Mopar and Dodge Perfect in NHRA Nitro Competition as Hagan, Pritchett Victorious Again at NHRA Arizona Nationals

  • Matt Hagan wins second straight event and 24th Funny Car event of his career in the Mopar Sandvik/Coromant Dodge Charger R/T
  • Leah Pritchett wins second consecutive Top Fuel event and third of her career in the Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Dragster
  • Two Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars advance to final round; four Dodge Charger R/T machines appear in semifinals
  • Mopar is undefeated in Nitro competition in 2017
  • Three Mopar vehicles advance to final eight of Stock Eliminator in Sportsman ranks

February 26, 2017 , Chandler, Arizona – The 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season is off to a dream start for the Mopar and Dodge brands. Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) and Mopar teammates Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett won their respective classes in the 33rd Annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park on Sunday, just as each did during the NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona two weeks ago. Hagan took home the Funny Car Wally for the second consecutive event and the 24th time in his career, while Pritchett won in Top Fuel for the third time overall and the second time in a row.

Hagan and the Mopar/Sandvik Coromant Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team qualified in the No. 4 position and were matched up against Mopar teammate Ron Capps in the NAPA Dodge Charger R/T in the final round. Hagan turned on the win light in the right lane as he made a pass of 3.878 seconds at 330.88 mph with a reaction time of .057. Capps narrowly missed the victory with a reaction time of .075 paired with a 3.883-second pass at 333.88 mph. Hagan beat Cruz Pedregon in the first round, then defeated Tim Wilkerson in the second before matching up against and besting his Mopar and DSR teammate, and No. 1 qualifier, Tommy Johnson Jr. in the semis.     .

After a heartbreaking redlight in the semifinals during the Winternationals, 2016 Funny Car champion Ron Capps righted the ship with his advance to the final round. Capps bested Jeff Arend in the first round before defeating Gary Densham in the second. He then dispatched of Jim Campbell to advance to the final round against Hagan.

Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T set a track elapsed-time record at Wild Horse Pass in round four of qualifying on Saturday evening with a 3.837-second run at 329.10 mph. Johnson looked to be the early favorite, and from his No. 1 positon he knocked out fellow Dodge competitor Phil Burkart Jr. in the first round, before beating Robert Hight in the second. However, he was ultimately defeated by teammate Hagan.

The aforementioned Jim Campbell was the feel-good story of the day as he advanced all the way to the semis after defeating both Courtney Force and J.R. Todd. Campbell campaigns a Dodge Charger R/T for longtime drag racing stalwart Jim Dunn.

A clutch issue at the starting line kept 2012 Funny Car Champion Jack Beckman from making a pass in round one with his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T.

In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett has now won the first two events of the season in her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Dragster, and has won the Arizona Nationals for the second year in a row. She defeated Brittany Force on a holeshot from the left lane and covered the track in 3.705 seconds at 328.22 mph with a reaction time of .053. Pritchett defeated Force in the final of the same event last year. Force had a reaction time of .081 on a lap of 3.704 seconds at 330.09 mph.

Pritchett earned the No. 1 qualifying position on the strength of a national elapsed time record pass of 3.658 seconds at 329.34 mph on Friday which gave her a bye into the second round. There she beat Clay Millican before besting Shawn Reed in the semis to reach the final.

Also in Top Fuel action, Mopar-powered driver and eight-time champion Tony Schumacher knocked off Terry Haddock in the first round, then beat Scott Palmer in the second. He was defeated by Brittany Force in the semis to set up the all-female Top Fuel final round.

For more information on Mopar and Dodge in NHRA, check out the Mopar brand’s official blog, https://blog.mopar.com.

Mopar/Dodge Notes & Quotes

Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) FCA – Global
“Doubling up once is amazing enough, but to do it twice surpasses all expectations. The entire Mopar staff offers congratulations to Mopar Dodge Charger R/T driver Matt Hagan on the Funny Car win and Leah Pritchett on the victory in Top Fuel at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. It’s already been an amazing season, and we hope we’re just getting started.”

Matt Hagan, Mopar/Sandvik Coromant Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car (No. 4 Qualifier)
Rd. 1: (.067 reaction time, 3.839 seconds at 332.92 mph), defeated No. 13 Cruz Pedregon (.068/9.244/81.01)
Rd. 2: (.071/3.883/331.61) defeated (holeshot) No. 5 Tim Wilkerson (.087/3.871/332.59)
Semis: (.043/3.867/331.45) defeated  No. 1 Tommy Johnson Jr. (.048/3.887/326.56)
Finals: (.057/3.878/330.88) defeated No. 3 Ron Capps (.075/3.883/330.88)

“We’ve got us a hot rod right now, the car is running strong. He’s [crew chief Dickie Venables] putting a real car underneath me and my lights are on point right now, and I’m just feeling it. Feeling this race car, this race team and we’re just digging. Everybody’s working hard. Dickie Venables is killing it out there and the car’s just going down the racetrack every lap. How much more could you ask for? We might as well put an .85 on this thing and bracket race it.

“It’s just a great feeling to crawl in the car knowing you have the confidence that it’s going to go down the racetrack and run strong and then when your lights are good it’s a real hard combination to beat. So it’s just a lot of that confidence going into play right now from Pomona and to this race. We hope to carry some of that into the Gators.”

Leah Pritchett, Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster (No. 1 Qualifier)
Rd. 1: Bye (.066 reaction time, 3.694 seconds at 326.48 mph)
Rd. 2: (.117/3.692/328.94) defeated  No. 8 Clay Millican (.093/4.929/148.20)
Semis: (.095/3.729/324.20) defeated No. 12 Shawn Reed (.115/3.944/263.00)
Finals: (.053/3.705/328.22) defeated (holeshot) No. 7 Brittany Force (.081/3.704/330.39)

“Honestly, I’m trying to keep up with my team for how well they’re doing and make them proud of me as a driver and do the job that is expected of a Don Schumacher Racing team. I think we’re doing pretty okay with that. We’re blessed with the equipment, the talent, the capabilities of the people and everyone it takes. So I’m happy that I could hold up my end of the bargain.

“I’d like to be capped off on a confidence level because this sport is extremely humbling and it can turn at any moment. So I like the confidence that we have right now because it’s not too high. We’re double checking each other’s work in a very positive way. The thing I’m most impressed about is how well they’re [the team] working together and how much we enjoy working together. That’s showing on the track and that’s what I’m proud of them for.”

Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car – (No. 3 Qualifier)
Rd 1: (.095 reaction time, 3.883 seconds at 326.56 mph) defeated No. 14 Jeff Arend (.115/11.548/83.99)
Rd. 2: (.116/3.856/327.03) defeated  No. 11 Gary Densham (.147/3.944/320.20)
Semis: (.085/3.883/324.59) defeated No. 15 Jim Campbell (.127/4.890/164.07)
Finals: (.075/3.883/330.88) lost to No. 4 Matt Hagan (.057/3.878/330.88)

“Any time you get to a final round you don’t want that to slip away. We had a great drag race with Matt and the fans loved it. I’m so proud of [crew chief Rahn] Tobler and our crew for putting those four good runs together. In Pomona at our first race and here Tobler decided to try some new things during Friday’s sessions when we were running under NHRA national event conditions. They didn’t work out how he wanted and they put a new set-up in for Saturday and Sunday. We got to the semis at Pomona and went to the final round today. I can’t wait to get to Gainesville in three weeks for our next race. Some people might get tired of me saying how great it is to have Rahn Tobler as a crew chief, but he proved it again today.”

Tommy Johnson Jr., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car ( No. 1 Qualifier)
Rd.1: (.094 reaction time, 3.891 seconds at 327.43 mph) defeated No. 16 Phil Burkart Jr. (.120/19.397/84.48)
Rd. 2: (.096/3.874/328.22) defeated No. 9 Robert Hight (.102/5.419/137.34)
Semis: (.048/3.887/326.56) lost to No. 4 Matt Hagan (.043/3.867/331.45)

“We were No. 1 qualifier and, yeah, I’d like to have won the race, but it was a good race day. I’m extremely pleased with the weekend, the way it played out. I don’t think we’ve ever ran seven 3.80s in a row. It just shows that we’ve got a good race car and a good tune-up. We’re gaining in the points but more than anything, it shows that it’s just a matter of time now. I think this is a great morale booster for the team. We had some troubles in testing and the guys had to work extra hard and they definitely did it. They put in the extra work and it’s great to see them get a reward for it.”

Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car  (No. 6 Qualifier)
Rd 1: (no time, mechanical) lost to No. 11 Gary Densham (.255 reaction time, 6.715 seconds at 106.55 mph)

“In the middle of the burnout the motor tugged a down for a split second. At the end of the burnout, I heard a scraping sound, a metallic sound. I didn’t know if some of the metal under the body was rubbing on something and thought maybe if we lifted the body we could bend it back so we could run. Then I felt a big vibration and knew it wasn’t going to get better so I pulled over and shut it off. It was the right decision and you live with it. Losing sucks when you have a car as good as ours.”

Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster (No. 3 Qualifier)
Rd. 1: (.080 reaction time, 3.684 seconds at 329.91 mph) defeated No. 14 Terry Haddock (.131/3.929/304.46)
Rd. 2: (.094/3.697/326.95) defeated No. 11 Scott Palmer (.110/3.845/310.84)
Semis: (.066/4.722/154.21 lost to No. 7 Brittany Force (.096/3.701/329.26)

“We had a killer light, but had a cylinder go out and had an ignition problem. You can’t tune around problems. And sometimes you can’t catch a break that way, but again it’s a cyclical season where you go up and down. We’re going to Gainesville, which has been an incredibly successful track for us and we are going there with an outstanding U.S. Army car. “

Mopar/Dodge NHRA Sportsman Spotlight
The Dodge Top Finisher award in Stock Eliminator went to Tony Mandella of Eastvale, California, who took his 1973 Plymouth Duster to the semifinals. In that round he dialed in a 10.90 and completed a pass of 10.956 seconds at 116.52 mph with a reaction time of .034. Mandella competes in the W/SA class and his car utilizes a 340 cubic-inch engine. A total of three Mopar vehicles advanced to the semifinals at Wild Horse Pass.

The Super Stock portion of the award went to Mike Cotten of Cave Creek, Arizona, who advanced to the third round of eliminations on Saturday with his 1970 Plymouth Barracuda featuring a 383 under the hood. There he turned in a pass of 9.889 seconds on a 9.86 dial-in in the SS/IA class. He had a reaction time of 0.045 and reached a speed of 130.92 mph.

The Dodge Top Finisher award goes to the highest finishing Dodge or Plymouth vehicle in both Stock and Super Stock competition at all 24 NHRA national events. It pays $500 to the award winner in each class.

Next Event
In three weeks the stars of the NHRA head to Florida for the 48th Annual NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. The famed track is known for fast speeds. It has played host to a number of record-breaking achievements and milestones, including the first Top Fuel car to reach the 270 mph mark, achieved by celebrated Mopar driver and Florida native Don Garlits in 1986.

The Gatornationals will also be the site of first of five Factory Stock Showdowns in 2017. The contest pits modern-day model muscle cars head-to-head and will feature a variety of Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak drivers competing for “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Drag Pak Rewards” points and bragging rights.

The Gatornationals will be broadcast on FS1, with Sunday’s elimination rounds live at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 19.

2017 NHRA Championship — Point Standings After Round 2 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)

NHRA Funny Car
1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger R/T (2) – 240  
2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger R/T – 178     

3. Courtney Force – 140
4. Tommy Johnson Jr. Dodge Charger R/T – 134 
5. John Force – 112
6. J.R. Todd – 105
7. Jim Campbell – 102
8t. Jack Beckman Dodge Charger R/T – 90        
8t. Tim Wilkerson – 90
10. Robert Hight – 88

NHRA Top Fuel
1. Leah Pritchett, Mopar HEMI (2) – 245
2. Tony Schumacher, Mopar HEMI – 153

3. Brittany Force – 151
4. Antron Brown – 143
5. Doug Kalitta – 140
6. Steve Torrence – 110
7. Shawn Reed – 99
8. Troy Coughlin Jr. – 84
8t.. Scott Palmer – 84
10t. Terry McMillen – 80
10t. Clay Millican – 80

About Mopar Motorsports
The Mopar brand’s commitment to professional motorsports competition was established in the 1950s when a partnership ignited with drag racing pioneer Don Garlits, resulting in the breaking of numerous speed and performance barriers in HEMI-powered vehicles over the next several decades. In 2016, thanks to Don Schumacher Racing driver Ron Capps, Mopar captured its fourth NHRA Funny Car World Championship in the last six years. As Mopar celebrates 80 years as a brand in 2017, it will focus its NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series efforts on NHRA Funny Car and, with rising star Leah Pritchett, NHRA Top Fuel Dragster. Mopar will also bolster its commitment to NHRA Sportsman racing with new contingency rewards, factory support and at-track technical advice and guidance

*Photo Credit Auto Imagery/Richard Shute