Antron Brown is a man who likes to move fast.
He was an Olympic-caliber 100-meter sprinter at Mercer Junior College in his native New Jersey, but he turned down a track scholarship offer from Long Island University to pursue NHRA drag racing. Now, he travels the length of four football fields in less than four seconds at speeds approaching 334 mph in the Matco Tools/Toyota/Global Electronic Technology dragster.
Of late, Brown has found himself moving a little slower, at least in his newest pursuit of becoming a Top Fuel team owner.
The three-time Top Fuel champion has formed Antron Brown Motorsports, but he’s still operating under the Don Schumacher Racing banner.
Taking baby steps is not something Brown is used to. He left a 16-victory Pro Stock Motorcycle career to join the nitro ranks in 2008. That year, he qualified No. 1 at the season opener, won in his fourth race and won twice in three straight final rounds by the sixth race.
Moreover, his victories came against Larry Dixon and Tony Schumacher, the dominators of that decade.
Team owner Don Schumacher, who is urging caution as Brown charts his course of independence, didn’t disclose a timetable for the transition to be completed.
However, he said, “Everybody would like to have everything happen yesterday. And all I could tell him was, ‘Slow down. Slow down. Take it easy. There’s a lot of time ahead of us. Let’s just work on it step by step. You have to be careful. Learn your way through it and we’ll go from there.’”
Brown explained the non-traditional arrangement.
“We’re working on owning this whole operation, while continuing as a subsidiary of DSR and being able to buy the parts and pieces from DSR, as well as having them handle the hospitality,” Brown said. “We’ll still be a family, except we’ll be able to make our own decisions going forward, while still having DSR in the background to help us along the way. It’s another chapter in this racing team and we’re all doing it together.
“They’ve been very gracious at Don Schumacher Racing for all these years with what Don has established. One thing I’ve learned from him is that you always need to keep excelling and keep on reaching to climb to the next level.”
At age 20, Brown, the now 44-year-old Brown heard three questions from Troy Vincent, his Pro Stock Motorcycle team owner and current NFL executive vice-president of football operations. He would ask Brown, “If you want to be of championship caliber, what are you going to set aside? What are you going to do different? What are you going to sacrifice?”
Brown absorbed that lesson — and prospered.
“Everybody wants to win a championship,” he said, “but it’s few and far between the drivers who put in the work that’s necessary and put their heart and soul in to make it happen. There are a lot of people who want. But what are they going to do to break away from the pack to make that want into reality?”
In late January, on the eve of preseason testing, Brown was surrounded by the dazzling lights and countless distractions of Las Vegas. But he and Don Schumacher huddled until about 10 p.m., “just kind of going over things — because we need to,” in Schumacher’s words.
“He needs to understand,” Schumacher said. “We can set a budget for 2020, but then you have to be concerned about all these other things. And if you make a profit, you have to pay taxes on it. There are a lot of challenges to everything.
“We’ll see how it goes forward,” he continued. “Owning and running a business is a lot more than a lot of people realize, (more than) just sitting and looking at an Excel spreadsheet. There are just some realities you have to deal with. Everyone has goals and if I can assist him in accomplishing his goal, I’m there to do that. You always want your employees and team members to better themselves.
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