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Throw-down Brown ready to rock and roll in Countdown

[Cue up the music] "Nothing could finer than to win in Carolina . . . "

Cut. Stop the music. Too tame.

Yes, Antron Brown said as much about starting the Countdown at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway at Concord, N.C., but that classic song just doesn't have the right vibe. We need sinister music, like on TV, when something startling is about to happen -- ambush music, kind of. And it needs to segue somehow into the theme from "Rocky."

Brown said that "when the points [for the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship] were reset two weeks ago, we were suddenly within arm’' length of first place." He said he wanted "to seize the moment." He did say, "We would love nothing better than to leave North Carolina with the points lead." But he had a tone of urgency, a sense of excitement, an air of ambush.

The Aaron's Dream Machine/ Matco Tools Dragster driver rocked to his own rhythm Sunday, winning the first event in the six-race Countdown and grabbing the points lead from Del Worsham. And the beat and the beating went on.

Brown defeated Don Schumacher racing mate Spencer Massey in the final round to earn his third straight victory and fourth in five races. It was his first victory at zMAX Dragway but his sixth this year in seven final-round appearances.


He beat Massey in the final round with a 3.784-second pass at 325.14 mph on zMAX Dragway's 1,000-foot course. Massey, in the FRAM-Prestone Dragster, ran a 4.533, 155.08.

Brown will take a 16-point lead over second-place Massey this weekend into the Texas Motorplex, at Ennis, south of Dallas for the AAA Texas Fall Nationals. Five races remain in the playoff that will end Nov. 13 at the Auto Club Finals at Pomona, Calif.

Brown and Massey forged an all-Don Schumacher Racing final round, while relegating virtual season-long points leader Del Worsham to third place in the standings. The Al-Anabi Racing / Toyota Dragster dominator stumbled, too, in losing to Bob Vandergriff in Sunday's opening round.

Worsham, who yielded the points lead for the first time since grabbing it with a victory March 13 at Gainesville, Fla., is 38 points off Brown's pace. And Brown knows not to count him out.

"Del, his car's still phenomenal," Brown said. "He just had a mishap."

Conversely, everything was calculated for Brown, the former Pro Stock Motorcycle rider and 16-time bike winner.

"We have been performing extremely well in recent races, but we can't rest easy. We can't leave one crack undone. We have to remain focused, work hard, and exhibit plenty of determination," he said. "I truly believe this team can win the world championship. It all starts here in Charlotte."

What he gained didn't come easily.

"It was a hard-fought weekend. This track just sucked the life out of the race car this weekend," Brown said. "There's still a long way to go in the championship, though, and a lot of hard work to get done."

He did some of the heavy lifting, beating pesky T.J. Zizzo, upset-master Vandergriff, and top-qualifier Tony Schumacher, the only driver to stop him in the past five events. Moreover, Schumacher shocked everyone in the final qualifying session Saturday evening by grabbing the No. 1 qualifying position. The Sunday before he was eliminated, he set the national speed record at 327.90 mph.

So Brown had to maneuver a minefield. He said he never knew who was going to pop up with the next stunning elapsed time or speed -- and he wasn't sure what to expect because of changing weather conditions.

"We're going to be a strong contender," he said, which might seem like an understatement, considering his recent achievements. "We got in a zone right before the Western Swing [this summer]. Now our car's doing what [crew chiefs Mark Oswald and Brian Corradi] want it to do. This year, we've just been hitting it right. I've just been having a blast out there."

But in all the celebration, he stopped to realize that he's on every Top Fuel driver's radar screen as the man to beat. Brown said he recognizes that "all those guys are gunning for you and they're going to throw up hero runs and knock you down. But we've already been 'gunned at.' These guys are going to bring it, but we're going to bring it, too," he said.

He said he "always liked to be the guy under the radar."

It's way too late for that.

But it's not too late to put on some hard-core, in-your-face rock music. Antron Brown is fired up and ready to rock and roll.

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