Pritchett, Capps Carry Mopar Dodge//SRT to Runner-up Outings at Route 66 NHRA Nationals

  • Leah Pritchett drives Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster to second final in three events
  • Final-round appearance at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet is Pritchett’s first at venue and tenth of her career
  • Ron Capps takes Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to third straight final at Joliet
  • Pritchett jumps to third in Top Fuel standings, Capps moves to sixth in Funny Car
  • No. 1 qualifier Matt Hagan advances to quarterfinals in Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T
  • Mike Cotten captures Super Stock Dodge Top Finisher award, his fifth of season, at Joliet
  • Ryan Mangus earns Stock class Dodge Top Finisher honors and JEG Allstars win
  • More info on Mopar in NHRA available at http://blog.mopar.com
  • New Dodge Garage (http://www.dodgegarage.com/), a digital content hub for muscle car and race enthusiasts launches; will include highlights from NHRA season

June 3, 2018,  Joliet, Illinois – Mopar Dodge//SRT Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) drivers Leah Pritchett and Ron Capps raced to runner-up appearances in the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes, respectively, during elimination rounds on Sunday, June 3, at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Illinois.

The final-round appearance was the second in the last three events for Pritchett in her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster, including a victory in the NHRA Atlanta event in May, and the tenth overall of Pritchett’s career. Capps, the defending race winner, advanced to his third consecutive final at Route 66 Raceway in his Mopar-powered NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, his first of the season and the 113th of his career.

Starting tenth and from the bottom half of the field for just the second time this year, Pritchett opened Sunday in strong fashion by defeating higher-qualified teammate Antron Brown with her quickest pass of race weekend, a 3.769-second elapsed time at 329.67 mph. The Mopar Dodge Top Fuel driver next took out Kyle Wurtzel, leading from start to finish on a 3.929/298.93 pass that was quickest of the quarterfinals.

Pritchett trailed opponent Blake Alexander just slightly at the start in the semifinals but quickly zoomed ahead with a 3.832/326.16 run that advanced her to a first-ever final at Route 66 Raceway. She was unable to score the event win against Clay Millican in the money round after smoking the tires and slowing near the 330-foot mark, but the runner-up performance boosted the DSR driver from fifth to third in the overall Top Fuel point standings.

Capps, the No. 2 qualifier, began his campaign for a third Joliet trophy with a round one matchup versus Justin Schriefer, who lost traction early in the run, enabling Capps to drive around his competition. In the quarterfinals, Capps faced Shawn Langdon and was quick on the throttle, leaving the line first and never trailing for the win. In his 93rd meeting with John Force in the semfinals, the second most head-to-head matchups of any two drivers in the pro classes, Capps once again had the advantage at the tree. He powered the Mopar Dodge to his best pass of the day, activating the win light with a 4.058 E.T.

Next up for the 2016 Funny Car world champion was a final round battle with the reigning world champ, Robert Hight, who pulled away first and was able to seize the victory over Capps’ tire-smoking effort. The solid Route 66 Raceway showing enabled Capps and his team to bank nearly 100 points over the course of the weekend, and bumped Capps up from seventh to sixth in the NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car points ranking.

Matt Hagan spearheaded the dominant 1-2-3 qualifying performance by the DSR team at Joliet, racing his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to the No. 1 spot, the sixth of the season for a Mopar-powered NHRA Funny Car or Top Fuel driver. The two-time Funny Car World champ had the early advantage in round one with a .081 reaction time against opponent Jonnie Lindbergh and never looked back with a winning 4.017/320.74 run that earned him lane choice over Bob Tasca III in the quarterfinals.

Hagan, a three-time winner at Route 66 Raceway, and Tasca both left the starting line with identical .074 marks. The two were locked together neck-and-neck for much of the race, but Tasca began to slowly edge ahead and was able to outrun Hagan’s 4.149/282.95 pass.

Mopar-powered Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T driver Jack Beckman started race day from the top half of the field and with the advantage of lane choice versus his first-round competitor, Dale Creasy Jr. Beckman held a 4-0 lead over Creasy in previous matchups and was able to extend his undefeated record on Sunday. During their round one meeting, Beckman was out of the gate first and had the immediate lead over Creasy whose parachutes deployed early into the run, allowing Beckman to drive away with the round win.

The quarterfinals found the 2016 Route 66 NHRA Nationals Funny Car champion lined up opposite of John Force. Beckman once again had the starting line advantage and held the lead early into the run before losing traction near the 330-foot mark. He finessed the throttle, but Force, who dropped a cylinder later in the run, was able to pull away for the win.

Steady improvement during qualifying provided Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver and No. 10 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr. with encouragement heading into a first-round eliminations fight with Shawn Langdon. Gunning for his second career win at Joliet, Johnson left first with a .076 reaction time to Langdon’s slower .097. That promising start ended with a boom under the hood near the 300-foot mark that cracked Johnson’s Funny Car body nearly in half, with the vehicle slowing to a stop and Johnson emerging quickly and safely. The DSR driver will look to rebound at Richmond as he seeks his first win of the season.

Mopar HEMI-powered U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher was looking to add to his five career wins at Route 66 Raceway, most all time for the class. Unfortunately, the No. 3 qualifier smoked the tires at halftrack and watched Billy Torrence pull away for the round win. Schumacher leaves Joliet fourth in the point standings.

Mopar Dodge//SRT NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series: Notes & Quotes

Leah Pritchett, Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 10 Qualifier – 3.797 ET)

Rd.1: (.079-second reaction time, 3.769 seconds at 329.67 mph) beat No. 7 Antron Brown (.059/5.402/134.91)
Rd.2: (.074/3.929/298.93) beat No. 15 Kyle Wurtzel (.088/5.171/137.16)
Rd.3: (.061/3.832/326.16) beat No. 6 Blake Alexander (.058/3.896/325.06)
Rd.4: (.100/4.501/192.08) lost to No. 4 Clay Millican (.092/3.894/289.32)

“We felt like we made so many wholesale changes to find our power and today we got it back. I think the most impressive thing was the three full pulls in eliminations under conditions we didn’t have before. The car reacted to what we were telling it to do, and that will put a smile on everyone’s face all the way until the win light comes on. Three round wins, it’s incredible the chemistry of the team and the problems we’ve been overcoming. Unfortunately, in the final round we had problems from the start. The silver lining is when we’re on together, we’re on together, the driver and the car, and you see the smiling faces, but when we’re off together, we’re off together.”

On two finals in the last three races:
“Sometimes when you’re winning you get used to that. The more we do well, the more appreciative and in the moment I get. It’s been a long time. When we won in Atlanta, that was a great sense of satisfaction with Lucy (the Make-A-Wish child who cheered on Pritchett at the event). Going rounds today – I can’t compare the two, but the enjoyment factor was really high up there.”

On the next event at Richmond:
“I think it’s going to go well, we’ll have an even playing field for everyone, not having good track data there. I hear it’s supposed to be fast, and this team, we can go back to some of our ways where we know how to lay down some numbers. We’ve struggled with that this year, getting that power back, and now that we’ve found it in the heat, I’m looking forward to applying it. We’re not going to let this final round stop us at all. Our heads are not hanging low at all. We’ll keep (our heads) grounded and down, and hopefully on this swing we’ll be raising another Wally.”

Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 2 Qualifier – 3.921 ET)

Rd.1: (.087-second reaction time, 4.092 seconds at 308.50 mph) beat No. 15 Justin Schriefer (.063/4.305/222.73)
Rd.2: (.077/4.104/311.77) beat No. 7 Shawn Langdon (.083/4.154/307.16)
Rd.3: (.062/4.058/313.80) beat No. 6 John Force (.067/4.120/310.34)
Rd.4: (.055/4.310/230.21) lost to No. 12 Robert Hight (.047/4.073/310.63)

“It’s so nice to have our NAPA car back to where it was when we won the championship in 2016, and our eight wins last year. For me, that means it’s going to be a lot of fun because we’re going to win a lot of rounds this summer. We’re going to fight to get back up and get the point lead going into Indy. We’re back a little ways, but we’re making up ground. Great weekend for (our) guys.”

Matt Hagan, Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 1 Qualifier – 3.917 ET)

Rd.1: (.081-second reaction time, 4.017 seconds at 320.74 mph) beat No. 16 Jonnie Lindberg (.094/4.442/246.57)
Rd.2: (.074/4.149/282.95) lost to No. 8 Bob Tasca III (.074/4.084/307.86)

“Unfortunately, not what we wanted out of race day. Went out there and (the car) just kind of came loose, it was looping the tires. We’re having to make bigger wholesale changes during race day, and I feel like our Mopar Dodge is responding to the changes. All in all, I feel like we’re closing the gap on a lot of things, and we’re making it happen. We have momentum going into these next three races coming up.”

Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 3 Qualifier – 3.944 ET)

Rd.1: (.090-second reaction time, 4.213 seconds at 237.25 mph) beat No. 14 Dale Creasy (.117/6.907/81.20)
Rd.2: (.076/4.451/241.11) lost to No.6 John Force (.134/4.208/303.09)

“Little bit of a frustrating weekend, and unfortunately for our Infinite Hero team, we’ve had a few of those lately. We’re having some issues fine-tuning the new car with the new clutch, and with four races in a row, you just don’t want to stumble too much. We’re still showing signs of brilliance. The guys are doing a great job digging into the data. I overdrove the car a couple of times today. Fresh pipes, super responsive steering; I’ve got to back myself down a bit. This is a perfect example of where we have to come together as a team of 11 and step up our game.”

Tommy Johnson Jr., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 10 Qualifier – 4.011 ET)

Rd.1: (.076-second reaction time, 5.874 seconds at 97.84 mph) lost to No. 7 Shawn Langdon (.097/4.475/250.00)

“A little frustrating, the track surface was giving everyone fits first round. The cars won’t stay hooked up. We went out there and it spun the tires. I couldn’t see Shawn (Langdon) at that point, but it’s race day so you try and get back in it and do everything you can to get it down to the finish line. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll regroup and go on to the next one.”

Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 3 Qualifier – 3.749 ET)

Rd.1: (.084-second reaction time, 4.718 seconds at 162.43 mph) lost to No. 14 Billy Torrence (.072/3.784/330.15)

“We had a really good U.S. Army race car here this weekend and weren’t able to take advantage of it. The frustrating part is that we were able to make some progress with the U.S. Army car the last couple of days and we were hoping to make four good runs today. We’ll get right back after it next week in Richmond. I do want to say thanks to Mark Warnick, who is leaving our Army Team and DSR after being with us for 15 years. He won a championship with the Army team in 2014 and was a huge part of our success the past five seasons.”

Mopar Dodge//SRT NHRA Sportsman Spotlight
Longtime Mopar-powered NHRA Sportsman racer Mike Cotten added to his growing collection of Dodge Top Finisher awards at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals, bringing home his fifth honor of the year and third in the last two events.

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.

The Cave Creek, Arizona, native arrived on the outskirts of Chicago fresh off a sweep of the Dodge Top Finisher Awards in Stock and Super Stock at the most recent NHRA event in Topeka, Kansas. Driving his Mopar 383 Big Block-powered 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda in Super Stock, Cotten advanced to the second round at Joliet to earn Dodge Top Finisher honors in the class. He defeated Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak driver Keith Lynch in round one of Super Stock eliminations, but his day ended in the second round against Nick Folk. Cotten was a bit too quick on his dial in, breaking out on a 9.917 run at 132.36 mph.

Ryan Mangus of Rialto, California, advanced three rounds at Route 66 Raceway in a 2010 Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak to seize the Dodge Top Finisher award in Stock Eliminator. Mangus defeated the higher-qualified Stocker cars of Slate Cummings and Chris Stephenson, then met Jeff Strickland in the third round. Mangus’ 9.831 ET and .044 reaction time wasn’t enough to outrun Strickland’s 9.218 pass and .012 move off the starting line.

Mangus also bagged a weekend win with a victory in the JEGS Allstars event, capturing the Stock title in the Mopar Dodge Drag Pak by defeating Joe Sorensen. Mangus picked up his first JEGS Allstars win after Sorensen red-lighted in his Camaro.

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.

Up Next: Virginia NHRA Nationals
Mopar Dodge//SRT Funny Car and Top Fuel drivers will head next to Virginia Motorsports Park near Richmond for the Virginia NHRA Nationals, the second in a string of four consecutive events for NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competitors. The series returns to the facility for the first time since the 2009 season.

2018 NHRA Championship — Point Standings After Round 9 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)

NHRA Funny Car
1.  Courtney Force (3) — 728
2.  Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger R/T (1) — 647
3.  Robert Hight (1) — 624
4.  Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger R/T (1) — 601
5.  J.R. Todd (2) — 539
6.  Ron Capps, Dodge Charger R/T — 535
7.  Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger R/T — 522

8.  Cruz Pedregon (1) — 433
9.  Shawn Langdon — 429
10. John Force — 383

NHRA Top Fuel
1.   Steve Torrence (3) – 712
2.   Clay Millican (2) — 687
3.   Leah Pritchett, Mopar Dodge HEMI (1) — 582
4.   Tony Schumacher, Mopar Dodge HEMI — 578

5.   Doug Kalitta (1) — 570
6.   Brittany Force (1) — 471
7.   Terry McMillen — 464
8.   Antron Brown — 456
9.   Scott Palmer — 350
10. Richie Crampton (1) — 329