Brown, a three-time NHRA Top Fuel World Champion, is the grandson of pioneer drag racer Albert S. Brown and the son of Albert C. Brown, a sportsman racer in the Northeast.
Long before he was a favorite at this weekend’s NHRA Fitzgerald USA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, Antron first made racing headlines with his feet, a sprinter good enough to qualify for the 1998 U.S. Olympic Trials. Then he was a 16-time winner in the Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks before moving to Top Fuel, where he now races for the powerful Don Schumacher Racing team.
All three of Brown’s children are now competing in the NHRA Junior Dragster program. It’s one reason why racing on Father’s Day at Bristol means so much to him.
“The significance of Father’s Day and racing for me is that every day is Father’s Day,” he said. “Drag racing goes back four generations in my family. It’s always been fun, but it also can teach you so much. It goes back to what my grandpops instilled into my dad and uncle — and they instilled that into me. Now I try to take those same morals and values and instill them into my children.”
Brown has 65 national-event wins (49 in Top Fuel) and has gone far beyond being the first African-American Top Fuel champion. While he is understandably proud of his success on the track, he loves the lessons the sport teaches. His 13-year-old son Anson won the Midwestern Junior Dragster championship last season.
“Every time we come up and race, it’s another one of the life lessons we learned out on the racetrack,” Antron Brown said. “What racing teaches us is that not every race day is going to be a perfect day — it never is — and those not-so-perfect days are the ones where we learn to lean on each other — and we grow from it and share the love and bond to go forward and we grow in life.
“My kids all have raced junior dragsters from an early age and they’ve learned those life lessons. You’ve got to put the work in. My son learned that first hand. If you’re struggling, you’ve got to go test. If you want to get better, you’ve got to test to get it right and, by working hard, my son Anson won the junior dragster championship last year.”
In his acceptance speech, Anson Brown joked that since Antron wasn’t going to win the championship last season, he could celebrate his. For Brown, it’s also about enjoying their time together and seeing his kids learn the lessons of hard work.
“They’re still kids and teenagers, but to see how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time and how racing has been such a crucial factor with them because they saw firsthand that when you put the work in Monday through Thursday, the results show up on the weekend,” he said. “The things they’ve learned growing up around racing will help them succeed in whatever they decide to pursue.”
YOU’RE GOING DOWN, PAPA JOHN
Antron Brown will be facing “Papa John” Schnatter in an exhibition race Saturday to benefit the Infinite Hero Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of wounded war heroes and their families.
The Infinite Hero Foundation will receive a $20,000 check following the matchup. Antron, his car owner Don Schumacher and “Papa John,” will present the check to veteran Gary Linfoot, who will accept on IHF’s behalf. The Bristol donation will push the total raised this season to the $100,000 milestone.
Linfoot, who was paralyzed in a helicopter accident 10 years ago, uses an exoskeleton that allows him to walk and stand. He and his family are very involved with the program and the team, with Linfoot serving as a grant consultant for the organization.