- Bill Stephens
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Drag racing has a long tradition of drivers hopscotching from one category to another. Some of the most notable are Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, who became as feared a competitor in Funny Car as he was in Top Fuel.
In fact, Prudhomme switched twice, moving from Top Fuel to Funny Car -- he won four consecutive Funny Car championships between 1975-78 -- and finishing out his driving career back in Top Fuel.
Kenny Bernstein flip-flopped three times from Top Fuel to Funny Car, back to Top Fuel, and then last year back to Funny Car. He will be handing the driving duties for his Monster Energy Dodge over to Tommy Johnson Jr. -- another driver who has done the Top Fuel-Funny Car switcheroo.
But Pro Stock Motorcycle to Top Fuel?
Thanks to Antron Brown, that wild career change suddenly doesn't seem so unlikely anymore. In 2008, Brown will be leaping the abyss from the world of two-wheeled, six-second, 190 mph motorcycles to the deep end of the drag-racing pool driving four-wheeled, four-second, 330 mph dragsters.
Brown's 10-year body of work on a bike was exceptional. Although he was unable to piece together a championship campaign, the 31-year-old racer won a total of 16 NHRA POWERade national events and earned a reputation for consistency on the track and fan-friendliness away from it.
The cousin-in-law of three-time POWERade champion Angelle Sampey, Brown made the announcement in November that he had signed on to drive a second Top Fuel dragster for the David Powers Motorsports team alongside "Hot Rod" Fuller in 2008.
"I'm so excited about this opportunity," Brown said. "I'm practically speechless and to be racing alongside someone like Hot Rod will be the icing on the cake. To have the support of David and people like Matco Tools, not to mention having a crew chief like Lee Beard is something that any racer would be excited about."
Brown has already begun his NHRA Top Fuel licensing procedure and has shown that he possesses the skills to successfully make the switch from bike to dragster. But just like anyone who straps into the cockpit of the quickest accelerating race machines in existence for the first time, his maiden voyage in a T/F car was, to say the least, eye opening.
The sensation is almost impossible to describe. The car felt like it was shifting into warp drive after about 100 feet. Just awesome.
-- Antron Brown
"The sensation is almost impossible to describe," said Brown following his initial licensing runs at Gainesville Raceway in December. "The car felt like it was shifting into warp drive after about 100 feet. Just awesome.
"The plan is to get back out there in January, finish the licensing requirements, and get ready for the beginning of the season in February."
Rookie Top Fuel drivers frequently come to the job with racing resumés that reveal prior experience in Top Alcohol Dragsters, Top Alcohol Funny Cars, or in some rare cases -- such as with Del Worsham -- no appreciable experience in anything other than a nitromethane-fueled race car.
But Brown has the complete and unabashed confidence of his new team and few people within the sport have expressed any serious doubts that he can handle this new challenge.
"Antron has the dedication and commitment to be one of the best," said his new team owner Powers. "We think he has what it takes to be a success in Top Fuel to the same extent he succeeded in Pro Stock Motorcycle."
Even "The Snake" would be impressed.
Bill Stephens covers NHRA for ESPN.com
1dLaurence Edmondson and Nate Saunders