TODAY   |  February 08, 2013

Antron Brown: First black drag racing champion

The first African-American to win an auto racing title in the United States is Antron Brown, and he tells NBC’s Craig Melvin that taking home the championship not only brought tears to his eyes, but also evoked emotion in his father and uncle, who have dreamed of the same accomplishment.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> division of nbc news, is celebrating black history month by highlighting 100 people doing good things. the spotlight this morning is on car driver antron brown .

>> drag racing is a lot more diverse with several women and hispanic drivers as well. antron brown is its first african- american champion . when he talks about his sport, his eyes light up, his lips move fast because his childhood dream has become his life's passion. antron brown started on his road to championship early.

>> i was changing oil in my mom's car at 12 years old. my dad and uncle, they raced. it was bred in me. that's where the love came from. i used to go to these big, national events and watch all my stars race.

>> reporter: now he is one of those stars.

>> brought a tear to my eye when i won the championship to hear my father broken up, like emotional and saying, son, do you realize this is what i've been dreaming about my whole life and we're living our dream through you?

>> reporter: in november, brown became the national hot rod association 's top fuel champ and made history. how many trophies do you have?

>> 38 including the championship trophy.

>> the championship trophy, i'm going to assume, is this massive one right here.

>> that's the big one right there.

>> reporter: the first african-american to ever win a major auto racing title in the united states . you're running out of space.

>> i'm going to have to build some different walls.

>> reporter: when are you going to stop?

>> that's not in our vocabulary.

>> reporter: 25-foot long hot rods run on a fuel that's mostly nitroglycerin and can hit top speeds of 130 miles an hour.

>> it feels like someone is pushing and squeezing the lif out of you and you're just trying to maintain and hold everything you've got to keep it right.

>> reporter: tv audience has grown, drag racing has not caught up with its southern-base southern-based cousin, nascar.

>> pass down the racetrack is four seconds. in nascar it's a three-hour race.

>> reporter: something brown is the well-needed, fresh face to help grow the sport.

>> the media is attracted to him, the fans are attracted to him. he's really a star in the making.

>> want your dad to make a wheelie?

>> reporter: that's good. antron brown remembers when the days are not so bright.

>> the days you're close to being like almost $1 million in debt and you don't even have a house to live in.

>> reporter: now he and his wife, billie jo, have a full house outside indianapolis. how proud of him are you?

>> now here i will go with tears.

>> reporter: oh, no.

>> sometimes it turns people into different people. they cannot remain true to themselves and they don't remain the same, and he does.

>> reporter: the champ refills his own tank and takes time to teach wanna-be racers.

>> you're all good.

>> reporter: let me tell you something. so brown thinks with that car and that team he can win again, in fact. short-term goal is to win more championships. eventually, though, he would like to make more history by owning his own race team, savannah.

>> he's pretty amazing. did you actually drive or just got in for show?

>> yeah, yeah.

>> craig melvin, thanks so much.