June 24, 2018, Norwalk, Ohio – Matt Hagan capped off a win-filled weekend for Mopar Dodge//SRT at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, muscling his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to his second victory of the season at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio. Mopar-powered Dodge NHRA Sportsman racers also brought home Wally trophies in the Factory Stock Showdown and Stock Eliminator classes.
Hagan’s triumph was the second consecutive and fourth overall this season for a Mopar Dodge Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Funny Car driver, and the sixth win of 2018 in the NHRA Nitro classes. Hagan also leapfrogged into a tie for second in the Funny Car standings with DSR Dodge teammate Jack Beckman
Hagan, seeking a bit of redemption after first-round exits in the previous two events, began Norwalk eliminations with back-to-back battles against Mopar Dodge Funny Car DSR teammates. First up was Tommy Johnson Jr., with Hagan’s quick reflexes helping to score a close holeshot win by an ultra-thin margin of less than one-thousandth of a second. Hagan was again first off the starting line in an all-Mopar Dodge quarterfinals fight, pulling away to defeat Beckman with a 4.010/322.27 pass.
Hagan led from start to finish stripe in the semifinals, reeling off a 3.981/320.58 to defeat J.R. Todd and earn all-important lane choice against No. 1 qualifier Courtney Force in his fourth final round of the season and 51st of his career. Hagan saved his best reaction time for the money round, a .033-second mark that gave him a jump over Force that he would never relinquish, recording a winning 4.094/288.21 to his opponent’s losing 4.220/227.54 effort.
The victory was Hagan’s second of the season, 28th of his career and first-ever at Norwalk.
Leah Pritchett faced Doug Kalitta in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday morning. Kalitta had a slight advantage on the launch and led for nearly the entire span of the 1,000-foot stretch, but Pritchett charged hard in her Mopar-powered FireAde machine, chasing Kalitta down at the far end of the track to set off the win light. Her 3.794-second effort held up to be the second-best of the session.
The six-time Top Fuel winner powered to her best run of the weekend in the quarterfinals to claim the upset win over No. 1 qualifier Clay Millican and earn lane choice over semifinal opponent Blake Alexander. Pritchett was first on the throttle but encountered issues just past halftrack. The 2018 Atlanta winner pedaled the throttle and harnessed her FireAde machine enough to recover before giving way to a fireball, enabling Alexander to claim the win with his clean pass.
Ron Capps and his Mopar-fueled NAPA Dodge team entered Norwalk fresh off of a trip to the winner’s circle from the previous event. Picking up where they left off, the Rahn Tobler-led team dominated throughout qualifying. Two days of persistent rain showers meant nitro teams were permitted only two shots at the race track before race day fields were set. Capps collected bonus points during each session, running second-best in round one, and “best of class” in the second session.
Capps, a three-time runner-up at the venue, kicked off his 500th professional race day start with a matchup against No. 15 qualifier Jeff Diehl. Capps drove away with the immediate round win when Diehl stood on the gas early and fouled out. In round two, Capps faced J.R. Todd. The NAPA machine went up in smoke almost immediately, ending Capps’ chances at winning Norwalk’s coveted ice cream scoop trophy.
“Fast” Jack Beckman scored an upset in the opening round, taking his No. 11-qualified Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car past the higher-seeded No. 6 machine of Tim Wilkerson. Beckman, a three-time champion at Norwalk, easily claimed the round win with a 4.047/319.07 run after Wilkerson smoked the tires. The defending Norwalk event winner trailed off the starting line in an all-Mopar Dodge DSR quarterfinals matchup against Hagan, regained the lead briefly at the 60-foot mark but ultimately was unable to drive past his teammate for the round win. Beckman leaves Norwalk still ranked second in the standings (tied with Hagan) and as the winningest Funny Car driver in the facility’s history.
Tony Schumacher qualified No. 4 in his Mopar HEMI-powered U.S. Army dragster, seeking to follow up his recent Bristol win with another Sunday celebration. “The Sarge” began eliminations by defeating Kyle Wurtzel with a 3.807/327.66 mark, but a slow start in the semifinals against Blake Alexander ended Schumacher’s day.
Beginning eliminations from the No. 14 position, Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T NHRA Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. faced off in an intra-squad battle with fellow DSR stablemate Hagan. Johnson overcame his teammate’s slight edge off the starting line (a .071 reaction time to Johnson’s .075) to put the nose of his Mopar Dodge out front at the 660-ft. mark, but Hagan surged ahead to beat Johnson’s quicker 3.990-second effort to the finish by a razor-thin margin of about five inches.
Mopar Dodge//SRT NHRA Sportsman Spotlight
Following a historic qualifying performance in which four Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak drivers swept the top four starting positions, Mark Pawuk and Joe Welch made Factory Stock Showdown history again in the first-ever all-Mopar Dodge final round of the class, with Welch earning his second consecutive win in a close battle.
Welch qualified No. 1 and raced past David Barton, Scott Libersher and Stephen Bell before meeting Pawuk in a battle of Mopar Dodge Drag Paks. The two recorded nearly identical reaction times, with Welch holding a slight advantage on the way to a winning with a 8.107/168.07 run.
DSR driver Pawuk, making his first Factory Stock eliminations start in his Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, notched a holeshot victory in the quarterfinals against Chuck Watson. Pawuk was quicker off the starting tree with a .081 reaction time to Watson’s slower .098, giving enough margin to make Pawuk’s 8.091/169.19 run pay off with a round win. In the semifinals, Pawuk used his supercharged 354-cubic-inch HEMI to overcome a slight deficit at the start, recording a quicker and faster 8.104/169.02 to knock out Aaron Stanfield’s 8.178/166.66 and advance to the final.
Shortly after winning her first round of Top Fuel competition, Leah Pritchett quickly hopped in her Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak and switched into Factory Stock Showdown mode for round two eliminations. Qualified in the top three, Pritchett trailed Stephen Bell at the start and was unable to catch his quicker 8.137 ET with her 8.179/168.98 effort.
Former NHRA Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson is getting comfortable in the seat of his Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, qualifying No. 4 and earning his first career Factory Stock Showdown round win to advance to the quarterfinals. Johnson was a bit too quick on the trigger against Aaron Stanfield, leaving the line early and losing on a red-light foul.
A pair of 1965 Mopar HEMI-powered Dodge Coronet “A990” package cars ran fast and hard to claim the Dodge Top Finisher award in Stock Eliminator and Super Stock at Norwalk. In the Stock Eliminator final, Todd Hoven from Milltown, New Jersey, drove his 1965 AA/SA Dodge HEMI® Coronet to the event victory. Hoven, who has a prior NHRA national event win and numerous divisional finals to his credit, was consistent all weekend.
Hoven has raced in the Stock Eliminator category since 1997 and has also competed in a Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak. In the final round, Hoven’s Coronet had the starting line advantage over his opponent and ran right on his 10.08 ET dial-in. Hoven is also a first-time recipient of the Dodge Top Finisher award.
For the Super Stock category, lifelong Mopar racer Bob Marshall wheeled his 1965 SS/AA Dodge HEMI Coronet to the runner-up finish. The Columbus, Ohio, resident has been racing his “Dodge Material” HEMI Dodge Super Stockers for many decades and has earned numerous wins at the national event and divisional level. Marshall motored to his first Dodge Top Finisher award as he raced through six rounds of intense eliminations against some of the toughest drivers in the class.
The Dodge Top Finisher award, now in its second year, awards $500 to the Stock Eliminator and Super Stock drivers who advance the furthest behind the wheel of a Mopar-powered Dodge, Chrysler, or Plymouth race car. The honor is awarded in both Sportsman categories at all 24 NHRA national events.
Mopar Dodge//SRT NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series: Notes & Quotes
Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA
“It’s great to see the success that our Mopar Dodge//SRT drivers and teams are having this year. Thanks to Matt Hagan and his Mopar Express Lane Dodge team on bringing home a second consecutive victory for our brands, and their second win of the season.”
Steve Beahm, Head of Passenger Cars, Dodge//SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA North America
“The victory today by Matt Hagan is the second consecutive win for a Mopar-powered Dodge//SRT team and yet another example of the successful combination of our two brands at the drag strip. A tip of the cap to the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T team and the entire Don Schumacher Racing organization on their performance this weekend.”
Matt Hagan, Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 3 Qualifier – 3.981 ET)
Rd.1: (.071-second reaction time, 3.994 seconds at 327.19 mph) beat No. 14 Tommy Johnson Jr. (.075/3.990/323.27)
Rd.2: (.058/4.010/322.27) beat No. 11 Jack Beckman (.075/4.022/321.73)
Rd.3: (.063/3.981/320.58) beat No. 7 J.R. Todd (.082/4.031/321.50)
Rd.4: (.033/4.094/288.21) beat No. 1 Courtney Force (.067/4.220/227.54)
“Super proud of my guys. These cats have been working hard and we’ve obviously had a track prep change that we needed to adapt to and it took (crew chief) Dickie (Venables) a few runs to get there, but that’s why I love him and I’m glad he’s in my corner. He always figures it out.
“We had a good, solid car all weekend. Qualified well, went down the race track pretty much every lap. It hazed the tires out there and I was legging it out, but it’s the finals, man, and I didn’t care if it was going to blow the body off of it or what. All I knew was I didn’t see her (opponent Courtney Force) beside me.
“You’re not due anything out here because you have to earn it, but you almost feel like you were due for a win. It’s been a while since we turned on four win lights, but it’s a nitro Funny Car and you never know what you’re going to get. I’m glad we were able to knock this (Norwalk) trophy off the checklist. For Mopar, for Pennzoil, Sandvik Coromant, and all of the folks that support us out here. I’ve been wanting one of these ice cream scoops (special trophies handed out at Norwalk), but I think mine is going to be a protein scoop (laughs). You know, two scoops of protein with this. We’re having fun, it’s good to see my guys be able to celebrate with the Wally.”
Leah Pritchett, FireAde/Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 8 Qualifier – 3.838 ET)
Rd.1: (.064-second reaction time, 3.794 seconds at 328.94 mph) beat No. 9 Doug Kalitta (.061/3.805/321.73)
Rd.2: (.068/3.788/327.74) beat No. 1 Clay Millican (.072/3.817/327.03)
Rd.3: (.060/4.185/254.28) lost to No. 12 Blake Alexander (.082/3.799/329.91)
“We started race day with all new information. We weren’t able to take a lot from qualifying. We made wholesale changes on Saturday night, and with that confidence coming into Sunday, the FireAde team output exactly what we input. We had two awesome and consistent, clean runs, and tight racing. It’s been a while since we had some real tight racing like that where the car was on point, I was on point, the team was on point, and we had no mechanical malfunctions.
“Unfortunately, we spun (the tires) in the semis against Blake (Alexander), who’s a great driver. We’re getting to that time, it’s halfway through the season. Everybody’s best is starting to shine and right now this FireAde team is starting to shine really bright. We needed that momentum. It’s good to end this swing on a semifinal finish. Of course, we wanted to finish with a win, but to see the adversity this team has gone through over this weekend – limited runs, runs that didn’t really count for us for anything, and taking a shot at it on Sunday and going some rounds is what we needed.”
On her Factory Stock Showdown performance:
“Pretty epic feeling to have my teammate (Mark Pawuk) race in the finals. Couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the Mopar team and this Factory program. All win lights, they actually do feel the same, whether it’s in Top Fuel or Factory Stock, because the input of passion and effort is all still the same. With my car, we had it tuned up for E2 and that output wasn’t quite there but feeling good about the progress that we’ve made.”
Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 11 Qualifier – 4.101 ET)
Rd.1: (.079-second reaction time, 4.047 seconds at 319.07 mph) beat No. 6 Tim Wilkerson (.061/9.812/93.13)
Rd.2: (.075/4.022/321.73) lost to No. 3 Matt Hagan (.058/4.010/322.27)
“We’re still in a brand-new car. I think it’s the fourth race for this new chassis, brand new clutch in our car, the pressure plate and the (recent changes) in track prep. You hate to say that you’re testing, but the definition of testing is trying to zero in on a combination that works, and we’re testing.
“We had a phenomenal car earlier in the year, could not seem to qualify any worse than fifth, and now some races we’re struggling to qualify in the top half, but we seem to be a very intelligent race-day crew. We seem to be able to beat out round wins no matter where we qualify. Now, if we qualify better, we’ll have more favorable race day pairings. We’ll stay tomorrow (in Norwalk) and test, and we will keep zeroing in on this thing. The changes that we made with the other clutch and the other chassis have different effects on this one, but every run we make we get data and we get better.”
Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 2 Qualifier – 3.961 ET)
Rd.1: (.086-second reaction time, 4.034 seconds at 315.05) beat No. 15 Jeff Diehl (-.050/6.384/106.92)
Rd.2: (.066/9.588/81.56) lost to No. 7 J.R. Todd (.058/4.004/321.27)
“We haven’t smoked the tires that early into a run in a very long time. We had so much momentum, we felt great about going in (to round one). The good thing is, if you take the silver lining on this cloud of losing second round is this race car we’ve been running is going into the DSR fab shop this week and getting a front half. We try to put a certain amount of runs on each of our Funny Cars at DSR, and it’s gotten more and more runs which is great, but as busy as DSR is with four Funny Cars and three dragsters, you sort of have to get in line and get on the list to get it done. It’ll almost be like a brand-new chassis. I’m excited, it’ll be like a new car and we’ll run that for the rest of the year.”
Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 4 Qualifier – 3.792 ET)
Rd.1: (.092-second reaction time, 3.807 seconds at 327.66 mph) beat No. 13 Kyle Wurtzel (.070/3.902/306.74)
Rd.2: (.146/3.779/330.31) lost No. 12 Blake Alexander (.054/3.798/330.15)
“The U.S. Army car just continues getting better. Credit Blake Alexander and his team. That run he made would have beaten everyone. It was a long tree. I was waiting on that tree really deep, and I’m staring at it and it didn’t come on when I thought it was going to. I hit it and came off of it, almost two stepped it. I heard something when I squeezed the throttle and I didn’t know if it was him or me so I pulled back and the light came on. This one is on me today. Mistakes happen. People are human. It’s unfortunate, but it’s racing. It’s just the level we are at. Everyone has to be so good. The best thing about where we are halfway through the year is that we have a great car. We brought Mike Neff in to lead this U.S. Army team and he’s doing exactly what we hoped he would. He and Phil (Shuler) have meshed really well and we have as good of car as anyone out here. I just really hate to let one slip away like we did today.”
Tommy Johnson Jr., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 14 Qualifier – 4.209 ET)
Rd.1: (.075-second reaction time, 3.990 seconds at 323.27 mph) lost No. 3 Matt Hagan (.071/3.994/327.19)
“It’s a frustrating loss. To run so well and lose by less than one-thousandth of a second, all you can say is it was a great drag race. It was really, really close and I was happy with the way the car ran, it was just qualifying that bit us. Only having two runs and not getting a good qualifying run in on those two. The guys did a great job of hitting the tune-up on Sunday, it was just nine-thousandths of a second too short.”
Up Next: NHRA New England Nationals
After a much-needed week off following a stretch of four consecutive events, Mopar Dodge//SRT Top Fuel, Funny Car and Sportsman racers will travel to the East Coast for the NHRA New England Nationals, set for July 6-8 at New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire.
Fans have flocked to the venue since the inaugural NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series stop in 2013, and last year watched Matt Hagan celebrate the 2017 Funny Car win in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge. Ron Capps captured Funny Car Wally trophies in 2016 and 2014 in his Mopar-powered Dodge, while Tony Schumacher took HEMI power to the Top Fuel winner’s circle in 2014-2015.
Dodge Garage: New Digital Hub for Drag Racing News
Fans now have a new one-stop destination for Mopar and Dodge drag racing news. Dodge Garage (http://www.dodgegarage.com) is a digital content hub and premier destination for drag racing and muscle car enthusiasts.
Fans can view daily updates and get access to an online racing HQ, news, events, galleries, available downloads and merchandise. Dodge Garage features include exclusive content, such as a three-part video series “Chasing the Title,” that offers fans a unique, behind-the-scenes glimpse at Pritchett and her DSR team in action.
For information on Mopar on and off the track, check out the Mopar brand’s official blog, http://blog.mopar.com.
2018 NHRA Championship — Point Standings After Round 12 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)
NHRA Funny Car
1. Courtney Force — 1038
2t. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger R/T (1) — 788
2t. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger R/T (2) — 788
4. Robert Hight — 771
5. J.R. Todd — 767
6. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger R/T (1) — 755
7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger R/T — 637
8. John Force — 577
9. Shawn Langdon — 537
10. Bob Tasca III — 532
NHRA Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence – 964
2. Clay Millican — 847
3. Tony Schumacher, Mopar Dodge HEMI (1) — 817
4. Doug Kalitta — 749
5. Leah Pritchett, Mopar Dodge HEMI (1) — 736
6. Terry McMillen — 643
7. Antron Brown — 622
8. Brittany Force — 594
9. Mike Salinas — 475
10. Scott Palmer — 471