An Indiana drag racer is looking to defend his title as the 2013 season gets underway.
The Mello Yello NHRA drag racing season opens this weekend in Pomona, California. Pittsboro's Antron Brown returns to Pomona in his Don Schumacher Racing Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster to begin defense of his first championship.
Last season ended in Pomona, with Brown watching his teammate Tony Schumacher barely lose the final race of the year to Brandon Bernstein. That result gave Brown the Top Fuel title.
Brown won six events in 2012 on his way to becoming the first African-American to win a major auto racing championship.
"It's been a very, very busy off-season," Brown said during an interview at the DSR shop in Brownsburg. "But I love it, because that means that you did something well. We won that championship."
The 36-year-old driver can't wait for the green light on 2013.
"What brings me back year-to-year, even after winning the championship last year, is just the intensity of NHRA racing, just the pure intensity," said Brown.
Brown will race inside this season. His Top Fueler is now equipped with an enclosed cockpit. He says it's not only safer, but quieter.
"I can hear myself think again," said Brown. "You can still feel a little vibration, but that's deadened. But it heightens your other senses. When you feel the car not running right, I can actually feel it at the seat of my pants a lot more now."
Aerodyne Composites in Indianapolis developed the enclosed canopy which Schumacher debuted late last season.
"I can hit on it," said Brown, pounding his fist on the windshield. "I can bang on it. This thing is bulletproof. This glass is over a half inch thick. This is all made out of carbon fiber and Kevlar. It keeps the driver real safe inside."
Brown raced motorcycles for 10 years before he got a chance to test a Top Fueler.
"I got in there," remembers Brown. "I was like, 'what took me so long to get here?' It's one of those feelings you can't describe when you get in one of these fuel cars and mash on the gas. Nothing on this planet can describe what it feels like."
Brown begins his sixth season in Top Fuel holding the record for the quickest pass in NHRA history, 3.701 seconds, set last October in Reading, Pennsylvania.