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Although many of the race winners gave credit to their crew chiefs, the number of holeshot victories at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway proved the drivers also made a huge contribution to the outcome of many races on Sunday.
For the 20th time in Don Schumacher Racing history, a pair of Top Fuel teammates met for the championship of an NHRA Full Throttle Series event.
After Antron Brown's Aaron's Dream Machine/Matco Tools dragster won in the semifinals round, the New Jersey native took over the series points lead for his team and crew chiefs Mark Oswald and Brian Corradi.
Winner Spencer Massey credits his crew chief duo of Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler for having a solid game plan throughout the weekend. With hot conditions for qualifying and cool and windy conditions on race day, it proved to be a crew chief’s game.
"It was a tuner’s race all weekend," said Massey. "They had to make so many adjustments throughout the weekend, it was extremely tough. We go up there to try to win our round and not beat ourselves. That's what our game plan was all day long. We weren't trying to go out there and set low elapsed time. We were trying not to beat ourselves."
Although this is the second event win for Massey and the FRAM team, he never thought competition would be so tough in the Top Fuel class.
"Competition has stepped up tremendously," Massey said. "Everybody is running extremely strong. You have to do flawless on the run and count every thousandth of a second. It's that close."
Brown lost in the championship round to Massey and missed earning the 33rd title of his career. But Brown was able to set Las Vegas track records with the fastest (326.08 mph) and quickest (3.779 seconds) runs ever at the track. And Brown's team did it in a race car that made its first run down a dragstrip on Friday.
The team had its worse qualifying performance of the year and waited until the fourth and final session to post a time good enough to earn the No. 12 spot for Sunday's 16-car championship eliminations.
"It might be a new chassis but we've run these cars before. It wasn't the car giving us trouble in qualifying it was a problem with one part and Mark and Brian figured it out and fixed it.”
What Brown did as a driver was use exceptional quickness on the starting line to leave ahead of Shawn Langdon by a large enough margin (0.021 seconds) to overcome Langdon's better elapsed time and win with a holeshot.
Then in the semifinals against Morgan Lucas, who won the last NHRA event and Las Vegas pole, Brown was able to outdrive Lucas when each dragster's rear tires began to lose traction. Brown was able to recover first and advance to the final round.