It is safe to say that 2018 hasn’t been a typical Antron Brown year.

The three-time Top Fuel world champion has only one win and hasn’t topped qualifying once this season and currently sits sixth in the championship standings - his lowest position at this point in the year since 2013.

But as the season progresses, Brown says he senses his team growing more confident and he says he knows that the car is finally coming together following a litany of changes throughout the year.

And on Friday, Brown began to see those changes finally work in his favor as he blasted to the provisional top spot at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

“We have been working hard for this. We went through our bumps and bruises, but that is why you go through the struggles so you can have days like this,” Brown said. “Brainerd has always been a good track for us. We won here once in Top Fuel, we won five times in the bikes, and been to numerous final rounds here. This will be a great race for momentum building if we can just do well here and, so far, I think we are going to end up top three in qualifying.

“We just want to make two great laps Saturday and we will see what we can do on race day one lap at a time. I am charged up. I’ve got plenty of energy, I’ve been preparing, getting myself right. The team is right and we are in a really good place and we just have to keep growing on that.”

Brown wrestled the top spot away from Clay Millican in Q2 on Friday, posting a session-best 3.789-second pass at 325.45 mph in the Matco Tools dragster to set himself up potentially for his first No. 1 of the season and 50th of his career.

Millican slid to second with a 3.790 at 323.04 mph, while Mike Salinas qualified third with a 3.797 at 322.19 mph. Billy Torrence (3.823) and Scott Palmer (3.834) rounded out the top five.

As Brown enters day two of qualifying seeking his best start of the season, just what has led to the turnaround for the team? Brown says it is all about the pieces finally starting to fall into place.

“The thing that changed the most is that we are finally settled in on our combination,” Brown said. “Before we had been changing stuff. And the bad thing is we have been changing one thing at a time between each and every race instead of changing everything at once. It took us like a five-race span and we finally settled in on it and then we have been building and growing from there.

“I knew it would only be a matter of time with all of the changes we have been making. Mike Green coming over, all of our fab boys all the guys at the shop building new things and implementing them, I am just pumped because the Countdown is around the corner and that is when recess is out. Playtime is over. It is time to go out there and get it on.”

And after two-straight years in the runner-up position at Brainerd International Raceway, Brown is ready to get over that hump this weekend with plenty of momentum entering the biggest race of the year and final race before the Countdown to the Championship in two weeks in Indy.

“First you have to start off by qualifying well and I think with this run today it is going to solidify us in the top half of the field for sure. Our main goal is always to qualify in the top three so that you can set your ladder up the way it needs to be and tomorrow we just want to go out there and make some great runs and get ready for race day,” Brown said. “We are going to go out there and try to get some more qualifying points. We clinched in the Countdown, but there are still a lot of positions that we can move up. We definitely can get in that fifth spot and if we can do really good at this race, that could set us up with points-and-a-half in Indy to maybe get in one of those top tier spots.”