, Joe Hartley and top qualifier J.R. Todd en route to the final. "Back then, everybody was talking about Schumacher and Dixon, but not us. We wanted to run for a championship and Mike knew we had a team that could do it. Now, we're proving it. It's great to be a part of history by sweeping the Swing. I am blessed to be a part of it and join the list of names who have accomplished this in the past."
Brandon Bernstein was the only other Top Fuel driver to clinch his position in the Countdown to 1 and claimed his spot in the NHRA Playoffs after both Clay Millican and Joe Hartley lost in the second round. Bernstein lost in the first round to Schumacher.
Wilkerson claimed his second consecutive victory in Funny Car, covering the distance in 4.249 at 284.45 in his Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang to hold off Tony Pedregon, who posted a 4.322 at 259.81 in his Wicked Quick/Q-Horsepower Chevy Impala.
"We had a great car today," said Wilkerson, who beat Jeff Arend, Bob Tasca, and Gary Densham in earlier rounds. "Heck, we had a good car in Denver but I made a really bad tuning call in the first round. To win Seattle and then come to the next race and back it up with another win is great. I try to be smart and not have the fastest car out there but to be consistent. I am a little afraid that our car is getting fatigued and I thought about bringing out a new one but after winning Seattle, I decided against it. I'm still thinking about racing last year's car because I think it's a little more forgiving but I can live with it."
With the runner-up finish Pedregon moved into the series lead, 11 points ahead of Ron Capps, who lost in the second round.
Line earned his fourth win of the season in Pro Stock with a quicker reaction time to defeat his teammate and top qualifier Anderson. Line's Summit Racing Pontiac GXP posted a 6.639 at 208.33 to beat Anderson's quicker Summit Racing GXP, which posted a 6.632 at 208.71.
"This is a big win for us," said Line. "We brought this car out four races ago and have been to four straight finals. I guess we look like a bunch of dummies because we should have brought it out earlier. Fortunately I did a good enough job today that I didn't screw it up. I'm bigger than Greg is so he's not taking it away from me."
Other than beating top qualifier Anderson in the final, he said the key to victory was knocking out series points leader Jeg Coughlin in the semifinals. He also beat V Gaines and Johnny Gray in earlier rounds.
"It's really huge to beat Jeg on a holeshot," Line said. "I beat him at all three races on Western Swing. We didn't sweep the swing, but anytime you can win three times against that guy, that's impressive in itself. I felt confident racing Greg. It's hard to beat birthday karma. I guess that's what made the difference."
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines posted a near-perfect reaction time and powered to the win over teammate Eddie Krawiec, who was appearing in his seventh consecutive final round. In a battle between Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson bikes, Hines finished in 6.972 at 189.82, while Krawiec trailed with a 7.014 at 187.23.
"It's such an honor to race my teammate in final," said Hines, who outran Katie Sullivan, Hector Arana and Matt Smith in the first three rounds. "We're winning races because we've been making nice straight runs. This is the time when we're starting to shine. We're earning rounds because they're giving them to us and that's something that didn't happen before. I love the way the bikes are running. They are fun to ride. Matt [Hines, crew chief] has them leaving good. I don't worry about rattling the tire or bogging. I have faith in my bike and that's why Eddie has been to seven finals and I finally pulled my head out of somewhere it shouldn't have been and started making a few finals myself."
With the runner-up finish, Krawiec maintained his series lead at 70 over Hines.