Mopar-powered Drivers Pritchett, Johnson Runners-Up at Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, Helms Wins Stock Eliminator

  •  Leah Pritchett is runner-up in Top Fuel, Tommy Johnson Jr. goes to Funny Car final round during 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway
  • Both HEMI®-powered Top Fuel dragsters reach semifinals
  • Two Mopar Dodge Funny Cars advance to semis
  • Mopar maintains four of top five points positions in Funny Car, claims third and fourth spots in Top Fuel
  • Kevin Helms wins Stock Eliminator in 2013 Dodge Challenger
  • Helms named Dodge Top Finisher in Stock, Kayla Mozeris wins award in Super Stock

July 23, 2017,  Morrison, Colo. – Mopar-powered drivers Leah Pritchett and Tommy Johnson Jr. each went to the final round of their respective categories during the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway this weekend. However, both Pritchett in Top Fuel and Johnson in Funny Car came up just shy of providing birthday presents for Mopar as the brand celebrated its 80th anniversary at the picturesque mountainside track outside of Denver.

Mopar still claimed a win at the brand’s premier event, with four-time Stock Eliminator world champion Kevin Helms bringing home a Wally in the category in his 2013 Dodge Challenger.

The runner-up finishes for Pritchett and Johnson snapped a streak of 14 consecutive event wins for Mopar HEMI® power in both Nitro categories dating back to the end of last season, and a run of 10 consecutive victories in the Funny Car class.

In the final round of Top Fuel, Pritchett turned in a pass of 3.816 seconds at 324.90 mph from the left lane after a .059-second reaction time in her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil dragster from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR). Yet she was just bested by Antron Brown’s 3.792 at 319.82 paired with a .047 reaction time. The final-round appearance was Pritchett’s fifth of the season (plus a final quad appearance in the Four-Wide Nationals), which has included three victories. Pritchett began her relationship with Mopar during last year’s event at Bandimere.

Pritchett started her day by taking down Troy Coughlin Jr. on a clean run. She next chased down Clay Millican in round two to advance to the semis when Millican’s car lost power, then rocketed past her Mopar teammate Tony Schumacher on a holeshot to reach the final round.

Pritchett’s Mopar and DSR teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team appeared in their second consecutive final round this weekend, but came up short once again. Johnson made a lap of 4.099 at 297.16 from the right lane after a reaction time of .055, but Hight pulled away on the strength of a 3.995 at 317.57 with a .046 reaction time off the starting line.

Johnson first drove past Mopar teammate Ron Capps in a re-match of the final round from two weeks ago at Route 66 Raceway, with Johnson winning this battle on a holeshot. Johnson next bested Jonnie Linbderg on a clean pass as the Swedish driver struggled to find traction. The Make-A-Wish team then knocked out fellow Dodge driver Jim Campbell on their quickest pass of the weekend in the semis as Campbell got out of the groove, allowing Johnson to reach the final.

None of the other DSR Mopar Funny Cars were able to advance past the second round. After a tough qualifying effort that led to the squad starting the day in the No. 15 position, Matt Hagan and the Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T team bested John Force in round one despite Hagan suffering an explosion as he crossed the finish line. Hagan’s team thrashed to make the second round but their day came to an end at the hands of Cruz Pedregon. Still, Hagan qualified for the year-end Countdown to the Championship with his efforts at Bandimere.

Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero team put their Mopar Dodge Funny Car past Alexis DeJoria on a side-by-side run in the first round, but were bested by Hight in round two after Beckman was forced to pedal around the 200-foot mark.

Also in Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher and the Mopar-powered U.S. Army team were forced to bring out a brand new car after hurting the chassis on an unplanned wheelstand during Saturday qualifying. Schumacher first defeated Steve Chrisman and then took down Terry Haddock on a clean pass as Haddock had mechanical issues at the starting line. Schumacher made another clean run in the semis but still fell to Pritchett.

In Pro Stock, Mopar-powered Allen Johnson was looking for his eighth win at Bandimere in his Marathon Petroleum Dodge Dart. However, Johnson’s day ended early after a close first-round loss to Bo Butner. Johnson had advanced to an amazing ten consecutive final rounds at Bandimere.

The 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals featured cool and overcast conditions on Friday including several rain delays, while Saturday and Sunday were contested under hot and sunny skies. The ever-changing conditions at Bandimere Speedway, combined with the high elevation, are known to wreak havoc with race teams as they kick off the three-race Western Swing.

This year’s event also was the 29th consecutive for which Mopar served as the title sponsor.

Mopar/Dodge Notes & Quotes

Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) FCA – Global
“Sportsman racing is the backbone of the NHRA, so it’s very special when a Mopar-powered driver takes home a trophy. Congratulations to Kevin Helms on the Stock Eliminator win in his 2013 Dodge Challenger during this weekend’s Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.”

Leah Pritchett, Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster 
(No. 1 Qualifier – 3.733 seconds at 326.24 mph)

Rd. 1: (.103-second reaction time, 3.797 seconds at 321.58 mph) defeated No. 16 Troy Coughlin Jr. (.070/3.966/256.31)
Rd: 2: (.072/3.817/320.28) defeated No. 8 Clay Millican (.068/3.927/254.47)
Semis: (.060/3.794/323.43) defeated No. 4 Tony Schumacher (.071/3.790/324.36)
Final: (.059/3.816/324.90) lost to No. 7 Antron Brown (.047/3.792/319.82)

“We were bleeding (Mopar) blue all weekend long, like we normally do. The passion of the fans here on the mountain doesn’t get any higher. I think they were a driving force in our success this weekend and keeping us going throughout some of our woes. I can’t tell you any other race that I’ve ever wanted to win so much for a partner. Home turf, top of the mountain in the final round, giving it all we’ve got. It just stinks a little bit. I think I could have done a little better. The best way that (crew chief) Todd (Okuhara) put it was the car just doesn’t like to react like it normally would when you’re up on the mountain. It doesn’t listen. It’s a bad listener up here. It listened really well on Friday and really well on Saturday night. Today it listened okay, kind of like a toddler. We’re incredibly proud to represent Mopar and wish we could have won today.”

Matt Hagan, Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 15 Qualifier – 4.942 seconds at 160.10 mph)

Rd. 1: (.043-second reaction time,  4.102 seconds at 310.55 mph) defeated No. 2 John Force (.055/4.339/247.66)
Rd. 2: (.077/4.057/313.95) lost to No. 7 Cruz Pedregon (.045/4.053/291.01)

“We built a new car and blew both bodies off so a tough weekend up on the Hill. We’ll roll back down to sea level in Sonoma next weekend and get back out there. Obviously, we wanted to do better here for our sponsors. We tend to struggle up here but everybody does so it’s the same for everybody. I don’t know, maybe we’ll test up here next year and see if we can have a little better outcome and result.”

Tommy Johnson Jr., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 12 Qualifier – 4.058 seconds at 304.87 mph)

Rd. 1: (.040-second reaction time, 4.040 seconds at 311.20 mph – holeshot win) defeated No. 5 Ron Capps (.093/4.017/311.99)
Rd. 2: (.102/4.052/301.87) defeated No. 4 Jonnie Lindberg (.044/4.471/210.80)
Semis: (.078/3.988/306.19) defeated No. 16 Jim Campbell (.118/4.768/176.35)
Final: (.055/4.099/297.16) lost to No. 3 Robert Hight (.046/3.995/317.57)

“I really like the way the car has been performing, especially on race day and going rounds. You know you have to peak at the right time with the Countdown coming. This always seems to be when we turn the corner and start making a move. We want to get some wins but I’m not unhappy with the way we’ve been going a lot of rounds lately.”

Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 6 Qualifier – 3.978 seconds at 316.97 mph)

Rd. 1: (.067-second reaction time, 4.027 seconds at 320.20 mph) defeated No. 11 Alexis DeJoria (.083/4.056/316.90)
Rd. 2: (.064/4.319/289.63) lost to No. 3 Robert Hight (.062/4.146/305.22)

“We had to scramble to change engines before the second round, we had an issue where we didn’t even get to warm (the car) up on nitro, so we got behind the eight-ball and that really affected the performance of the car. And it’s really unfortunate because I think we had a car that could’ve won.”

Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 5 Qualifier – 3.965 seconds at 313.73 mph)

Rd. 1: (.093-second reaction time, 4.017 seconds at 311.99 mph) lost to No. 12 Tommy Johnson Jr. (.040/4.040/311.20 – holeshot win)

“It’s tough to lose that way (on a holeshot). We had a great car, and you win by the sword and you lose by the sword. Today I lost by the sword. So, we’re going to go on to Somona still with the points lead and are just having a great season. I’m so proud of our guys and the hard work they do.”

Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 4 Qualifier – 3.776 seconds at 326.63 mph)

Rd. 1: (.090-second reaction time, 3.837 seconds at 323.97 mph) defeated No. 13 Steve Chrisman (.104/4.240/238.09)
Rd. 2: (.098/3.806/325.37) defeated No. 12 Terry Haddock (.292/10.469/90.44)
Semis: (.071/3.790/324.36) lost to No. 1 Leah Pritchett (.060/3.794/323.43 – holeshot win)

“That was a great race right there. We were separated by seven-thousandths of a second. Those are the runs you just keep your chin up. What are you going to do? I couldn’t have found any bit more out of me and the car was just on a rail. It was a good race. It is what it is. The guys did an excellent job getting this backup car ready, working late into the night last night.”

Mopar/Dodge NHRA Sportsman Spotlight
Several Mopar drivers went multiple rounds in the Sportsman categories during the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, with Kevin Helms of Plant City, Florida, taking the Stock Eliminator win to add to his dozens of Wally trophies.

NHRA Drag RacingHelms drove his A/SA 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT featuring a 392 cubic-inch HEMI engine to the win over Scott Wells with a pass of 11.296 seconds at 106.82 mph on an 11.25 dial-in. He left the starting line with a .036-second reaction time. Helms’ win at Bandimere was his second national event victory of 2017. He is the motorsports manager at Jeff Teuton’s Southland Dodge dealership.

“We built this car as a tribute to Mr. Jeff Teuton’s wife,” Helms said of his stout Furious Fuchsia Challenger. “She’s a 42-year cancer survivor and she drives one just like it on the street, so we made race car out of it. It’s been a pretty good car so far … we have a lot of fun.”

Kayla Mozeris meanwhile put her ’93 GT/KA Dodge Daytona in round three of Super Stock. Despite going red at the starting line in the round, Mozeris made a lap of 11.107 on an 11.02 dial-in at a speed of 107.02. Mozeris hails from Phoenix and is a former junior dragster racer.

Helms and Mozeris were each awarded the Dodge Top Finisher award for the weekend. The program is in place at all 24 NHRA national events in 2017 and awards $500 to the Stock Eliminator and Super Stock competitor advancing the farthest in a Dodge or Plymouth vehicle.

Stock Eliminator and Super Stock drivers also took part in class eliminations at Bandimere Speedway. Helms took the Super Stock FSS/E win in his 2010 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, while Barry Pollard from Regina, Saskatchewan, won the H/SA class in the Stock category with a ’76 Plymouth Road Runner.

Next Event
The Western Swing of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series rolls on next week with the 30th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway in Northern California. Last year Mopar Funny Car driver Ron Capps went to the final round in wine country. Capps has claimed four wins in the event over his career, while Mopar teammate Jack Beckman has one win to his credit.  Mopar’s Matt Hagan holds the speed record for Funny Car with a pass at 330.15 mph in July of 2015.

Mopar-powered Tony Schumacher has won at the track twice in the Top Fuel category.

The 30th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals are scheduled for July 28 – 30. FOX Sports 1 will provide television coverage throughout the weekend, with the elimination rounds airing LIVE on the network at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 30.

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 14 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)

NHRA Funny Car
1. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger R/T (6) – 1,244
2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger R/T (3) – 1,058

3. Robert Hight (1) – 973
4. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger R/T (2) – 970
5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger R/T (1) – 925

6. Courtney Force – 793
7. John Force (1) – 757
8. Tim Wilkerson – 634
9. J.R. Todd – 612
10. Cruz Pedregon – 538

NHRA Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence (5) – 1,253
2. Antron Brown (3) – 1,199
3. Leah Pritchett, Mopar HEMI (3) – 1,183
4. Tony Schumacher, Mopar HEMI (1) – 974

5. Doug Kalitta – 873
6. Brittany Force (1) – 871
7. Clay Millican (1) – 826
8. Terry McMillen – 541
9. Scott Palmer – 528
10. Troy Coughlin Jr. – 496