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March 5, 2014

Antron Brown

THE MODERATOR:  We're joined by 2012 Top Fuel World Champion, Antron Brown, who is also the defending event winner in Gainesville in his Matco Tools Dragster.  So far this season, Brown rebounded from a disappointing first round loss in Pomona to dominate the Phoenix event.  He qualified fifth and raced through a tough field including Richie Crampton, Shawn Langdon, Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force en route to his win. 
Antron, it's obviously a long season, a grueling season, but how important was that for you and the team to rebound there in Phoenix? 
ANTRON BROWN:  It was very important because we wanted to definitely get off to a great start, and we know one thing about going into the Countdown last year.  We saw that we finished second last year in the points, and if we would have gotten into a better position going into the Countdown with our points, that would have gave us a better shot on winning the championship.  So we definitely want to get off to a good start. 
Pomona didn't go the way we wanted.  We ran well, qualified well, we were just a little over aggressive in the first round, so we regrouped and just came off in Phoenix.  We had a strong qualifying performance, qualifying top eight, but we took it one round at a time, and we stepped up.  And after first round we were low ET after every round after first round, and that's what it takes to go out there and compete on that level and win that race. 
It was a very strong win for us.  We're hoping to carry that momentum back into Gainesville and try to pull off what we did there last year.

Q.  As far as resilience, bouncing back, I was reading a psychological article the other day about people who are resilient tend to look at their mistakes and analyze them and try to not make them again.  And people who don't just let it go by.  Those people aren't resilient.  Could you talk a little bit about that, this ability of you and your team to bounce back? 
ANTRON BROWN:  The thing about it is that we just know.  We look at different deals and we work on it.  That's one thing that I can say.  Our team is never for the lack of effort.  We always analyze what we have done in the past and where we want to go into the future.  We're always making steps to go towards that.  And sometimes you have a miscue or you have a misstep.  We look at it, and said now's the time to go back, go to work and get better. 
We know we're only as good as our weakest link.  So we work on every part of the car toward our team synergy.  That's what it takes to work together to pull these incredible things off.  Like we lost in Pomona and were like how can we fix this from not happening in the next round.  We went out there, and we were down a little bit.  We had a miscue in our blower.  We came back and fixed that.  It was a mechanical problem, so we didn't run as strong as we wanted to first round in Phoenix, so it got us through that first round. 
So with that being said, it was like all right.  If we ran that run in Pomona, we wouldn't be talking about how bad Pomona was because we would have won that round too.  So we go back and say all right, we've got to do things not harder but smarter.  And that's our logic on our team.  One team, one mind, one purpose and we do it together as a unit, and I think that's why we've been so successful in all the years that we've been together. 
And we're constantly learning.  We're never hitting a plateau because we're constantly eager to learn and to make things more efficient.  And I think that's what it takes now in our racing that we're doing now because the teams are just incredibly tough right now.  They've been off the charts where everybody's not talking about winning championships, they're doing the working to out and win championships. 
So to compete in our class today, you have to step up to that next level each and every time.

Q.  If I could, I was doing some NASCAR stuff and I ran into Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr., he races for Joe Gibbs.  You being an African‑American champion, and Darrell Wallace has definitely a chance of moving up and he's got a great attitude and everything else, what would be your advice to him? 
ANTRON BROWN:  Well, my advice would be to Darrell to keep doing what he's doing.  I'm actually really good friends with Darrell.  He has a really good demeanor where he's definitely got an open mind and is eager to learn and his determination.  My deal is for him not to ever lose that.  To never get to a point where you think you are the best.  Even if you won that championship or you won a race, to never let that stuff sidetrack you, but to always keep focused, keep working and keep building.  That's why you look at people like Jimmie Johnson.  Lot of people look at him and how many championships he's won.  He's got to go out for that forte where Jimmie he's won championships, but as soon as that day is over and he's got that championship check and trophy, that joker is back in the gym, he's training.  He's still honing his skills to be better. 
That's one thing that I would tell Darrell.  He's got the talent, he's got the drive, but to never stop working.  To always constantly improve himself.  When you do that, you stay on top of the curve and you stay at the top of your game.

Q.  How strange is it going to be being at Gainesville, and no Bernstein in the field at Gatornationals?
ANTRON BROWN:  That is a great question there, I'm telling you what, man, because the Bernstein family has made a name for themselves at Gainesville.  When you go to Gainesville, every time we used to go to Gainesville, you'd always see the big pictures of the white and red car with Budweiser all over it.  It was the King of Speeds track, The King of Speed.  Like once we lost Big Daddy, when Big Daddy retired, that was a Bernstein heritage track.  It's been in their heritage of the sport.  But Brandon is going to be there.  He won't be in a car, and Kenny's retired now.  So it's definitely a part of our sport that is definitely missing. 
I hope Brandon gets back soon.  He's a great team manager, but we all know he belongs in a car.  It's definitely going to be a big part missing out of our sport for there, but I hope I go there and represent again and give him a little flair.  Maybe we can turn it into a Brown track.

Q.  Also, Antron, how important is it for your sport to have a legend like John Force not only still racing but winning like he is?  How important is that for your sport? 
ANTRON BROWN:  I think it's always great for the sport when you see somebody like John.  What people don't realize, it's not just him winning, it's showcasing the passion that he has for the sport.  He's not racing because that's what he does to make a living.  That's how he makes money.  The man could retire whenever he wants to and still have a great life.  He's racing because he loves it so much.  And I share that same passion because I grew up around it. 
When you see him going out there and doing the things he does at the age he does, that is all out of the sheer love for the sport.  Kind of like Michael Jordan had that love for basketball, that's what I contribute what John has the sport for NHRA racing, except our sport allows you to do it at later ages as long as you have the keen and sharp mind to do it. 
I think it's huge for our sport because it's monumental.  Anytime somebody races, they want to race the champ.  They want to beat him because he's the most winning Funny Car driver of all time in NHRA. 
So when you see that, it definitely gives me goose bumps and chills down my spine when I see that.  It's like, wow, that is definitely an amazing deal and it makes it important.  The other side also is that we just need to give credit to all the new upcoming drivers there too that are coming up there, like your Richie Crampton's and your Khalid alBalooshi, and all those people. 
Like your Brittany Forces, too, that are new to the game, and your Alexis DeJoria's that are putting the time in where they need to get a little credit too.  That is one thing we do lack is that we don't give credit to all the new upcoming drivers and give them the recognition that they deserve.

Q.  To follow up what you just mentioned about Alexis, she was on the call earlier, and I asked her about her and Jesse James kind of being like a rock star figure for NHRA.  How do you look at Alexis and her team?  Do you see her as real contenders now and not just a show? 
ANTRON BROWN:  They are out there to win it.  If you know her crew chief, Tommy DeLago and Glen, they're the ones that brought Matt Hagan his first World Championship in Funny Car.  Everybody knew it was a matter of time.  What happens is having a championship caliber team does not happen overnight.  It takes synergy and time to gel and build.  The Lakers dynasty wasn't built overnight, but it could be lost overnight if you lose a couple key players.  That is the same thing in our sport. 
It's the exact same thing where now Alexis got the pieces.  They've been together long enough to actually grow, and you've seen them grow.  They grew last year.  Now the car is going up‑and‑down the track every lap.  Not just consistently, but fast.  She had a couple of times where she was low ET of the round.  When you look at that, that's where it starts.  Now Alexis is getting her confidence, she's cutting the lights, and she's keeping the car in the groove.  That team is just as deadly as any other team in the sport of Funny Car. 
Don't let Alexis's demeanor fool you because she's modest and humble, but that girl is out for blood.  You lineup against her, and she's going to try to chop your head off.  I tell her all the time and she laughs and giggles, and she's got all you guys in the media fooled.

Q.  Antron, you talked about Gainesville, but you're just an historian of the sport.  What's it mean to you when you pull in those gates and think about everything that's taken place at the track for years? 
ANTRON BROWN:  Every time I pull in there, you have to remember, that's where I started my career off in Gainesville in Pro Stock bikes.  Now to where I'm at in Top Fuel it's a big dream.  Everybody knows Gainesville Gators, they always call it the Gatornationals.  It's the Gatornationals.  It's one of the biggest races on our tour, and great, monumental things always happen there.  From mile an hour records to ET records to world records.  When.
I think of Gainesville, that's what comes out in my mind.  It's the things that actually broke there.  You take if for last year that we got Don Schumacher's 200th win there.  Big things happen in Gainesville.  It's just incredible what goes on and what happens.  That's one thing that always makes me look at Gainesville with a smile on my face.  That's why last year when we won our first race there, when I finally got that win, it felt like I won the World Championship because that's how big that race is.  With the fans, the appeal, just the atmosphere around it. 
You've got Big Daddy Don Garlits museum an hour away from it, like the creator of drag racing.  I call him the God‑father of drag racing.  I mean, it's got everything going for it.  When we go to Florida, even though it's going to be our third race of the year, that's really like our push off of the year.  It's like now it's the first race on the east coast.  It's time to get it going.  It's like that's our go time for our race series where you know it's really in full gear once we hit Gainesville. 

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