Antron Brown became the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) first Black champion after he won the Top Fuel series title on Sunday.
Going into the race, Brown led teammate and seven-time champion Tony Schumacher, by 67 points, but lost the first heat after his engine caught fire. Watching from the sidelines with minor burns on his hands from the earlier incident, he clinched the championship when Schumacher was defeated by Brandon Bernstein.
“I feel so blessed to be in this moment right now and this is a big huge moment,” Brown told the Associated Press. “I am just glad we could bring it home for Don Schumacher Racing. To win the world championship, the way the competition has been this year in Top Fuel, and to run and compete how we’ve been doing all season long is just phenomenal. We all switched the lead back and forth a bunch of times. Is this really happening?”
Brown earned six trophies and was the top qualifier three times on his way to his current title.
“If I can be an inspiration for any of the kids out there who have dreams, any Americans, that’s all I want,” he said.
Diversity is present throughout the NHRA, with women as well as minorities a presence in the sport. Shirley Muldowney, who won three championships, was the first woman to earn a license to drive a Top Fuel dragster. Hispanic brothers Tony and Cruz Pedregon both won Funny Car series championships. Erica Enders became the first woman to win a Pro Stock series event.