Capps Wins All-Mopar Dodge Funny Car Final at Bristol, Pritchett Runner-up in Top Fuel

  • Ron Capps wins 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway in Bristol, Tennessee
  • All-Mopar Funny Car final features Capps and Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammate Jack Beckman for second week in a row
  • Leah Pritchett drives Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel dragster to final round
  • Capps claims fifth victory of 2017 and 54th career win in Funny Car
  • All four Mopar HEMI®-powered Funny Cars from DSR advance to semifinals
  • Mopar and Dodge have won 10 of 11 Funny Car events in 2017
  • Mopar Top Fuel dragsters have advanced to eight final rounds this year
  • Six Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars compete in 16-car field
  • John Leach advances 1969 Plymouth Road Runner to Stock Eliminator final
  • Two Mopar-powered cars go to Stock semis
  • Leach claims Dodge Top Finisher honors in Stock, Mike Cotten wins award for third time in Super Stock

June 18, 2017 , Bristol, Tenn. – Ron Capps is making a habit of visiting the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series winner’s circle this season. On Sunday afternoon, Capps drove his Mopar HEMI®-powered Dodge Charger R/T from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) to his fifth win of 2017 and his 54th Funny Car win overall during the Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. He defeated his teammate Jack Beckman in an all-Mopar final round.

Leah Pritchett meanwhile put her Mopar-powered dragster from DSR in the Top Fuel final, meaning a HEMI machine has advanced to the final round in that category on eight occasions this year.

Capps’ win was the 10th for Mopar in the Funny Car category out of 11 events contested thus far in 2017. It also extended to a dozen the number of consecutive races won by a HEMI Nitro car, dating back to the end of last season. All four Mopar-powered DSR Funny Cars advanced to the semifinals at Bristol.

In the Funny Car final, Capps defeated Beckman on a holeshot from the left lane. Capps turned in a lap of 4.054 seconds at 317.05 mph to reach the finish line before his opponent, despite Beckman making a 4.040-second pass at 319.29 mph. Capps’ reaction time was .026 compared to Beckman’s .044.

The win broke an all-time tie between the two drivers, with Capps now leading Beckman 5-4 in final rounds. The final was a re-match of last week in Englishtown, where Beckman got his first win of the season.

Capps first powered past Alexis DeJoria in round one to set up a showdown with the stout Robert Hight. Capps got by Hight in a side-by-side race and then squared off with Mopar and DSR teammate Matt Hagan. Hagan hazed the tires early and Capps, the 2016 Funny Car champion, advanced to his seventh final round of the season and won for the fifth time. It was also his fourth Bristol win, tying John Force.

With the win, Capps extended his already large points lead even further, despite the team deciding to change cars before the Saturday qualifying sessions.
Beckman began his run to the final by racing his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T past Cruz Pedregon in round one as both cars had cylinders out. Beckman next matched up against Courtney Force in a re-match of last week’s Englishtown semifinal, with Beckman again coming out on top after Force lost cylinders and she fell into Beckman’s clutches at the finish line. Beckman next defeated his DSR stablemate Tommy Johnson Jr. on a side-by-side run in the semis to reach the final for the second week in a row.

The remaining two Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars from DSR also had successful days despite being bested by their teammates.

Hagan and the Mopar/Sandvik Coromant Dodge Charger R/T team first knocked off fellow Dodge driver Jim Campbell as Campbell smoked his tires early, while Hagan dropped cylinders late and was forced to back off near the finish line. He then defeated 16-time champion John Force on a clean pass while Force crossed the center line to set up the semifinal with Capps. Hagan, a native of Christiansburg, Virginia, won at Bristol in 2015, which lies less than two hours from his hometown.

Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T driver Tommy Johnson Jr. dispatched of Jonnie Lindberg in the first round on a solid run while Lindberg struggled to find traction. Johnson next knocked out No. 1 qualifier Tim Wilkerson to reach the semifinal against Beckman where he was finally defeated. Johnson had previously won the Thunder Valley Nationals in 2014 and 2016.

In Top Fuel, Mopar driver Leah Pritchett narrowly missed claiming her fourth win of 2017.

She escaped with a win in the first round over rookie Troy Coughlin Jr. as both cars had issues and Pritchett coasted to the stripe. She next defeated Scott Palmer when her opponent went red as she smoked the tires off the starting line. That set up a semifinal contest against Shawn Langdon, who had uncharacteristically qualified No. 15. Pritchett dispatched of the Langdon machine to reach the final round where she narrowly lost to Clay Millican, who won his first NHRA national event.

Tony Schumacher represented the only Mopar driver in the Nitro categories to not advance at least to the semifinal round. The eight-time champion’s bid for his sixth Thunder Valley Nationals win was ended early, as his U.S. Army team was upset in the first round by Palmer.

The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals were primarily contested on a very hot and slick track under humid conditions throughout the weekend. However, rain before the final qualifying session on Saturday and two rain delays Sunday afternoon forced both drivers and teams to make adjustments quickly in rapidly changing atmosphere as they attempted to get down the track.

Mopar/Dodge Notes & Quotes

Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) FCA – Global
“This stretch of success for Mopar teams in NHRA Nitro competition is simply incredible. Regardless of track conditions and any other obstacles, Mopar-backed teams at Don Schumacher Racing find a way to win. Congratulations to Ron Capps and his Dodge Charger R/T team on the victory at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.”

Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 10 Qualifier – 4.032 seconds at 316.15 mph)

Rd. 1: (.078-second reaction time, 4.104 seconds at 315.34 mph) defeated No. 7 Alexis DeJoria (.119/4.246/278.75)
Rd. 2: (.093/4.090/314.31) defeated No. 2 Robert Hight (.104/4.124/310.55)
Semis: (.062/4.045/314.61) defeated No. 3 Matt Hagan (.049/5.264/168.43)
Final: (.026/4.054/317.05 – holeshot win) defeated No. 5 Jack Beckman (.044/4.040/319.29)

“There are not very many teams out here that are that prepared to pull a car out and have it really ready to run. It was completely ready to go. That’s off-season preparation, that’s (crew chief) Rahn Tobler. The dude is old-school. I’ve been very blessed to be able to race with an old-school guy. I’ve always said I felt like I was born 25 years too late. I would’ve fit right in with Jungle Jim (Liberman) and Snake (Don Prudhomme) and Mongoose (Tom McEwen) going around the country racing six nights a week. I would’ve been in heaven and I would’ve fit right in, believe me. So I love that era and I love the fact that I get to race with a guy like Tobler and Don Schumacher from that era.

“I grew up in California. I grew up as a little kid in California reading about Bristol. I wasn’t a kid that grew up loving astronauts and firemen, I loved these guys. You go down the list of people that used to race here, the history is unbelievable. You throw Father’s Day on top of it.  I was blessed with a dad that took me to drag races every weekend. Whether we raced or not we were at some drag race somewhere. Those were my weekends and I was okay with it. Now I get to take this (trophy) home to my dad.”

Leah Pritchett, Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 3 Qualifier – 3.795 seconds at 288.03 mph)

Rd. 1: (.091-second reaction time, 4.378 seconds at 186.51 mph) defeated No. 14 Troy Coughlin Jr. (.089/4.497/189.26)
Rd. 2: (.080/7.094/84.32) defeated No. 11 Scott Palmer (no show – red light)
Semis: (.079/3.798/319.90) defeated No. 15 Shawn Langdon (.052/3.901/308.00)
Final: (.058/3.881/307.09) lost to No. 4 Clay Millican (.095/3.825/316.38)

“We definitely had a challenging weekend here at Bristol, I mean coming into race day we didn’t make it to the finish line under full power. So, that was objective No. 1 was getting our tune-up right. We’re still working to perfect a hot track tune-up and Todd (Okuhara) and Joe (Barlam) learned a lot. A combination of luck and trial-and-error and we moved back up to second and that’s good. We’re in this fight to keep it tight all season long.

“I want to say congratulations to Clay (Millican). That was a hard fought win. He’s been racing for many years and the first one is always sweet. So, congrats to that entire team. It was a very deserving win and a pretty decent weekend for this Papa John’s team with Mopar and Pennzoil.

“I think all the NHRA teams are feeling the effects of this June Swing. Three straight with one more to go at Norwalk next weekend and we have to dig deep. We’re all hot and tired and I think going to a lower elevation and cooler temps next weekend in Ohio should play into our hands. This is a marathon even though June feels like a sprint.”

Matt Hagan, Mopar/Sandvik Coromant Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 3 Qualifier – 3.925 seconds at 326.00 mph)

Rd. 1: (.084-second reaction time, 4.387 seconds at 233.48 mph) defeated No. 14 Jim Campbell (.141/6.307/105.26)
Rd. 2: (.038/4.202/306.95) defeated No. 6 John Force (DQ – crossed center line)
Semis: (.049/5.264/168.43) lost to No. 10 Ron Capps (.062/4.045/314.61)

“Bristol is a big race at my home track. You want to win in front of your family and friends. We’ve had a pretty decent record here: won one, was runner-up and (went to the) semis now. So we’ll get there. That semifinal loss against (Ron) Capps, we should’ve won it. There was no reason not to. He went 4.04. We just needed to go down the racetrack. But at the end of the day we didn’t. We’ll move onto Norwalk. I was pressing too hard and smoked the tires.

“Every race counts, every lap matters. Capps is starting to get a commanding lead on us. When we face him we have to put him on the trailer.”

Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 5 Qualifier – 3.959 seconds at 318.62 mph)

Rd. 1: (.083-second reaction time, 4.172 seconds at 303.43 mph) defeated No. 12 Cruz Pedregon (.078/4.302/275.28)
Rd. 2: (.082/4.321/276.75) defeated No. 4 Courtney Force (.101/4.343/221.42)
Semis: (.083/4.009/318.99) defeated No. 8 Tommy Johnson Jr. (.099/4.043/313.29)
Final: (.044/4.040/319.29) lost to No. 10 Ron Capps (.026/4.054/317.05 – holeshot win)

“Nobody likes losing a final round but when I got back to the pits and (saw) the mood of this whole team, I know that we’re right back in the thick of this thing. We’re slowly getting our groove on and figuring out what the car wants and everybody’s excited. We didn’t get trounced, we lost a fantastic drag race. We both had good lights. Ron rolled in a little farther than me but if you look, those cars were welded together the whole way down the drag strip. They out performed us by five thousandths of a second. That’s the way drag races should look and if we keep going the direction we are, those races will start going our way. I’m disappointed we lost; I can wait to get to Norwalk.”

Tommy Johnson Jr., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 8 Qualifier – 4.000 seconds at 315.93 mph)

Rd. 1: (.035-second reaction time, 4.105 seconds at 314.17 mph) defeated No. 9 Jonnie Lindberg (.062/5.901/122.44)
Rd. 2: (.072/4.083/314.53) defeated No. 1 Tim Wilkerson (.109/4.220/262.18)
Semis: (.099/4.043/313.29) lost to No. 5 Jack Beckman (.083/4.009/318.99)

“Unfortunately the rain delay is what probably cost us the race. We were the car to beat coming into that semifinal round the way we were running in the heat. We do such a great job when the conditions are really bad. (The rain) kind of give everybody else an opportunity and they got around us. I’m still happy with the weekend, not happy to go out in the semis, but still happy with how the car ran in the heat and the bad conditions. That’s what we’ve probably got coming up.”

Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 6 Qualifier – 3.825 seconds at 322.27 mph)

Rd. 1: (.100-second reaction time, 4.076 seconds at 275.96 mph) lost to No. 11 Scott Palmer (.069/3.969/307.16)

“It’s timing. It’s just the way the game is played. We are having incredibly bad luck when you beat almost every car out there but the one you’re racing. That’s the way it goes. Peaks come and they usually come at the right time. Our car has always been the car that at the end of the year is being raced against someone else for a championship. We’ll get it figured out. We’ll take the car back home. Brilliant minds will go to work, figure out a way and we’ll come up and do it again in Norwalk.”

Mopar/Dodge NHRA Sportsman Spotlight
Mopar also had a stellar day in the Sportsman ranks at Bristol Dragway during the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, with Baltimore’s John Leach taking his C/SA1969 Plymouth Road Runner to the final round of Stock Eliminator. There Leach went red, giving the win to opponent Jimmy Hidalgo Jr. Leach however still turned in a very solid pass of 10.790 seconds at 122.19 mph on a 10.88 dial-in. He defeated fellow Mopar competitor Larry Hill of Hickory, Kentucky, and his A/SA 1970 Plymouth Barracuda to advance to the final, while also being named the Dodge Top Finisher of the event.

In the Super Stock ranks, Mike Cotten of Cave Creek, Arizona, powered his GT/JA ’70 Plymouth Barracuda to the third round, where he broke out with a pass of 10.157 seconds at 127.81 mph on a 10.17 dial-in. Although his day ended on Saturday, Cotten still claimed his third Dodge Top Finisher award of 2017 as the top-performing Mopar Super Stock pilot.

The Dodge Top Finisher is in place at all 24 NHRA national events and goes to the Dodge or Plymouth driver advancing the farthest in both Stock and Super Stock.

For the second week in a row, Stock Eliminator competitors also battled for class wins, with four cars featuring Mopar power driving to victory. Travis Hess of Martinsburg, West Virginia, won A/SA in his ’64 Dodge, Jack Zimmerman from Clemmons, North Carolina, claimed B/SA with a ’71 Challenger, Perryville, Maryland’s David Collette took the FS/C Wally in an ’11 Challenger, and Leach won C/SA in his ’69 Road Runner.

Next Event
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series wraps up its grueling four-race stretch through the month of June next week with a trip to the Buckeye State. The 11th annual NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, are scheduled for June 22 – 25. Last year Mopar driver Ron Capps took the event win in Funny Car to claim three of the four June races en route to his first championship. This year he’ll head to Norwalk looking for his sixth win of the season.

Capps’ Mopar teammate Jack Beckman has won at the glistening Norwalk facility twice in Funny Car, while Mopar Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher has claimed one event victory there.

The third Factory Stock Showdown of 2017 will also be part of the festivities at Summit Motorsports Park.

The NHRA Nationals will air on FOX Sports 1 throughout the weekend, with Sunday’s elimination rounds slated for broadcast at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 25.

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

2017 NHRA Championship — Point Standings After Round 11 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)

NHRA Funny Car
1. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger R/T (5) – 1,044
2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger R/T (3) – 881
3. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger R/T (1) – 748

4. Robert Hight – 707
5. Courtney Force – 704
6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger R/T (1) – 663
7. John Force (1) – 641
8. Tim Wilkerson – 490
9. J.R. Todd – 476
10. Cruz Pedregon – 397

NHRA Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence (3) – 954
2. Leah Pritchett, Mopar HEMI (3) – 943
3. Antron Brown (2) – 934
4. Tony Schumacher, Mopar HEMI (1) – 801
5. Doug Kalitta – 678
6. Brittany Force (1) – 649
7. Clay Millican (1) – 639
8. Troy Coughlin Jr. – 443
9. Scott Palmer – 432
10. Terry McMillen – 424

*Photo Credit Auto Imagery/Richard Shute