Just 16 races after personnel changes that made his Matco Tools / Toyota / U.S. Army Dragster crew feel like an entirely new team this year, Antron Brown snapped a 23-race winless streak Sunday at the CatSpot NHRA Nationals at Pacific Raceways.

Brown used a 3.835-second elapsed time at 322.88 mph on the 1,000-foot suburban Seattle course to defeat Leah Pritchett in a Top Fuel showdown between two Don Schumacher Racing drivers with U.S. Army backing. Pritchett challenged with a 3.849-second, 320.13-mph effort.

It marked his fourth overall and third straight triumph at the Northwest Nationals but just his first victory of the year.

“This place has always been good to us: the energy, the vibe, the fans. We’re getting into a groove,” the three-time Top Fuel champion said.

Fans have reassured him all season long that “It’s going to be OK.” They didn’t need to tell Brown. “I know it’s going to be OK. This is drag racing,” he said with his trademark smile. “You’ve just got to stay with it and it will get better. I’m just so happy it happened at the Northwest Nationals.”

With Funny Car’s Ron Capps standing beside him on the podium, Brown closed the deal for a 71st DSR nitro-double (in which the team won both Top Fuel and Funny Car races at the same event). Pro Stock winner Tanner Gray shared the moment after clinching a spot on his class’ playoff list this weekend, along with Erica Enders, Vincent Nobile, and Jeg Coughlin.

Pritchett remains fourth in the standings and Brown sixth, 156 points behind her and 68 points behind No. 5 Doug Kalitta.

The victory was the 50th in Top Fuel for Brown, who also won 16 races in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class before making the career switch in 2008.

“Brother, it’s been so long since we won [the August 2017 race here at Pacific Raceways], I hadn’t thought about winning 50 races. That’s pretty incredible,” Brown said. “It’s a true blessing for the group of guys I’ve worked with my whole career in Top Fuel to make it a reality. It makes it feel even that much more special. [Crew chief] Mark Oswald is a championship Funny Car driver. He’s an innovator and engineer. Brad {assistant crew chief Mason] always been really sharp behind the scenes. He never really got his due. It feels so good to win with both of them. All of our guys really stepped up.”

Moreover, this 66th overall victory puts him just three away from tying Kenny Bernstein for sixth place on the NHRA’s all-time list.

“He’s one of my true heroes,” Brown said of the NHRA’s legendary King of Speed. “What makes him so special is the work ethic that man has. That’s who I always tried to emulate. He outworked people. He was talented. But when you put talent with work effort, that’s what made Kenny Bernstein who he was. He surrounded himself by the right people. He could jump in a car right now. I just saw him in Denver. He’s still in shape: lean, mean, trim, muscles popping out because he wants to live life every day to its fullest. That’s what I try to emulate out here in my own life and on the racetrack.” He said he “tries to help mold” his crew members “to have that same mind set.”

Brown recognized that “we were at the other end of the spectrum – we’re used to being on the opposite side. We struggled at the beginning of the year. We lost [Oswald’s co-crew chief] Brian Corradi [to Courtney Force’s first-place Funny Car team]. We had other guys move up, and they had to gel in new spots and positions. It was like a whole new team. Then we had normal Top Fuel issues. We changed engine combinations. We switched over to U.S. Army engine combination. [Tony Schumacher crew chiefs] Mike Neff and Phil Schuler and those guys gave us a great deal of help. The help of Mike Green coming over to give us an extra set of eyes really, really helped our whole team.

“We just kept doing it one run at a time. Our main focus was to get better every race and learn this new combination and make it work,” Brown said. “Today I couldn’t have been prouder of all my guys, how persistent they’ve been, not getting down, just getting to work.”

Brown has 398 races under his belt and is closing in on 700 round-wins (694, sixth all-time among all pro NHRA racers in all classes).

Brown who was runner-up in July to points leader and best buddy Steve Torrence at Epping, N.H., advanced past Shawn Reed (the Pro Modified class points leader in the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series with his “Top Secret” entry), U.S. Army teammate Tony Schumacher, and No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence.

Pritchett, driving the Sparkling Ice Dragster with crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Joe Barlam, was seeking her third victory in the past 10 races and second in the three-event Western Swing. But Brown denied the Atlanta and Denver winner her eighth overall victory. She reached the final past Troy Buff, Clay Millican, and Mike Salinas.

After an idle week, the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will reconvene in Brainerd, Minn., for the Lucas Oil Nationals. It will be the next-to-last event before the Countdown fields are established at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.