A much anticipated return to National Hot Rod Association (NHRA)
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series racing takes place this weekend at Lucas Oil
Raceway in Indianapolis for Mopar, Dodge//SRT and the Don Schumacher Racing
(DSR) team, following a hiatus of more than four months.
Following the suspension of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 12, just prior to the third event of the year at the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, the remaining 16-event shortened schedule kicks off with a pair of weekend events in Indianapolis. Race weekends will be shortened to two-day events with qualifying held Saturday only and final eliminations on Sunday.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals on July 11-12 and Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals on July 18-19 will be the first major-league auto-racing events in the state of Indiana to allow fans this year. Beginning Aug. 7-9, the series begins a 13-consecutive-week stretch of non-stop drag racing to battle for pro-category championships. During that stretch, Mopar and Dodge//SRT remain event title sponsors at four national events on the new schedule:
- Aug. 7-9 – Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver
- Sept. 11-13 – Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania
- Oct. 23-25 – Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals Presented By Pennzoil near Houston
- Oct. 30-Nov. 1 – Dodge NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas
FUNNY CAR NOTES &
Mopar Dodge//SRT restart their 18th season with DSR with all four Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Cars in the top 5 in points. Mopar Dodge//SRT enters this weekend’s competition with five consecutive drives to the winner’s circle at race events dating back to Dallas in October 2019.
Matt Hagan, Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
Two-time Funny Car world champion and driver of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, Matt Hagan made his professional debut in Indianapolis at the 2008 U.S. Nationals. He is looking to move up from a fifth-place spot in the Funny Car championship standings after a pair of No. 1 qualifier honors and two round wins to start the 2020 season.
“I’m really excited about getting back to racing in Indy. We’re such a fan-engaged sport – we’re so used to being able to take pictures with the fans, fist bumps, all that, and it’ll be a different vibe. We did some virtual autograph sessions with Mopar during our downtime and that was cool and I think our fans really enjoyed that. At the end of the day, we’re entertainers and we’re going to make sure we entertain our fans and make sure we give them a great show on the race track. I’m just excited to be able to be back and be able to rep our partners in Mopar, Pennzoil and Sandvik on the track. Every weekend, you’re so used to driving 330 mph. I never thought there was anything other than racing, but it’s been good being able to spend some time at home growing my businesses. I was able to get a really good handle on these companies I’m growing and now I’m able to fully focus on racing again. We had a really great car when we left off. We were No. 1 qualifier at the first two events and I’m excited to get back in my Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. Bring it on, let’s go do this.”
Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Jack Beckman is the current Funny Car points leader after a win and runner-up finish in the first two events of the season aboard his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. Beckman is seeking a third consecutive final round appearance in 2020 this weekend and is bolstered by his 2019 performance at Indianapolis when he earned the Funny Car No. 1 qualifier and a runner-up finish in the NHRA U.S. Nationals.
“Everybody is talking about getting back to business as usual and in racing we’re going to be getting back to business but there’s nothing usual about it. This is completely unprecedented. We’re going to lose Friday qualifying at every race from here on out and that could drastically change your approach as a crew chief and as a driver just in qualifying. And then none of us have been in a race car for probably the longest period in our drag racing careers, so we’re going to get to make shakedown runs the day before a race weekend. I don’t think that’s been allowed for nearly 50 years in drag racing. So, the scenario is what it is and we’re all going to do our best to make things get back to whatever ‘normal’ is as quick as possible but I’ve got to tell you, I’ve had driving withdrawals and now I feel like it’s so sudden. After waiting for so many months I’m looking at the calendar and it’s like when you’re a kid getting ready to go back to school. I just can’t wait to get my bag packed and get on that airplane.”
Tommy Johnson Jr., MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
Winner of the last event before the season was suspended at the NHRA Arizona Nationals in February, Tommy Johnson Jr. is second in the Funny Car points standings.
“I’m certainly excited about going back racing but it’s been a long period of downtime and there are some jitters that go along with that. Being out of the car for so long, it’s going to take a few runs to get back into the swing of it. We were doing so well and had some good momentum going before the break and you hope that continues. You park the car and don’t touch it for so long and it’s been sitting there ready to go for a while. We had an opportunity to improve on it, we put on a new front half. We have a great team and a great car. It’ll take a little bit of getting used to those first days back but that’s the same for everyone. It’s going to be great to get back to some sort of normalcy, even though there will be some restrictions. I’d love nothing more than to pull off a win at both of these Indy races and take the lead in the points.”
Ron Capps, NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
Driver of the HEMI®-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, Ron Capps sits fourth in points and is looking to earn a win at the only racetrack on the circuit at which he has never earned a Wally trophy.
“2020 has been full of surprises, to say the least. It’s going to be nice to get a little bit of normalcy back in our racing lives. Once NHRA announced that we had these two races in Indianapolis, it didn’t seem like it was going to get here fast enough and now we’re finally here. The fact that we’re going to be on FOX network on Sunday is a great thing for motorsports fans.
“It’s going to be a treacherous, hot, humid weekend, which we know can be very difficult, especially with 11,000-horsepower nitro engines. I brag about the NAPA Know How with our team and we’ve shown that we can run in those conditions as good as anybody. This is going to test a lot of people. We’ll get a couple of shakedown runs on Friday and then it’s just two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, so you’re not going to have a whole lot of data to go off of. That’s why the way that Rahn Tobler and I and our whole NAPA team work together is so important and these conditions will test every bit of every crew member. I’m looking forward to the challenge. Can’t wait to get back into the NAPA car and step on the gas for the first time and just relive what made me fall in love with driving a nitro Funny Car. Hopefully, the NAPA team will be on FOX on Sunday afternoon standing with a Wally from Indianapolis.”
TOP FUEL NOTES & QUOTES
Leah Pruett, Mopar Dodge//SRT Top Fuel Dragster
DSR’s Mopar Dodge//SRT Top Fuel Dragster returns to competition with Leah Pruett at the helm and sitting third in points.
“I feel like we’ve all been living the real-life motorsports version of double-dutch, waiting for the right time and circumstances, and it’s finally our turn to return. Excited would normally be the term used for the feeling I get when race week nears, but I honestly feel the more precise description is ‘ready.’ We already had a strong performing race car when the hiatus began and this Mopar crew has taken this time to ensure that performance stays maximized. I’ve properly filled my time with various athletic activities and attending/watching other racing, but have confirmed that nothing comes close to the sensory impact of nitro racing. Composure within competition has been a focus of mine during this time and there is nothing more in this world that I am looking forward to more than strapping back into our Mopar Top Fueler and chasing that Wally.”
NHRA Championship Points Standings (after two of 18 Nationals events):
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Jack Beckman (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 220 (1)
2. Tommy Johnson Jr. (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 175 (1)
3. John Force – 173
4. Ron Capps (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 128
5. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 124
6. Tim Wilkerson – 107
7. Robert Hight – 100
8. Alexis DeJoria – 99
9. Bob Tasca III – 87
10. Paul Lee – 65 and J.R. Todd – 65
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Doug Kalitta – 212 (1)
2. Brittany Force – 153
3. Leah Pruett (Mopar Dodge//SRT) – 137
4. Austin Prock – 131
5. Steve Torrance – 121 (1)
6. Justin Ashley – 108
7. Antron Brown – 103
8. Shawn Langdon – 91
9. Clay Millican – 85
10. Shawn Reed – 82