Brown aiming to use NHRA’s next 4-Wide event to his advantage

Antron Brown wants to be the cat sitting in the tree this weekend at Charlotte’s zMAX Dragway for the 4-Wide Nationals.

“You want to be poised,” Brown told RACER. “You might have four mice running at you, but you want to focus on one that you want to jump at because you’re not going to catch all four of them. You have to focus on the one that you need.”

zMAX Dragway is the site of the second four-wide event of the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season. Brown, a three-time Top Fuel champion, knows success at the facility when it’s four lanes with two event wins (2014 and ’15) and a runner-up finish (2016). He’s won a total of six times in his career at zMAX Dragway.

Brown has been in the elimination quad in four of the last seven four-wide events between Las Vegas and Charlotte, including two weeks ago in Las Vegas.

“I think the biggest trap in four-wide racing is when you race somebody else, you can kind of go into machine mode without thinking,” Brown said. “But when you add two additional competitors, you don’t want to be the first one to stage, but you don’t want to be the last one.”

In four-wide racing, it’s not only two additional lanes and competitors but an additional Christmas tree, which means there are additional chances of being led into a mistake. Some happen during staging (like timing out), or red lighting because a driver believes they hear someone else on the throttle, or even looking at the wrong Christmas tree.

“Everyone has motions in their mind, and I think that’s what makes it difficult,” Brown said. “Because you’re not thinking about the one person you’re racing where you go, ‘Hey, this person isn’t that good on the tree. All I’ve got to do is get off the starting line, and if we go A to B, we’ll be good to go.’ Now you have to think about, ‘Well, hold up. I’m not just racing Steve Torrence. Now I’ve got Justin Ashley in the other lane. Gosh, dog, he’s quick on the tree. Steve’s decent on the tree, but his car runs really, really well, so I’ve got to be quick on the tree. Thank God my car is running well because Justin’s car runs well, and he’s quick on the tree.’

“Then you go, ‘[Man], Doug Kalitta is the last one. …We’ve got Doug Kalitta, too.’ It’s one of those deals where the hardest part is you’ve got to try to tone down your senses because they are heightened because you’ve got so much happening around you. Before, the narrative was so easy because it was one [competitor].

“When you add [more] in, it’s kind of like a battle royal where you have to throw your best blow. You literally go in there and it’s so easy to get off the tangent because you’ll see this light blink on, then this light blinks on, then the third light, and the fourth.”

The addition of a Christmas tree changes a driver’s procedure and sight-lines. It’s where a mistake is most likely to occur.

“If you’re on the two inner lanes, your light bulbs are on the opposite side of the tree,” Brown said. “So, if you’re in lane two, your bulks are over on the left side of the tree. It’s not on the side of the track that you’re on. The people who can’t think are at a [big] disadvantage.

“Some people will drive these cars and the cars are so fast that they can’t keep up, and then you throw [all] that in the cogs and they don’t know how to function. For somebody who can keep it steady, it makes it a little bit easier, but it’s hard. It’s hard.”

Brown has always been someone who felt he could slow everything down. Outside of his dragster, Brown is full of life and has a contagious personality, but when it comes to racing, he doesn’t get too up or down.

And that’s what he can use to his advantage when he’s looking at the mice he wants to catch.

“I think that’s why I’ve been so successful at four-wide; it’s kind of played into my favor,” Brown said. “It fell into my wheelhouse because there is more going on, and it’s showing my mindset capabilities where some people don’t have that mindset.”

Story originally appeared on Racer