Three-time Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown enjoyed a monumental day at Heartland Motorsports Park, picking up his first win as a team owner with his memorable triumph on Sunday at the 33rd annual Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor.
Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Troy Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Joey Gladstone (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won the 14th of 22 races during the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Facing off with four-time defending world champion Steve Torrence in the final round, Brown powered to a run of 3.902s at 309.49mph in his Matco Tools dragster to earn his 69th career victory and first since the third race of the 2021 season, snapping a 30-race winless streak in the process. It’s also his first since he became a team owner this year, as Brown put together a strong day that started with round wins against points leader Brittany Force in a first-round thriller, Josh Hart, and Justin Ashley, setting up the marquee matchup with Torrence. Brown had the starting-line advantage and enjoyed a wire-to-wire win, setting off a huge celebration for the longtime star.
“We kept our heads down,” Brown said. “We faced a lot of resistance, but this AB Motorsports team — we’re all one unit. I wouldn’t want to do this with anybody else. All the people that have been behind us and supported us, this means so much. We’re doing this together and this is a very special day. It felt so good to get this win. I love it and here we come, baby.”
Torrence reached the final round for the third time this season and the 79th time in his career thanks to wins against Kyle Wurtzel, Seattle winner Tony Schumacher and No. 1 qualifier Mike Salinas. Force maintained the points lead but saw it shrink to 31 points over Salinas with her first-round defeat to Brown.
Tasca put together another incredible performance, staying red-hot in his BG Products Ford Mustang and edging out the legendary John Force in the final round with a run of 3.999s at 316.82mph. It gave Tasca his second victory in the past three races – and his fourth final round in the past five events – and the 11th win in his career. He put together round victories against Jack Wyatt and Matt Hagan to reach the final round, improving to 4-0 in championship rounds against the 16-time world champion. It also wrapped up yet another dominant weekend for Tasca, who won for the first time in Topeka and continued to strengthen his championship hopes at the perfect time of the year.
“The guys worked so hard, and we’ve been working a long time for this,” said Tasca, who is fifth in points. “It was challenging conditions for our team, but these guys are awesome, and we got it done. Getting ready for the Countdown is what it’s all about right now. To get four finals in the last five races, and win two races in the last three races, I think we’ve got things in gear. These were really tough conditions and to see this Mustang go up and down the track like it did, it was great.”
Force reached the final round for the second straight year in Topeka, knocking off Cruz Pedregon, defending world champion Ron Capps and teammate Robert Hight to get there. It’s also Force’s third final this year and 264th in his career. Hight maintained the points lead, which now stands at 237 points over Hagan.
Coughlin Jr. didn’t have to wait long for his second career Pro Stock win, making it two victories in a row with a phenomenal weekend in Topeka, including a final-round run of 6.680s at 206.54mph in his JEGS.com/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro to knock off defending world champion Greg Anderson. Not only did Coughlin win his second straight race, but the rising star also denied Anderson, the No. 1 qualifier, his 100th career win. He reached the finals with victories against Chris McGaha and Fernando Cuadra Jr., and then knocked off points leader and teammate Erica Enders for a second straight race. Coughlin was first off the line against Anderson in the finals and held off the five-time champ to throw his name in the championship mix in the process.
“It’s extremely meaningful,” said Coughlin, whose father, Troy Sr., won in Topeka in 2002 in Pro Stock. “Anytime you can win at the same track as your father, it’s extremely memorable. I remember when I was in sixth grade, and he’s in the final round, and I’ll just never forget this elation. It’s a lot of work with these Pro Stock cars. When you struggle with one, it’s like struggling two times. But that’s kudos to everyone at Elite Motorsports. Everyone there, every car, and they rally around it.”
Anderson reached his 169th career final round – and second this season – by knocking off Bo Butner and teammate Kyle Koretsky. Enders keeps a healthy points lead and a 126-point advantage over teammate Aaron Stanfield.
Gladstone wrapped up a perfect weekend in Pro Stock Motorcycle, going 6.876s at 195.59mph on his J&A Service Suzuki Hayabusa to knock off Eddie Krawiec in the championship round. It gave Gladstone his second straight – and second career – victory in the class as the young standout made the quickest run of every single session in both qualifying and eliminations. After a dominant performance in qualifying, Gladstone didn’t let up on race day, knocking off David Barron and Angie Smith to set up the final with Krawiec. He denied Krawiec his 50th career w in, making his seventh straight run in the 6.80s to finish off a remarkable weekend in style. He also took over the points lead on Saturday and pushed it to a 64-point lead over Angelle Sampey with his stellar showing in eliminations as Pro Stock Motorcycle appeared in Topeka for the first time since 1997.
“This is what dreams are made of,” Gladstone said. “I’m just so thankful and so proud of this team. They’re so awesome and this is unbelievable right now. Our guys gave me a perfect bike this weekend and we kind of lucked up into a tuneup. We put something that we thought would be close and we nailed it. We just had to make small adjustments to it, and I just had to keep doing my thing. It’s taken quite some time to do this, and these are extremely difficult to ride correctly. My tuner is doing a terrific job and to be doing it in this style, it’s so cool.”
Krawiec came up short against Gladstone in the final round for the second straight race, but he did move to third in points by defeating Ryan Oehler, defending world champ Matt Smith and Jerry Savoie. It’s also his 91st career final round.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action Aug. 18-21 with the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minn.