Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

December 27, 2012

Racing champion leans on faith to persevere

Bart Doan
CNHI

BROWNSBURG — Antron Brown remembers when it all changed for him. A truck his older brother was driving tumbled end over end, life flashing before his eyes. When his brother survived, it changed him instantaneously.

Brown is a NHRA top fuel drag racing champion now for Don Schumacher Racing, but he concedes he wouldn’t be without his undying faith, which was enhanced that day.

“It was some things that got instilled in (my brother) that instantly changed him, when I saw him go through that transfer. We always went to church, but one day he stayed after, asking more questions. He got more involved, transferred colleges, and then at 21 became an ordained minister. It made me curious. Why, I asked myself,” recalls Brown.

A short time later, Brown had an injury as a motocross racer that he says “I had a hard time answering.”

“I was racing motocross, and to an extent that’s what I wanted to do when I got older. I ate, slept, and dreamed it. Then I got hurt, and it was taken away for eight months. That’s when all this stuff changed on me and I started praying. It wasn’t the first time I’d ever prayed before, but it was a different kind.”

Brown gave up on racing professionally shortly after that sit down with God asking to be guided to what it was he was supposed to do with his life. Brown went on to college, and then got an opportunity to drag race professionally. He recalled that prayer at that time, and knew that racing could be his platform to help change the lives of others.

“I realized I can go in and change other people’s lives and make their lives better. I talk at career fairs, and I tell people it’s God, family, and then work. I ask them, ‘what is your dream you want to do?’ Don’t say ‘this is what I want to do’ but you’re over there doing something that has nothing to do with it. Like, if you want to be in racing, you have to do everything you can to get into racing. It might not always be the job you want at first. It might be taking a job on a race team in hospitality. Might be taking a job on a race team selling tee shirts in the tee shirt trailer. You’ve got to have that faith,” he advises.

Brown, who lives in Pittsboro and attends Cornerstone Christian Church in Brownsburg, also participates in a Christian group called Racers For Christ (RFC), where often on the road race teams convene with one another every Sunday to have a fellowship service.

“I’ve been fortunate to surround myself with other brothers in Christ, which makes that journey on the road away from family a lot easier. There are a lot of things around you that can make you go in the wrong direction,” he said of the high octane lifestyle.

The RFC is a non-denominational ministry spreads across all genres of racing, from the NHRA circuit to even boat racing. It also is Brown’s way to interact with drivers and teams new to the scene that look up to him because of his successes.

“I’m a true believer in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He puts different people in different realms for different reasons. I tell (younger drivers) that when I’m going through hard times, that is where I put my faith. I pray and let it go. You can worry about things non-stop, all day long, because this is your career. If you don’t perform on Sunday, you might not be here for the next Sunday. You have people waiting behind you to get to the next round.”

Brown jokes that often times, because of his success, he’s heard younger drivers say that they need to start going to the RFC services because whatever Brown is doing there, it’s helping him win more than them.

“I use the stories in the Bible to make me stronger. All it is is people like ourselves just in a past time about how they’re going through the same struggles of life, only their doing it at a different time,” he says.

Brown admits that while faith is strong within the NHRA circuit, it bothers him to a degree that from a national landscape, religious faith seems to be in decline. He said things like people taking issue with nativity scenes in public parks, or talk of changing the Pledge of Allegiance to remove ‘one nation under God’ makes him sad.

“It’s upsetting honestly, because when you think of our country, the United States, we were built on God. In God We Trust. Any politician will say ‘God bless America,’ but you have different people who will get mad because they don’t have it in their beliefs.

“To be a Christian, you have to have that child-like faith where you put it all in. All or nothing, and that’s a hard thing for a lot of people to do. A lot of people, they only believe what they can see, feel, and touch until their lives come to a screeching halt, which is when they try to develop a relationship with God. It’d depressing when you see people straying away from that. But sometimes you’ve got to be at the bitter end where you’re about to fall off the edge before you grab that rope.”

Brown admits that his career path is dangerous, and that he says a special prayer before every time he blasts off the starting line, not to win, but to keep everyone safe regardless of the outcome.

“God wants me to use Him as the steering wheel, not as replaceable tires. I’m saying a prayer to be thankful for where I’m at in my life that I get through God, and my prayer is to keep everybody safe.”

Brown doesn’t stop with inviting drivers to learn about God. On his @AntronBrown Twitter account, he often gives a scripture of the week and then asks what it is later to see if people were paying attention to it. He says he never pushes faith on people, but rather puts out his beliefs, invites them to learn with him, and if they show interest, tries to help their journey.

“You can change somebody’s life,” he says of using his profession and intertwining it with faith. “My favorite passage says ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ You get a lot of people who are afraid to proclaim their faith because of what people will say. As far as the Twitter scripture of the week, it’s cool and it tries to enlighten people.”