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July 16, 2014

Antron Brown

SCOTT SMITH:  Thank you all for joining us today on this NHRA teleconference.  The daunting Western Swing begins this week, which is three consecutive races that test both the equipment and the teams as they race on the West Coast of the United States.
The Mopar Mile High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway and the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceway make up what we have all been calling the Western Swing.  Only seven drivers have swept all three events, and today on our conference call we'll be joined by two of the drivers that have achieved that feat:  Antron Brown in Top Fuel and Greg Anderson in Pro Stock.  We'll also be joined on the call by Ron Capps in Funny Car.  But first up, joining us today is Antron Brown, driver of the Matco Tools dragster.  Thanks for joining us today.
ANTRON BROWN:  Any time, Scott.  Always a pleasure, my friend.
SCOTT SMITH:  Antron has five wins this season, is currently second in Top Fuel points trailing Doug Kalitta.  Brown is the last racer to sweep all three races in the Western Swing when he did it back in 2009.
Antron, let's start with this season.  Five wins but three first‑round losses have you, like I said, sitting second in points.  Do you guys think you have found that sweet spot with the car and hopefully eliminated some of those first‑round losses?
ANTRON BROWN:  It's been actually incredible this year.  The whole competition in Top Fuel this year has been just insane right now.  Battling out with Dougie, he's definitely been the leader of the class so far, but our Matco Tools has definitely running like gangbusters.  We had a little setback in Atlanta with the accident, but after that we actually started picking up the pace, and we've been right on track where we need to be.
With that being said, we always look forward going on to the Western Swing because right now this time is real crucial for us to get going right now because once you get back from the swing we have the U.S. Nationals and then we're off to the Countdown to our championship, which is where the championship is won.  Right now all the teams are hitting their full stride, and the Western Swing is one of those grueling marathon‑‑ I call it marathon races because you travel on the West Coast but each race is almost 1,000 miles between each other, and the crews are going back‑to‑back‑to‑back and we're out there from Denver a mile high to going to Sonoma, which is wine country, where it's sea level and the track is always great, then you go to Seattle, Washington, where it's bright and sunny and the track can be tricky but it also can be good, too.
With that being said, we're always thrilled to go on the Western Swing because it definitely shows you what the race teams are made of and it also is a test for us going into the Countdown because our Countdown is just like that where we have our first four races right in a row like that.  It gets us in gear for that.
SCOTT SMITH:  You kind of alluded to it, but it's hard enough in this sport in Top Fuel and all the categories to win three races in a row, let alone the Western Swing.  Just how special is that for you to be able to say that you've got the championship, you've got other feats but that you are one of the few Western Swing sweepers?
ANTRON BROWN:  Well, the coolest part about that, Scott, and honestly for everybody out there is that when you look at the Western Swing, you go, all right, to win one race is hard enough, but then to win two of them is really hard.  We came real close at doubling up I think it was in 2012 I believe it was.  We won two of those races out there and then we lost in the semifinals of the last race.  Everybody was like, you can do it again, and you try not to talk about it because to win one round of NHRA racing right now is crazy hard.  To get past the first round is crazy hard.  There's no more gimmes.  There's 12 great race teams out there, and to compete out there in it is just‑‑ it makes it that hard and difficult to try to get it done, and to say that you're one of the people that you can stand back and look at it and know it's a part of your history where you can go, hey, we just won the Western Swing, and you know you're part of history that's going to last forever because you just won three back‑to‑back races on the toughest stretch on our tour, and that's why the Western Swing basically got their name for when you do it, because to do it is just an incredible feat, how difficult it is just to win a race on the Western Swing, especially going to all the different climates and conditions that you're going to see, from being a mile high in Denver to all the different track conditions that you go through.  To win all three of those races is just a testament to how great your team is.
You have to have a serious team, not just mentally but physically.  You have to have all the strength that you need to get it done mentally, emotionally and physically to get that job done, and in those years we had a great team, and I think this year we have even a stronger team than we ever had.  Going in we're always looking forward to this challenge to get after it.

Q.  Earlier this season you had a big boomer, had to go to the backup car that was the primary car that you were trying to get a handle on.  What car are you in now, which chassis?  The backup or the one you let go?
ANTRON BROWN:  No, the backup is upstairs.  The one that let go is all done.  The one that let go is all done.  We're actually running a brand new, brand new race car right now, so it's all brand new, and we actually brought it out in Bristol, the brand new car.  We put the backup car back upstairs ready to go.  So once we did that, we got the brand new car out, we broke it in Bristol, and we actually qualified well there, and we thought we were going to bring that one home, but we had a little mishap where we dropped the hole or something like that, but we went off, but that car has now won two in a row, so our brand new car is doing just fine, I think.

Q.  How big a deal would it be for you to be the first guy to double up on the Western Swing?
ANTRON BROWN:  Oh, it'd be huge.  You'll be the first mark in history to do it, you know what I mean, and we came so close to doing it before.  We go into Western Swing and we can think about that, but when we go into the first race in Denver, you erase all that from your mind because you don't let your emotions get the best of you to try to actually get that done, you know what I mean, because there's so much that you have to have go your way to get that done, if you're focused on that, you're not focused on the thing that you need to get done.

Q.  All NHRA drivers and teams, you know, they have to be adapting to the travel and the changes like the Western Swing you're facing this week.  You're kind of special in a way because you're a prime example of adapting, going from two wheels to four wheels to big speed to bigger speed.  Can you comment on how you could accomplish all that in your career and still be doing so well?
ANTRON BROWN:  Well, there's one thing that I can tell you honestly.  It comes down to the heart and determination of the individual.  You have to be willing‑‑ you have to want it, you know what I mean?  That's the one thing that you can't teach people today, and you know, like that's the difference between somebody like Michael Jordan and somebody that comes off the bench.  You can't teach want‑to, you know what I mean, and my deal is I just want it.  I can speak for everybody on our Matco Tools U.S. Army Toyota race team is that that's what I'm telling you; we had a lot of talented guys before even that won the championship.  We had great guys.  But we have a group of individuals on our team that we make up one whole team together that has that want‑to, that desire.  They want to win.  The boys are hungry.  They're willing to do whatever it takes, and they're all about being perfectionists, and that's what it takes to have a great team and win and they don't have no attitudes.  They're willing to work together.  That's the biggest thing, that we don't have one person going a different direction that we've got to reel in.  We have all of our guys go together, it's nine of us, and we're going into the same direction.
And that's something special right there.  It's something really, really, really special.  I think that's what makes the deal so great in doing what we want to do.

Q.  What would be your advice to a young person to be successful in anything?
ANTRON BROWN:  Well, my best advice for anybody to be successful in what they want to achieve or do is just never give up.  My main deal in me is that I always set my goals real high and I shoot for them and I try to overachieve them, and then when I fall a little short I look back and I feel like I've accomplished a great bit of stuff.  I think that's one key to being successful in life is that when you stumble and fall you dust yourself off and you give it another lick and you go at it even harder, but you learn from it and grow from it.

Q.  Each one of these races has their own unique qualities.  Could you mention a few of them with going out west in this Western Swing?
ANTRON BROWN:  I would say of all the races that have their qualities, I would have to say it's got to be Denver when you go there.  There's no other racetrack like it, so when you're going there, you're going there with something you have to try to figure out how to make it work up there.  That track there has no air, no oxygen.  What I call that race is a survival race, survival of the fittest.  You've got to try to make as much power as you can.
And then when you go to Sonoma, you go to complete opposite where you're right off the Bay, not too far from San Francisco, and then you actually get sea level conditions, really cool, calm weather that you're able to get after it and hit it.  You know what I mean?  And that's the cool part about Sonoma that you can actually set some records there.
Then you leave there and you go to Seattle, Washington, which is all the way up in a state which you don't know what you're going to get there.  It could be real cool at nighttime but then it could be real hot and muggy during the day, so you're racing like the middle of summer at the Midwest races like we're racing right now.  So you have a little mixture of everything that we see when you go in the Western Swing, and I think that's what makes the Western Swing what it is.  It's just all those different characteristics from those tracks that make it so unique to go out and do it.

Q.  You guys have had a couple weeks to prepare for this Western Swing, and I know it's grueling not only on mileage but in altitude and air conditions and everything.  Do you leave Brownsburg with a bunch of different setups for each race, or do you reconfigure the motors for each venue?
ANTRON BROWN:  Yeah, well, what we do is we always look at the track from the year before from all of our notes.  That's what you have a seasoned team for.  And when you look at all the tracks with the season notes, what you try to do is you try to literally, like you know, prepare for when you go back in it because conditions aren't going to be exactly the same, but it's going to be similar because our main deal is trying to make the same power that you made the year before or make more, so that's what we work on hard and that's what we go after to do is we look on those last year's notes to make it right.  That's the big thing about it.  That's what we always try to accomplish and do.

Q.  In addition to what you've got to do in terms of driving, I saw you at the LA Auto Show over the time off in the end of 2013, and you spent an awful lot of time with Toyota and speaking motivationally to students and some of the people who were there.  Is that part of your job in terms of the next three weeks because you've got Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday off?
ANTRON BROWN:  Oh, absolutely.  I mean, that's part of what I have to do.  We actually do‑‑ between races, I literally have to go there and‑‑ it's part of the sponsor engagements.  We'll do different stuff for Matco Tools, for the U.S. Army and speak to different high school kids and college kids, and then we also will go to‑‑ we make a Sandvik visit in Seattle, Washington, because we're actually running the Sandvik Coromant car, which is our tooling company, that does all of our tools in our CNC shop.  You always have to do the meet‑and‑greets and engagements.  That's what makes it a little rough and tough because besides you working on the racetrack, you work just as hard off the racetrack.  And you've got all that mixed up on the West Coast where you don't get to come home, where you're working throughout the week, but you'll get a couple days off during the week where you can lay back and relax and collect yourself and get yourself back together.

Q.  And you've got all those client buffets in between working out at the gym, right?
ANTRON BROWN:  Yes, I have.  My trainer hasn't been really friendly with me lately, but he's been breaking me down, but that's what makes it good.
SCOTT SMITH:  I think that will conclude the portion with Antron.  Thank you very much for your time.  Hopefully the test session this afternoon goes well for you and your family.
ANTRON BROWN:  I appreciate it.  Thank you, Scott.

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