Antron Brown will begin the next chapter of his NHRA career in 2022 as owner-driver of the new AB Motorsports Top Fuel team.
Toyota, TRD, and many of Brown’s existing partners will follow the three-time champion across from Don Schumacher Racing. Others will be announced by the end of the year. Brown is also bringing with him the entire team he currently competes with, and ABM will use Schumacher parts and pieces.
“It’s something that has been a lifelong dream,” Brown said. “It’s been something that I’ve been pushing hardcore to do for a while, and to be able to pave your own (way), and actually open up the doors of opportunity for other people to come up and do different things of that nature.
“I’m super-excited for what the future holds, but on the other side of the coin, I was super nervous. I’m just being honest. It’s a nerve-wracking feeling, but I feel good with the people we have in place and how it’s all coming together. I just want to have it go, but I’m patient, and I know it’s a process of making it all happen. The process has been long, and it hasn’t been easy. Absolutely not. But I know anything that’s worth it and worth doing is never easy. So, I’m prepared for that.”
All Brown knows how to do is work hard. A native of Chesterfield, New Jersey, his mom worked at the post office, and dad was in the military for 28 years before retirement, and they ran a family business. Brown is now one of the biggest names in drag racing but was told along the way he’d be lucky to have a job.
“All the noise, all the static, that was just my fuel to drive me,” said Brown. “If you want to push Antron Brown… tell me that I can’t do it, and that’s what happens. Right now, I haven’t had that of yet, but I have some people that say,’ I don’t think you can do it.’ OK.”
Including Brown as the driver, the race team will be made up of approximately 10 people. There will be others overseeing the administrative side of the business. The hope is to add a second car in the future, but Brown acknowledges that the team will have to crawl before it can walk, and then walk before running.
“I’ve talked to my wife Billie Jo about things like this all the time – you’re very nervous because you know the responsibility it takes, and you have so many people that are counting on you,” Brown said. “It’s not just you and yourself. It’s not just showing up, and everything is taken care of. It’s not showing up, and the rig is parked. You show up, and everybody comes to hospitality.
“But I believe firmly that when you surround yourself by great people, great things happen. That’s the thing ABM is going to structure ourselves around, having the right people in the right spots and having the right resources behind us.”
Schumacher has been “very supportive” of Brown’s future endeavors. Brown is also a self-described sponge, and anytime Schumacher has spoken with him or shown him what it takes to be successful, Brown has paid attention.
Schumacher has the winningest team in NHRA history and himself is a member of multiple Hall of Fame classes. One thing to stick with Brown over the years was Schumacher telling him, ‘You don’t have to be the smartest, but you can’t be the dumbest, either.’
Brown has modeled himself after that lesson.
“The one thing he’s taught me the most was is there’s a lot of talented people out there, but what made Don successful in his world is he outworked his competitors,” Brown said. “You have to outwork them. That’s something that’s been instilled in me for a very, very long time. When I’m racing, a lot of people go, ‘AB, how do you do this? Why are you always on a tree?’ They don’t realize the work that I do Monday through Friday before I come to the track.
“(Don) has told me: outwork them. Sometimes when they’re sleeping, you have to be up working. If you do that, he goes, success will come. He says even if you make mistakes, if you keep working, you’ll figure it out and get over the hurdles. That’s the thing Don has expressed to me all the time – outwork them.”
Plus, who is going to be there when Schumacher is gone? Part of Brown’s motivation for starting a team is not only providing opportunities to talented people (both drivers and those behind the scenes) but also being part of the next generation of owners. For quite some time now, Brown has thought about the need for people to keep the sport going when folks like Schumacher, or John Force and others are no longer around.
Brown plans to keep racing for many more years, as long as his right foot can push down the gas pedal. Being a team owner also ensures Brown’s presence in the NHRA pit, and he said everyone should keep expecting the same things from him when ABM arrives next season.
“The same thing that you have seen over all of our years of racing, the same championship form,” said Brown. “Going out there and compete to win and compete at a high level and to run for world championships. Smile, have fun, and engage with the fans like we always do and bring a great ROI for all of our partners.”