Race Weekend Central

Nitro Shots: It’s Best That It Be A Personal Experience

To most of the uninitiated, drag racing fans, media, and racers probably sound like a broken record (do I date myself with that reference?) with the oft-repeated mantra of “You need to come to the track and see it in person to appreciate it.” We all say it over and over.

Indeed, you will find in our new series of videos for 2016, in answer to the question about what drivers would change about NHRA drag racing, several worked that thought into their answers. Yeah, yeah, you know, we always say it, that television just doesn’t do it justice.

And yet, every time someone new does go to the track and checks it out for the first time, we hear the same response. It goes something like this: “Wow! That was the most incredible thing! I always thought it was just a bunch of cars going in a straight line but it’s so much more. The power! The speed! The skill required by the drivers to keep the cars under control and keep them straight. I’ve never seen anything like that, and it was so much better than seeing it on TV!”

Well, we told you so. We sound like a broken record trying to explain that television just doesn’t convey the whole experience. You sound like a broken record telling us how amazing your first experience was. Those who still haven’t tried it just shake their heads.

You know what, though? There’s one more refrain on the broken record that we who are in the know always hear from those who have just gone to the NHRA drag races for the first time.

“I’ll be back!”

We like that one.

NHRA 2015 Mike Gittings chief starter courtesy NHRA media
New NHRA Chief Starter Mike Gittings. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

What’s News?

* Mike Gittings, named interim chief starter for NHRA for the Las Vegas event following the unexpected death of chief starter Mark Lyle from a swimming accident while on vacation in late March, has been named the official NHRA Chief Starter. He will begin his duties officially at this week’s Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals. Gittings is only the fourth Chief Starter in the NHRA’s 65-year history. He previously served as chief starter in the NHRA’s Northwest Division.

* If you are a fan of Kalitta Motorsports, you will have plenty of opportunities to see your favorite drivers out and about over the next month. First up is J.R. Todd, who will be attending the Atlanta Braves game tonight in Atlanta. Todd will be meeting fans and will give the command to “Play Ball” prior to the Braves game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Teammate Del Worsham, meanwhile, has put together a special event to add some Nitro to Barona drags on Memorial Day weekend. Worsham’s twin daughters are running in a Junior drag racing series event at the track while Worsham, Gary Densham, Paul Lee, and Brandon Welch will run in Nitro Funny Cars. Worsham has also put together a slate of Nostalgia Funny Cars who will run as well.

And finally, if you are in the Sandusky, Ohio area on June 23, you can come out to Cedar Point. The park has partnered with Team Kalitta and Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park to host NHRA Day on the Thursday prior to the Ohio race weekend.

J.R. Todd, Doug Kalitta, and Alexis DeJoria from Team Kalitta will make appearances and will be joined by Richie Crampton, Erica Enders, Hector Arana, and Hector Arana, Jr. The drivers will sign autographs from 10:30 a.m. until noon in front of the Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster. The team’s Top Fuel dragsters will also be on display at the park.

Driver Profile: Antron Brown

NHRA 2016 Charlotte Antron Brown credit Toni Montgomery

Category: Top Fuel
Hometown: Chesterfield, NJ
Date of birth: March 1, 1976
2015 car: Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster
Crew chief: Brian Corradi/Mark Oswald
Team Owner: Don Schumacher

Career Highlights:
Career wins/runner-up finishes: 55/44
Best points finish: 1st in 2012 and 2015
Career best ET: 3.680, Brainerd, 2015
Career best speed: 331.12, Brainerd, 2015

2015 – Won second Top Fuel championship; scored career and category-best seven wins; 10 final round appearances; seven-time No. 1 qualifier; won Traxxas Nitro Shootout; won first three races in the Countdown to the Championship; first Top Fuel driver to run in the 3.6-second range with a 3.680 national elapsed-time record at Brainerd.

2014 – Posted six wins; made eight final rounds; three-time No. 1 qualifier; made seventh straight Countdown appearance and won a race during the playoff for the sixth year in a row.

2012 – Won first Mello Yello world championship, became first African-American NHRA champion and first to win a major U.S. autor racing championship; six victories in 11 final round appearances; three No. 1 qualifiers; set national record E.T. for Top Fuel at Reading.

2009 – Swept the Western Swing races and earned category leading six wins; seven No. 1 qualifiers.

2008 – First year in Top Fuel and scored two wins and three No. 1 qualifiers; first driver in NHRA history to win races in Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

2001 – Finished career-best second in Pro Stock motorcycle standings; six time No. 1 qualifier; three wins.

1998 – Made first career start in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Follow Antron: @AntronBrown on Twitter, Antron Brown on Facebook

Some things most people don’t know about Antron: Antron likes to go fast no matter what the competition. In 1997, he ran fast enough in the 100-meter dash to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials. Drag racing is a family tradition for Antron, just like it is for many of the competitors in the NHRA. His father and uncle also raced. The next generation has also gotten involved. Antron has three children, daughter Arianna and sons Anson and Adler, and all three compete in the Jr. Drag Racing League. Antron serves as truck driver, mechanic, and crew chief for his children, and in spite of the craziness he and his wife experience getting three dragsters and three children ready and to the line on time, he loves the family atmosphere of the Jr. league races.

Hey Y’all, Watch This!

I have to admit I was remiss last week. I wrote of all the crazy incidents happening during the event weekend in Houston, and left one out. It was the finals of the Pro Mod class no less. Perhaps more than a scary incident, not that it wasn’t, particularly if you happened to be Rickie Smith, this one ranks as the save of the day. It might not seem like much, but big props to Jim Whitely, who managed to get his car stopped in time to not make this an even bigger incident as Smith crosses his lane not once but twice and then eventually comes to a rest back in his lane. It was also the first victory in the class for Whitely. Even though he didn’t complete the run, Smith was disqualified for crossing the centerline. At that point, all Whitely needed to do was take the tree and start the run.

Word of the Week: Centerline

Dragstrips not called zMAX Dragway have two side by side lanes (although technically zMAX does too as the four lanes are made up of essentially two side by side two-lane strips), separated by a centerline that is marked with foam blocks. Crossing that centerline at any point in the run causes that driver to be disqualified, or in the case of qualifications to have the time thrown out. Rickie Smith demonstrated crossing the centerline above, resulting in his disqualification and an automatic win for Jim Whitely.


QualifyingFriday, November 10, 6:30 PM ETFS1 (Live)
QualifyingSaturday, November 11, 6:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)
EliminationsSunday, November 12, 4:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)

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