February 10, 2016, by Kay Presto, www.carsandcompetition.com
When an NHRA Top Fuel dragster launches down the dragstrip, it puts forces up to 6 Gs against the driver’s body. Three seconds later, when that same dragster, traveling at over 300 miles per hour in a straight line, goes through the speed trap, that driver’s body experiences another half-G. When the chutes come out to stop that car before it can hit the sand trap, they snap that driver’s body back to a sudden extreme force of four reverse Gs of force.That entire procedure puts the driver through a swing of almost 5.5 Gs, more than half of what a pilot experiences in an U. S. Air Force F-16 fighter at full speed.
At rest, One G is the force of gravity against a person’s body. 1.1 Gs is what a person would experience in a fast-rising elevator. Six to eight Gs makes it extremely difficult to breathe, the blood has a difficult time getting to the brain, and a person can lose their peripheral vision.
Those G forces take a great toll on that race driver’s body. They can even detach the retinas in a race driver’s eyes.
Antron Brown, the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel World Champion describes that physical toll as “trauma to the body.”
So in order to keep themselves as fit as possible, protect their bodies, and help with their stamina to withstand those extreme G forces, they take intense measures in keeping themselves fit as possible.
That means eating a proper diet, getting enough rest, and most of all – working out.
“The only way to actually cope with that “trauma” to the body – as Brown so correctly describes it – is to do intensive workouts.
“I do that so I can always be stronger and more fit,” said Brown, “not only to go down the racetrack, but to deal with the everyday stress at the racetrack.”
During race weekends, drivers have to run here and there around the racetrack to meet all their requirements with the team, sponsors, and fans. “But then we still have to get back in the car in a split second, and we still have to be in total focus and be on top of our game,” said Brown.
“If I mess up on the track by even one second,” he emphasized, “that means our entire team goes home, “so I have to create a mental confidence. That mental confidence that makes me emotionally strong, then helps me handle well whatever comes my way. That’s what I have to have to be out here and contend, and to win these NHRA races.”
Brown likes to mix up his workout routine. “We do Crossfit, kettle bells, performance training with a lot of speed and agility work, to normal strength training. We mix it all together, so I have two different trainers. I have a strength training coach, which is Matt Serd, from Brownburg Fitness, and then I have Morris Virgil, who is actually a speed agility trainer. Virgil also puts me through core classes, to work on the core in my body. He puts me through all that speed and agility work to take me to that next level.”
Brown says the drivers go through a lot to make each run and experience that trauma, but, he adds, “That’s what we knew when we came into this sport, and his whole philosophy is that “If I want to be out here, I want to be out here at that high level and I want to give my team the best advantage to win, and we have to look out for each other. If my team is working, I’m working.”
Besides working out to be his absolute best, Brown brings another unique skill to the racing table. He originally began NHRA racing in their Pro Stock Motorcycle class, then in 2007, he made the huge transition into the Top Fuel class , achieving two wins and three No. 1 qualifiers, making him the only driver in NHRA history to win races in both Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Brown credits that Pro Stock Motorcycle experience with helping him do well in the Top Fuel ranks.
So what skills did he transfer in going from Pro Stock Motorcycle to racing in Top Fuel? “All the racing is the same,” he said, “but the bike racing made me more aware of what is going on around me, so I am able to tell if someone is trying to play games with me, or startle me (at the Christmas tree). I know how to deal with that and not let it affect me, so I can still go out there and do the job that I need to do.”
That skill – coupled with his physical conditioning – have helped Brown to achieve not one, but two, world Top Fuel titles so far. And this year, he is definitely working hard toward his third.