theGrio’s 100: Antron Brown, drag racing his way into history

Who is Antron Brown?

Antron Brown wasn’t always a champion on the race track. Brown was first heralded as a track and field star with a full scholarship awaiting him at Long Island University in 1997.

His heart was always in racing, however, and he decided to join a family relative’s racing team instead.

He was racing motorcycles then. Now he’s a drag racer.

Last November, Brown, 36, became the first African-American to win the Top Fuel title in the National Hot Rod Association pro series. He joined Top Fuel drag racing in 2008.

Brown says racing is “in his blood.” The New Jersey native’s father and uncle were auto racers and Brown would spend childhood weekends with them on the track.

Why is he on theGrio’s 100?

Brown’s historic victory on the track has made him a star, but 2012 was by no means his first taste of success.

He nearly won the Top Fuel title in 2011, finishing third. He led all Top Fuel drivers with 51 round-wins and a .739 winning percentage in 2009.

Brown is recognized in the racing world as a trailblazer, but he often chooses to highlight the struggles of other pioneers in the sport when asked about his achievements. Mention his place in the sport as a black racer and he’ll quickly mention Shirley Muldowney, the first woman to win a Top Fuel title back in 1977.

Brown told ESPN.com’s Lynn Hoppes:

“I’m humbled and honored to be the first African-American in our sport to get the championship. But, at the end of the day, I never looked at it like that. I wanted to get respect for the kind of person I am and for the kind of race I am. I take it as a privilege and it motivates me to realize that you can fulfill your dreams no matter what color you are.”

What’s next for Brown?

Brown will kick off 2013’s racing season with a preseason event at Palm Beach International Raceway. His schedule officially kicks off February 14-17 with the Winternationals at the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

Many consider Brown the favorite to repeat as Top Fuel champion in 2013.

Follow Antron Brown on Twitter @AntronBrown