The driver of the Matco Tools dragster walked away without serious injury following a harrowing, fiery crash on Sunday that led to a few tense moments for his team, the fans in attendance, and the throngs watching it live on the internet. Brown was racing alongside David Grubnic in the second round when his engine erupted in a fireball at the finish stripe. The ensuing melee exploded both rear tires and damaged the rear wing, virtually taking all control out of the hands of the skilled nitro pilot.
Brown’s dragster spun around and struck the opposing guardrail tail-first, slid back across the track and struck the other wall, and slid to a halt in the sand trap on its side. The NHRA Safety Safari was on the scene immediately, and Brown was able to release the cockpit canopy (this was his first race using the new canopy), released his belts, and climbed from the twisted wreckage. Brown was going 308.64 mph when he crossed the finish line.
He was examined by on-site medical staff and released. The initial impact with the guardrail caused significant damage to one of the manual gates, leading to a 1 hour, 28 minute delay to make repairs.
“I’m good. I remember going to (the finish line). Everything was going fine. I didn’t hear anybody around me so I was, like, ‘We’re doing good.’ All of a sudden I just remember the car just snapping.
“Basically, when (the engine) blew up, I felt the back end come up and all I remember was going over on my side. And then I remember pulling the brakes and everything else and I couldn’t do anything else.
Basically, when (the engine) blew up, I felt the back end come up and all I remember was going over on my side. And then I remember pulling the brakes and everything else and I couldn’t do anything else.
“I can’t thank the NHRA Safety Safari enough because when I was upside-down, I already saw their truck pulled up by the sand pit. I saw the guys running out. They were able to lift my car up on its side a little bit. I was able to get my canopy open, and I undid my seatbelts myself and I got out.
“I’m just grateful we had that thing on our car because I don’t know what would’ve happened if we would’ve had (the old-style, open cockpit) setup on the front of the car.”
It was just four months ago, at the Auto Club Finals at Pomona, that Brown had has hands singed in a freak incident in the first round of eliminations when a fuel line sprayed burning fuel into the cockpit just off the starting line. That early exit left Brown to wait and watch as teammate Tony Schumacher came up just short in a bid to unseat the former Pro Stock Motorcycle rider from the title.