Written by Ainsley Jacobs
For NHRA Top Fuel legend and three-time world champion Antron Brown, there’s something even more important than the success of his career – the success of his children. Now, as his middle child, Anson, prepares to age out of Junior Dragster competition, Antron is passing the torch to the next generation of Brown family racers.
Before he got started racing in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998, Antron attended Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School to complete their Pro Stock Motorcycle class; he joined the Don Schumacher Racing team in 2002 and returned to the School with teammate Angelle Sampey in 2005 to brush up on his skills.
In 2007, Antron once again trusted Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School to prepare him for the next step in his career when he received his Top Alcohol Dragster license and went on to pilot the pinnacle of performance, a Top Fuel dragster.
Antron remembers that time at the School as if it were just yesterday, as he shifted his alcohol dragster quicker than Hawley had ever seen anyone do before. “I was swapping feet and doing everything to leave the line and shift down the racetrack,” laughed the driver, who impressed his instructor tremendously. “Frank [Hawley] said the Top Fuel Dragster would be easier for me to operate, but more difficult due to the rate of acceleration and was prepping me to understand what would happen when I moved up.”
When he finally did make the jump, Antron’s natural aptitude made others wonder if he was a true rookie or a veteran of the category. Driving the 10,000-horsepower machine was practically second nature to Antron, and he credits the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School with helping him get to that point.
“It’s more than just learning how to go down the racetrack, it’s also a mind game. Frank has all of the knowledge to give you the mental focus and preparation to be repeatedly successful,” asserted Antron. “From true beginners learning the basics to experienced professionals, Frank can take a racer of any phase and help them learn something. If you have the willingness to learn, you’ll improve.”
When Antron’s son, Anson, wanted to go racing at just 8-years-old, the Indiana-based family fully supported the budding racer’s dream and got him started in the Junior Dragster ranks. With a few championship titles of his own in the Midwest Jr. Super Series, Anson showed promising skill early on. For his upcoming seventeenth birthday in 2021, though, Anson decided he wanted to step up to a bigger car and his parents gave him the gift of a Super Comp license course at Frank Hawley’s in June at the famed Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
Thinking back to his own days at the School and the nerves that came along with the unexpected, Antron tried to reassure his son that he would be just fine – and he was. “All of the kids in Anson’s Super Comp class listened and responded well. It’s amazing to see the next generation of drivers come up all together,” shared Antron, who enjoyed seeing the kids compete on the track and cheer each other on throughout the entire experience. “I remember seeing Anson’s face and his excitement when he came back from making his first full quarter-mile pass over 150 miles per hour and thinking… wow, he’s all grown up.”
Anson was admittedly nervous at first, too, but quickly realized that he had no reason to be. “I had a great time and Frank was amazing with his instruction. I don’t think anyone could have taught me better, not even my dad,” laughed Anson, who enjoyed receiving feedback on how he could improve as a driver and hopes one day to get behind the wheel of a Pro Mod doorslammer or nitro-fueled Funny Car or Top Fuel Dragster just like his father. “The Super Comp car was bigger and faster than my Junior Dragster and was really exciting. Whenever I’m in a car, I’m happy.”
Hawley loves shaping a part of drag racing’s future through helping aspiring drivers, especially teens, to cut their teeth in a safe and controlled environment.
“Anson clearly has learned a lot from watching and listening to his dad,” affirmed the School’s founder. “Antron is a perfect example of how you can actually achieve your dreams in our sport. He has worked his way up to a champion driver and now an NHRA Top Fuel team owner. He’s one of the best drivers in our sport, and he does an incredible job for his sponsors. He is truly a perfect role model for Anson.”
Although Antron and Anson both are ready for the next phase of the young man’s driving career, the elder knows that there is no rewind button on life. Instead, he’s simply trying to enjoy the moments, memories, and time that they have in the Junior Dragster ranks while they still can.
In addition to Anson, Antron’s two other children, Adler and Arianna, are also carrying on the family’s drag racing tradition with their own endeavors. Where all of their careers ultimately take them (after college, of course), and whether that’s within the automotive industry or not, Antron and his wife, Billie Jo, will always love and support them unconditionally.
Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Three-time NHRA Funny Car world champion, Robert Hight, has enjoyed tremendous success throughout his drag racing career. When his daughter, Autumn, decided to push her own driving skills to the next level, he made sure that she got the same great instruction from Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School just like he did when he was younger.
Robert first attended the School in 2003 to complete its Super Comp course, then returned in 2004 to obtain his Top Alcohol Funny Car license. Having started with John Force Racing over a quarter-of-a-century ago as a crew man but knowing right from the beginning that Funny Car was his destination, Robert worked hard to achieve his goal.
“I still remember being surprised at how difficult it was to drive a Super Comp car. It was a really humbling experience for me,” shared Robert of his rookie experience nearly a decade prior, which included much more than just on-track driving. “I believe that Frank Hawley’s class has been instrumental to my achievements and in my career. Frank has a lot of knowledge and experience. If you pay attention, you’ll learn a lot of life lessons, too.”
At just eight years old, Robert’s daughter got her start following in the family tradition of racing. Autumn began racing NHRA Jr. Dragsters and worked her way up through the age groups. Although she hasn’t been able to get to as many events as the family would like, due to Robert’s competition calendar, she finished strong in third overall in her class in 2020.
Now, as her 17th birthday isn’t far off, Autumn is taking steps to start fielding Super Comp dragsters – just like her father’s former days. As Robert had such a positive experience at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School himself, the family made the easy decision to enroll Autumn in the School’s courses as well.
To prepare for her participation in the School and maximize her time there with a head start on learning the ropes, Robert had Autumn sit in a Super Comp car at their shop so she could run through the procedures. She arrived at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School in late June of 2021 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana, and – unsurprisingly – did quite well.
“I sat through some of the lectures, too, because Frank is the best teacher I’ve ever had. Having won three world championships, I still don’t have it all figured out and I enjoyed learning more,” laughed Robert, who was admittedly a little nervous about his typically timid daughter. “She’s maybe 5’2” and was the smallest in the class by a long shot. When I saw her go and make her first run, she could barely see over the dash.”
Despite her diminutive stature, Autumn stood out in the class. She drove with complete confidence and determination, and even had the fastest speed as a byproduct of her weight advantage. “She just put her foot down and did a full burnout, unlike some others who are too quick,” said Robert with pride in his voice. “In my opinion, she made the best first pass of everyone. She truly did a great job.”
Autumn absolutely loved every minute of her time at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School, her huge smile clearly evident after every run even with her helmet still on thanks to the glow on her face and the excitement in her voice. “It was such an awesome experience!” proclaimed Autumn. “I learned a lot more than just driving the actual race car, and Frank made sure that everyone was very involved in the overall classes and learning about everything.”
Seeing Autumn drive one of the School’s cars brought back memories for Hawley of when he first watched her dad do the same. “She did a great job, but when you have a guy like Robert Hight, in my opinion one of the best Funny Car drivers ever, as your coach, I wasn’t surprised by her performance,” he affirmed. “We’ve been fortunate over the years to have worked with all of the John Force Racing drivers and we look forward to helping Autumn with her future endeavors.”
The Hight family plans to have Autumn continue her NHRA Jr. Dragster career until she ages out and moves on to the next level. While her ultimate goal isn’t clear just yet, it’s likely Autumn will engage in Super Comp competition while also considering future options as well as avenues outside of racing – if she chooses. “I’ve encouraged her to pursue school activities or sports or gymnastics or dance,” said Robert, “but she loves racing and wants to be at the track.”
With her first Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School coursework completed, Autumn is already eagerly planning her return. “I want her to go back again in six months so she can learn more,” confirmed Robert, who understands the importance of knowledge when it comes to racing at 170+ mph. “Just about everyone who has attended from John Force’s family has become Rookie of the Year, and I give Frank Hawley a lot of credit for preparing us for that.”
Some of you may be keeping up with the venue & class changes we are posting on social media, but here’s the latest in class changes & additions. This is the year we are all learning to be very flexible and we couldn’t be happier to be offering classes at all the tracks that are hosting us! Whether you’re new to racing, moving up from Jr Dragster, need to improve your skills, or just want to check an item off your bucket list…there are lots of class dates coming to a track near you! In addition to the popular Super Comp/Super Gas or Bring Your Own Car classes offered, the Dragster Adventure with side-by-side racing will be offered at some of the locations, which is an incredibly fun program for you, friends, family, employees or customers!
If you’re looking to upgrade your license in the Alcohol classes, give us a call as those dates are scheduled on request at our home base at Gainesville Raceway.
Lucas Oil Raceway, Indianapolis, IN — June 23-24 SC/SG or BYOC Competition License Class; June 25 Dragster Adventure
World Wide Technology Raceway, St. Louis, MO — June 27-28 SC/SG or BYOC Competition License Class
National Trail Raceway, Columbus, OH — July 21-22 SC/SG or BYOC Competition License Class; July 23 Dragster Adventure
Bandimere Speedway, Denver, CO — July 27 Dragster Adventure; July 28-29 SC/SG or BYOC Competition License Class
Woodburn Dragstrip, Woodburn, OR — August 2 Dragster Adventure; August 3-4 SC/SG or BYOC Competition License Class
Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, PA — August 26-27 SC/SG or BYOC Competition License Class; August 28 Dragster Adventure
Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, FL — October 1-2, November 10-11, December 8-9, December 29-30 SC/SG or BYOC Competition License Class; November 20 Dragster Adventure
The Strip at Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV — October 12-13 SC/SG or BYOC Competition License Class
Auto Club Dragway, Fontana, CA — October 21-22 SC/SG or BYOC Competition License Class; October 23 Dragster Adventure
Call our knowledgeable guys with your questions or to book a seat in one of the upcoming competition license classes.
You can also buy the Dragster Adventure program on-line at www.frankhawley.com
Jeff Arend, email@example.com, 909-973-8279 c
Paul Shields, firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-472-6312 c