GROW, NOT ‘GO’
Antron Brown revels in opportunity to test NASCAR race car – JW Martin
When Antron Brown left pit road at Motor Mile Speedway Tuesday, he became the third Don Shumacher Racing driver to circle the .416-mile oval in a stock car.
But unlike teammates Matt Hagan and Ron Capps, this wasn’t for show. The 2012 NHRA Top Fuel World Champion was serious.
“I’m like a kid in a candy store right now,” exclaimed Brown. “This is Matt Hagan’s track—my teammate. If this was my track, I’d be out here every day! I’d be tearing this facility up. I mean, this is a really nice facility. I didn’t know it was this nice out here. It’s beautiful.”
Motor Mile Dragway -the site that launched Hagan’s career- sat idle. Instead, Brown was positioned inside Motor Mile Speedway, where Hagan and Capps had filmed an ESPN feature in 2011.
This wasn’t the same scenario. Like Ricky Carmichael, Travis Pastrana and other accomplished motorsports superstars, Brown was driven to the New River Valley short track with a desire to go NASCAR racing.
“This is just a dream come true for me to get out here and have fun and turn laps in a really competitive car,” said Brown. “Any form of motorsport, I’ve always been a huge fan. But especially NASCAR; I’ve always had a lot of friends out there racing, and they always tell me to come out and test, but they never say ‘come test my car.’ To finally get that opportunity through Max [Siegel], Rev Racing and Toyota is huge.”
Wriggling into the cockpit of a Revolution Racing K&N Series race car, Brown braced for his first laps ever in a NASCAR machine. For an accomplished drag racer whose career has been forged rocketing down ribbons of asphalt, it was uncharted ground. A yellow sticky note on the wheel instructed Brown on how to start the engine. Toggle switches were labeled. Guidance accompanied every move.
No pretense surrounded this practice session. There were no insinuations about, or visions of, turning left into the NASCAR fast lane.
Not from Brown, at least.
“We went to a press conference in Charlotte, and that was the main deal: ‘When are you going NASCAR racing?’ First, I gotta see if I can even turn left,” explained Brown. “Everybody wants to know the end result now— we live in that ‘now’ society. And right now, I’m doing this deal like I have done everything else in my career: one step at a time. I don’t get beyond myself. I’m focused on this test… [Rev Racing will] access my driving ability and we’ll take it one lap at a time.
“The thing about it is— it’s just about getting our feet wet.”
Brown was full of inexperience, but just as full of enthusiasm. In contrast to other high-profile practices, Brown seemed to revel in the moment. His jovial attitude distinguished him apart.
“Man, this is like Christmas morning,” Brown exclaimed as he hustled to the hauler for his helmet to begin the afternoon session. Throughout the morning, Brown had methodically acquainted himself with his surroundings. And he was catching on remarkably fast, thanks in part to an arsenal of knowledge he was receiving from his crew chief and driving mentor— a veteran racer who was no stranger to Motor Mile Speedway…
Scites, who was a fixture at the front of the NASCAR WHELEN All-American Series Late Model field at MMS in seasons past, was recently recruited by Revolution Racing to spearhead the team’s burgeoning Late Model effort, while helping with the K&N Series program.
Scites posted a 16.29-second benchmark before yielding the car to Brown for the subsequent test session.
“The car was good… a little on the tight side; the safe way to send him out,” Scites explained. “We started off real slow, just to get that feel. But he picked it up really quick today. He got down to some of the times some of our other teams are running. So we’re really happy.”
By the early afternoon, when Revolution Racing mainstays Ryan Gifford and Mackena Bell were consistently clocking in high 16.70’s to low 16.90’s, Brown notched his quickest circuit of the day: a 17.00.
“From where we started to where we ended, [he] exceeded my expectations,” Scites acknowledged afterward.
Brown’s smile said it all.
“This sport builds your confidence and trust in yourself,” explained Brown. “When you drive in the turn, and you’re diving in, and you’re coming off the gas right before the turn, and you say, ‘I’m gonna turn this thing without it going up into the wall.’ …And to trust yourself to go up near the wall; to let the car come up to where you’re almost touching the wall when you’re doing over a 100 mph…
“My drag racing has always been exciting and thrilling, because of the way we accelerate—trust me, as fast as we go, you don’t want to be next to anything,” Brown continued. “But here, you may be going slower, but you’re next to stuff, and you have to drive around stuff. And that’s what makes it challenging and a lot of fun.”
Between NHRA drag racing and NASCAR, seemingly nothing compares.
—Except for Brown’s overarching goal. Like a trip down the strip in the Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster, Brown’s aim as he embarked on Tuesday’s session was simple.
“To grow,” Brown stated. “The main deal is to grow from this experience.”
Check out the Photo Gallery of Tuesday’s test session HERE