5 Minutes with Antron Brown
Drag racer Antron Brown is well known for winning the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 2012, 2015, and 2016. He’s extremely proud of that accomplishment, but he says he’d rather be known as a guy who pushed those around them to be the best they can be.
“I want people to look at me and be motivated – to think, ‘If Antron Brown can do it, so can I,’” he said. “Winning is great, but I want people to remember me as someone who wanted the very best out of everyone, and did everything I could to help them get that.”
Brown’s drive and determination have taken him far during his 20-plus-year racing career. He currently drives the Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster for the Don Schumacher Racing team, but he also excelled in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle division before switching to Top Fuel in 2008. We got Brown to slow down and talk to us about how he’s staying in shape, what it takes to be a successful drag racer, and why he enjoys “driving like a grandpa” on his off days.
Goodguys Gazette: If you hadn’t gone into racing, what kind of career do you think you would have pursed?
Antron Brown: I am into so many things, and I’ve always been a jokester and comedian, so I probably would have ended up in the entertainment business. I may have become a motivational speaker, actually.
GG: You’ve accomplished a lot over the course of your career. What are you most proud of?
AB: What I’m most proud of, career-wise, is making it as a professional, and becoming a world champion, and to do it three times! Personally, though, I’m most proud of still having the same values I learned from my grandpa, dad and uncle. I am now able to pass those values to my kids, and I get to watch them use them in their lives.
GG: What’s something you feel all successful drivers need to have? What separates them from the pack?
AB: What separates your normal driver from the ones who win championships is their work ethic. At that level, everyone has talent, but not everyone has that ‘want to.’ The ‘want to’ is what carries you through the hard times and makes you overcome the obstacles. You can be Michael Jordan for two minutes, but who can be him for the full 45 minutes? That’s the difference. What separates those guys in the race is that they put themselves outside their comfort zones so they can grow. I am always trying to grow.
GG: What’s your daily driver when you’re not racing?
AB: A Toyota Tundra pickup and I love it. People would probably be surprised to learn that, when I’m not racing, I drive like a grandpa! I really do! Sometimes my wife will be like, ‘Hurry up! We’ve got to get there!’ When I’m not racing, I want to take my time and see everything. I don’t need to go fast – I go fast every day of my life!
GG: Your three kids have all started in racing. As a dad, is it hard to watch them compete?
AB: My boys – who are 15 and 12 – race Junior Dragsters and my 18-year-old daughter races as well. Like me, they grew up in it and it was just natural to them. When they first start, it’s nerve-wracking but you get used to it. The coolest thing is that they get to learn important life lessons at a young age. They learn that you don’t always get a participation trophy. In drag racing, you don’t always win. I get on them to practice, and slowly they realize it’s what they have to do in order to win. They realize that if you put in the work, you will get the reward. When they fail, they want to know how to fix it. You can’t teach anyone the ‘want to;’ they have to have it inside them. That’s what drives them to get better.
GG: How has the quarantine situation affected you? Have you been able to stay race-ready during the pandemic?
AB: It’s been bad for racers. We haven’t been able to race at all, and that’s been rough. We want to be out there! Luckily, I have a simulator [at home] so I can work on that and stay in shape. I have to keep going, stay moving. We don’t know when our next race will be, and we don’t know what’s going to happen yet, but I want to be ready.
GG: What’s your typical pre-race routine?
AB: I eat the same thing on every race day: fresh fruit and a shake. I need something light because I want to be able to respond quickly during the race and not feel lazy and sluggish. Reaction time is key with what we do; we win or lose by 1/1000th of a second, so I have to keep it light so I don’t feel like taking a nap!
GG: What’s the best part of your job?
AB: My absolute favorite thing is being able to go out there and compete. I need that competition. When I get into a race car, I feel like a gladiator. I feel like I’m about to go to war. That’s the part; that’s what wakes me up in the morning and gets me going.