Young Anson Brown and Dad, three-time NHRA Top Fuel champ Antron, have grown up at the racetrack.PHOTO BY ANTRON BROWN FACEBOOK
NHRA offers plenty of Father’s Day stories for Bristol
BY: SUSAN WADE
The NHRA takes a break for Mothers Day, but Fathers Day has produced classic performances. Most recent was Clay Millican’s home-state Top Fuel victory last June 18 at Bristol, Tenn. It was the first in 255 races for Millican, a six-time IHRA Top Fuel champion, and it followed the passing of his son in a motorcycle accident in August 2015.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series action resumes this weekend at Tennessee’s Bristol Dragway, with the Fitzgerald USA Thunder Valley Nationals.
Eight-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher said: “This race on Father’s Day, it couldn’t be more perfect. It’s always perfect when Larry Dixon is not here. Don’t take that the wrong way — I love Dixon, and he’s a good dude, but it used to seem like he always won on Father’s Day. I’ve been fortunate to do it a few times in my career, as well.”
His longtime sponsor, the U.S. Army, will be celebrating its 243rd birthday, and this is one battle Schumacher would like to win for his team-owner dad, Don.
But three-time Top Fuel champion Antron Brown, driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army/Toyota Dragster, said, “Every day is Father’s Day.”
All three of Antron Brown’s children — daughter Arianna and sons Anson and Adler – have raced in Junior Dragster ranks. Mom Billie Jo also plays a key role in the family racing operation.PHOTO BY NHRA
His 13-year-old son, Anson, represents the fourth generation of drag-racing Browns.
“It’s always been fun,” Antron Brown said, “but it also can teach you so much. It goes back to what my grandpops instilled into my dad and uncle, and they instilled that into me. Now I try to take those same morals and values and instill them into my children.
“Every time we come up and race on (Father’s Day), it’s another one of the life lessons we learned out on the racetrack,” he said. “What racing teaches us is that not every race day is going to be a perfect day — it never is — and those not-so-perfect days are the ones where we learn to lean on each other and we grow from it and share the love and bond to go forward, and we grow in life.”
Brown’s children — daughter Arianna and sons Anson and Adler — have followed in the family footsteps.
“My kids all have raced Junior Dragsters from an early age, and they’ve learned those life lessons,” Brown said. “You’ve got to put the work in. My son learned that firsthand. If you’re struggling, you’ve got to go test. If you want to get better, you’ve got to test to get it right. And, by working hard, my son Anson won the Midwest Junior Dragster championship last year.”
“The funny thing was his speech at the championship (awards ceremony) when he got up and said, ‘Well, Dad, since you’re not going to win a championship this year, at least you can celebrate mine with me.’”
Anson Brown said: “It felt really cool to win a championship of my own. I love having a family in drag racing. It’s always fun to be a part of doing everything on the car, and the whole family gets to experience what it’s like.”
Mom Billie Jo helps manage the Brown family operation.
“I love being at the races and watching my father in the winner’s circle and making history. It’s always fun to be at the drag races,” Anson Brown, who already is developing his own narrative, said. “I remember when I was little, it would always scare me when the cars would go off and I’d cover my ears. Now, I just like how fast these cars are. I’ve probably been out at the races ever since I was born. I remember coming out here in a stroller.”
That’s an echo of his dad, who has recounted many times how his first memories were the same and how fond he is of those days when as a growing boy he played under the grandstands at Englishtown, New Jersey, and pretended he was like the heroes of the day: Joe Amato, Don Garlits and Kenny Bernstein.
Today, Antron Brown said: “It’s pretty awesome to see what my kids accomplish and the things they do. It’s amazing to just enjoy that time with them and watching them grow into young adults.
“They’re still kids and teenagers, but (it’s gratifying) to see how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time and how racing has been such a crucial factor with them — because they saw firsthand that when you put the work in Monday through Thursday, the results show up on the weekend,” he said. “The things they’ve learned growing up around racing will help them succeed in whatever they decide to pursue.”
Courtney Force still is basking in her Funny Car victory at Richmond, Virginia, against her father in the final round.
“I’m still in the fight,” he vowed, not afraid to take her on again, and vice versa. “I love racing with my family all our race cars. That’s all I got.” That’s not quite correct; among other things, he has a Father’s Day opportunity to earn a Wally statue on his own or to receive one his daughter presents to him — maybe by defeating him.
Three generations of the Coughlin family will be at Bristol this weekend. Jeg Coughlin Jr., father to 21-year-old Jeg III and 3-year-old Carly, said, “Life will be great on Father’s Day, regardless of how we do on the track. We’ll also have my pop, Jeg Sr., on hand, and I will certainly enjoy spending Father’s Day with him. Naturally, another win would be tremendous, no matter which one of the JEGS cars ends up in the winner’s circle.”
Brother Troy Coughlin, and his son, Troy Jr., and daughter Paige also will compete.