Race Team confidential: Antron Brown, Brownsburg, IN
There’s little downtime for a championship-winning driver who splits the offseason between Top Fuel and his sons’ Jr. Dragster teams.
A normal offseason is less than 90 days from Pomona to Pomona on the NHRA side. We keep plenty busy because it goes fast with staying in shape at the gym to the guys refreshing the parts, the branding on the car, trailers, uniforms, photo shoots, and testing before the first race, which this year is at Gainesville in March.
In addition, my sons Anson and Adler both race in the Midwest Jr. Super Series. Anson races the 7.90 Index, Sportsman, Pro Sportsman, and also in the 13-and-up age group. Adler races in the 10- to 12-year-old age group, Pro Sportsman, and 8.90 Index. Anson was 8 when he started and is now 16, while Adler started at age 6 and is now 12.
The difference between me driving rather than being a crew chief is that when I race Top Fuel, all I have to do is drive and mix fuel. I don’t have to worry about the car or what it does, or about the tune-up to make the car better.
But, as crew chief on the Juniors, I’m now worried about everything that I’m not used to having to focus on during the NHRA national events, like what tire pressure we need for the conditions, or how to jet it or tune it, or how to tune the clutch. At the same time, I’m trying to coach them to be better race car drivers so they can improve and learn from their mistakes.
I’ve always been interested in the mechanical side of the race car and how things work and operate. [As their crew chief], if I understand the mechanics, I feel that it makes me a better driver. It makes me look at more things on the car that I can then talk to my crew chiefs about—things I feel going down the race track in the dragster.
With the Juniors, we’re spending time now going out in the shop and tearing the race cars down and putting the eagle-eye on the chassis and parts to make sure their cars are perfect. We replace the bearings in the rear axles, make sure the engines are prepped, and we’ll send them off to get freshened up. We also get new windshields, make sure they fit in the car properly and safely, and renew their NHRA competition license.
Pre-COVID, the kids would attend the PRI Show in Indy and walk the floor with me and visit the booths and spend time with our partners. We will do social media and showcase the offseason and what we’re working on. We like to focus on what Impact Racing does and can provide for safety for the youngsters, also.
My approach to sponsorship is that we deliver for our partners who support us. COVID and pre-COVID are two different worlds. Pre-COVID, I would do a lot of in-person events like speaking at vocational schools, meetings with our sponsors and distributors, appearances at Matco Tools events, and things like that.
But with COVID, we don’t foresee doing any in-person events or meetings until mid-2021. So, for now, we use Skype or Microsoft Teams for meetings with our sponsors to discuss what value we can bring to them during these times.
We’re also really hitting social media hard with requested messaging points from our partners. Instagram is our biggest focus because it brings the most value, but we do Twitter as well, and Facebook gets some good engagement.
For the Juniors, it’s really no different than what we do for Top Fuel and the NHRA Camping World series, just on a smaller scale. The kids have to learn to put in the work and time, and learn the value of having loyal partners. It’s great life lessons.