NHRA Top Fuel racer Antron Brown smiles during his stop at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday in Bristol, Tenn. (BMS photo)
BRISTOL, Tenn. — For the second time in a month, Antron Brown hopped behind the wheel of a stock car.
Brown, who tested a K&N Pro Series car at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., in late May, made about 20 laps around Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday morning behind the wheel of an old NASCAR Nationwide Series ride.
The speeds weren’t all that impressive for a driver used to eclipsing the 300 mph barrier in a Top Fuel dragster, but Brown certainly gained some respect for the endurance required to drive a car around a high-banked concrete oval for 500 laps.
“That was so much fun,” Brown said. “The car drove great, but it took me a few laps to get the feel for the track and what line to take. This was my second time running laps at Bristol but my first time in a true stock car, and it was an awesome experience.
“I’m definitely not in round-track shape, though. I don’t know how those guys stay focused for 500 laps.”
MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH: Greeneville native Allen Johnson completed a dream season last year by securing his first Pro Stock points championship.
But there is still one item Johnson has yet to check off his bucket list: an NHRA Pro Stock victory at Bristol Dragway, his home track. He suffered a heartbreaking loss to Mike Edwards in the finals last year, coming up on the short end of the closest finish in Pro Stock history.
When Johnson found himself standing next to Doug Herbert on Thursday at a golf tournament benefiting the Bristol chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities, Johnson jokingly reached out and tried to rub some of the luck off Herbert, a six-time winner in Bristol.
“We’re like Dorothy — home, sweet home. Clicking our heels, hoping we can make something magical happen,” Johnson said. “We wait for this event all year and the last couple years we went from semis to finals to runner-up. Hopefully this year we can seal the deal.”
Johnson said one key to winning this weekend will be keeping his emotions in check when Sunday’s final eliminations roll around.
“I’m very emotional, but when it comes time to get in that car, I can close my eyes and visualize the run, get a little grit in my teeth and go from there,” he said.
TASCA AT HAND: Just three races into the 2013 season, Funny Car driver Bob Tasca III decided he needed to make some changes. Following the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., in mid-March, Tasca chose to turn his program upside down in search of more consistent performance.
“I made that decision because of the way the points are,” Tasca said. “Just like NASCAR, they reset as long as you’re in the top 10 (before the countdown). You can make a gamble like that.
“We literally almost bankrupted our program testing in the offseason, and it never seems to materialize that what you test in the offseason just works perfectly in the season. We went in a whole different direction.”
Tasca showed up in Vegas with a radically different setup in his race car, but it took a while to find out whether he was on the right track. Rain hampered qualifying in a stretch of races late in the spring, forcing Tasca to race conservatively in order to avoid a disastrous DNQ.
But over the past couple of races leading up to Bristol, Tasca said things have started turning around. Now he’s hoping it leads to success at Bristol Dragway, a track where he has been fast in the past.
“Bottom line is that the last two races, in 12 runs, we’ve gone 11 full pulls,” Tasca said. “The race car is responding to what we’re doing and it’s going down the racetrack. I’ve never hit the parachute button so many times in two races.
“I feel really good about where we are. That’s what we’re focused on is going rounds, but I’m pleased with where we are right now.”
PARTING SHOT: “Don’t be disappointed. We’re going to go to Bristol and win.” — Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher to his team after a semifinal loss in Englishtown last time out.