Antron Brown got the call to try something new. Being a racer, he said sure, I’ll check out Pro 275 at the 51st annual Snowbird Outlaw Nationals, held this past weekend on Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida.
Coming from the world of NHRA Top Fuel drag racing, where Brown has amassed three championships and won this year’s Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals, arguably the biggest race of the NHRA season every year, the New Jersey native signed to drive a Mustang named “Fred” that he’d met, along with its driver, drag radial star Manny Buginga, at the Performance Racing Industry show a few years ago. Introduced by mutual friend Carlo Catalanotta, the Brown and Buginga began talking about what each one does and how to be more successful in straight-line racing of any type.
“When you meet serious racers, they just got that ‘want to’ that you can see it in them, that they’re going to be the best,” said Brown, who became a team owner this year when he finally launched Antron Brown Motorsports. “Not just’ want to be’, they’re doing all the necessary things to be the best. I noticed that right away about Manny, just the way he carries himself and his attitude – and the way he’s just on-point.”
Body language says a lot.
“We’ve just been bouncing ideas off each other,” Buginga noted. “Antron is on the other side of the spectrum where it’s 330 mph (at 1,000 feet). You’ve gotta respect that. The man’s talented. We took some of his ideas and bounced ideas off each other and they work.”
The trio of Brown, Buginga and Catalanotta figured they could put the NHRA star in Fred, Buginga’s Jamie Miller-tuned, ProCharger-boosted Mustang, in the Pro 275 class. “Carlo is like a brother to me,” Buginga said. “He brought us together and I asked him if he thought Antron would drive a radial car. He’s like, ‘Hell yeah, he’s into that. He loves racing. He’ll drive anything on two wheels – and even one. Let’s make it happen.” So they started talking.
Buginga finished second in FuelTech Radial Outlaws this season, so Brown knew he had a competitive car to work with. He made a couple of test runs on the Thursday before competition opened, with a best of 4.42 at 120.98 mph – with an early shut-off. Brown’s immediate comfort in the car and understanding of its different capabilities impressed “Fred’s” owner.
After his first runs, Brown said, “The car takes off; it’s hauling the mail,” he said. “You’re talking about a car that will still do .900 60-foots. The car is almost as quick as a Funny Car to 60-foot. We’re like a tenth off on 60 foot,” he said.
Brown used that testing time well, and when it was time to go racing, Antron Brown did what Antron Brown does. Get in, strap up and race. Fred the bright orange Mustang was another car for him, didn’t matter that it had less than a quarter of the power he’s used to. Didn’t matter that Fred’s a door slammer. The only thing that mattered was the water box, the burnout, the tree and the finish line. And Brown, running a small-tire car for the first time in his career, took Fred to the Winner’s Circle in Florida on Sunday night.
Afterwards he was just as excited as he would have been after winning any NHRA race, giving credit to Buginga and his team for the prep work on Fred. The margin of victory was tiny at .0039 sec and he didn’t have any advantage until they reached the 60-foot mark.
“That was a heck of a race!” Brown exulted at the top end. “It was so cool to come out here and race,” he said before being embraced by Buginga in a bear hug. Will he do it again? Could happen. Or maybe he’ll try some other class of straight-line racing. He’s Antron Brown. He can do this.