Ron Capps became the first 2019 repeat winner in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car competition Sunday, taking his Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car to victory in the second annual Virginia NHRA Nationals near Richmond.
Capps followed his Atlanta triumph two weeks ago with a run through the Funny Car field on an extremely warm day in Virginia to score his 63rd career victory, his 30th win with crew chief Rahn Tobler and his first Wally at Virginia Motorsports Park. The victory was also the third this season for a DSR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car pilot.
En route to the historic win Capps knocked out fellow DSR and Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson, Jr. in the semifinals while Jack Beckman, Matt Hagan, Cruz Pedregon and Jim Campbell also competed Sunday in Mopar-powered Funny Cars. Leah Pritchett qualified her DSR HEMI-powered Mopar Top Fuel dragster sixth, but wasn’t able to advance past the first round.
The march to victory for Capps in his NAPA Dodge began with a stout run in the opening round of 3.997 seconds at 313.58 mph to dispatch Jim Campbell, who smoked the tires approximately 300 feet into his run. Up next for Capps was a battle with current point leader Robert Hight in round two. This one was all about reaching the finish line first and the former champions staged a classic pedalfest with both cars losing traction multiple times, but it was Capps that was able to reach 1000 feet first. His lap of 6.173 was enough to advance for another semifinal match-up with Tommy Johnson, Jr. where Capps took the starting line advantage and pulled away for the victory despite losing a cylinder as Johnson went up in smoke just after the hit and never recovered.
In his 121st career final, Capps was not to be denied as he left first on reigning Funny Car champion J.R. Todd and posted his second-best run of the day at 4.097 to capture the win. The victory moves Capps up to eighth all-time in wins with 63 and allowed him to jump from seventh to third in the championship standings.
Tommy Johnson, Jr. continued his success in hot climate this weekend aboard the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. After a runner-up finish earlier this season in Las Vegas and a semifinal appearance two weeks ago in Atlanta, Johnson and the Make-A-Wish team have proven their Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car can handle the heat. He qualified second with his second run on Friday and took care of business seamlessly in his opening round match-up against Terry Haddock with his pass of 4.027 seconds at 316.52 mph. With track temperatures reaching over 140 degrees, Johnson and fellow Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car racer Jack Beckman were on the spot right away in round two when their machines quickly lost traction. Johnson was able to recover almost immediately and cruised to a victory over Beckman with his pass of 5.356. The victory set up a second consecutive semifinal matchup with Capps. Johnson lost traction early again, but this time he wasn’t able to recover and Capps knocked him out for the second consecutive event.
Beckman’s bid for a second Virginia NHRA Nationals triumph was a bumpy one as his Infinite Hero squad were faced with the hottest conditions of the season. They struggled to get their footing during qualifying, eventually settling in the No. 10 starting position to secure a first-round draw with teammate Matt Hagan where both cars lost traction early and the two world champions were quick to get back on the throttle. Beckman was able to rein-in his Hellcat first and take the win. Beckman’s luck ran out when he lost traction again during his second round race with Johnson and couldn’t get his machine to recover in time to advance.
Two-time NHRA Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan was looking for his second triumph of the 2019 this weekend in his home state of Virginia. After qualifying the DSR Shelor Motor Mile Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat seventh in the field, he matched up with teammate Jack Beckman and took the starting line advantage, but lost traction in a big way near the 800-foot mark. Beckman lost traction in his run as well, but Hagan wasn’t able to gather his machine back in time to capture the win. The two are now tied with 22 victories versus one another in their 44 career races.
In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett and her Mopar Dodge team led by Neil Strausbaugh and Todd Okuhara ventured to Virginia with high hopes. After losing in the second round two weeks’ prior in Atlanta, Pritchett was looking to utilize some valuable high heat data to make a deep run Sunday. She qualified sixth and that put her opposite of her DSR teammate Antron Brown to start the day. Unfortunately for Pritchett, her day was over almost as soon as it started. The tandem were the first pair to make a pass Sunday and Pritchett’s machine lost traction almost immediately after her launch. Brown drove away with the victory posting a lap of 3.872 seconds at 312.42 mph compared to Pritchett’s run of 5.388 seconds at 139.06 mph.
The weekend was Pritchett’s third of 2019 where she pulled double duty as the reigning Factory Stock Showdown champion. She qualified her Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pack 12th before losing in the first round.
Mopar Dodge//SRT NHRA Sportsman Spotlight
Thomas Auger and Stephen Comella earned Top Dodge Finisher Awards in Richmond. Auger, from Marco Island, Florida, drove his 1963 H/SA Dodge 330 to a pair of round wins in Stock Eliminator before being beat off the starting line in round three. Comella raced his original 1968 SS/AH HEMI Dodge Dart to through six rounds of competition in Super Stock before earning a runner-up finish. This was the second Dodge Top Finisher Award for the Webster, New York, driver after he collected one earlier this year at the 50th Annual Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.
The Dodge Top Finisher award, now in its third year, awards $500 to Stock Eliminator and Super Stock drivers who advance the furthest behind the wheel of a Mopar-powered Dodge, Chrysler, or Plymouth race car at all 24 NHRA national events.
Dodge//SRT Mopar NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series: Notes & Quotes
Mark Bosanac, Head of Mopar Service, Parts & Customer Care, FCA – North America
“The win today by Ron Capps and his team is the third this season for the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car body. Capp’s Virginia triumph is yet another validation of the extensive testing and development involved in unleashing the Charger SRT Hellcat body on the drag strip.”
Ron Capps, NAPA Brakes Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
(No. 3 Qualifier – 3.927 ET)
Rd.1: (.081-second reaction time, 3.997 seconds at 313.58 mph) beat No. 14 Jim Campbell (.093/6.497/99.14)
Rd.2: (.067/6.173/251.11) beat No. 6 Robert Height (.092/6.204/270.75)
Rd. 3: (.063/4.212/301.94) beat No. 2 Tommy Johnson, Jr. (.096/10.184/90.53)
Rd. 4: (.038/4.097/310.98) beat No. 4 J.R. Todd (.071/No Time)
“I can’t say enough. I’m so lucky to be driving this car. Two wins in a row. This is what dreams are made of. I told (Rahn) Tobler and those guys that I’ve never won at this track. And today, we added another one to the list. That says something about the people that I’m surrounded by. My NAPA guys, Autocare Center boys, Pennzoil, US Compression, and especially Dodge today. We could not have won a couple of those rounds without that Hellcat and its downforce. Don Schumacher gives us everything we need. And Rahn Tobler, this is our 30th win together since 2012. That’s craziness.”
Tommy Johnson Jr., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
(No. 2 Qualifier – 3.922 ET)
Rd.1: (.095-second reaction time, 4.027 seconds at 316.52 mph) beat No. 15 Terry Haddock (.133/4.132/296.24)
Rd. 2: (.087/5.356/212.03) beat No. 10 Jack Beckman (.077/8.238/102.56)
Rd. 3: (.096/10 .184/90.53) lost to No. 3 Ron Capps (.063/4.212/301.94)
“To say it was a tricky racetrack today would be a huge understatement. We had a nice run there in the first round and then the track got really tricky for everyone. To be able to win the second round on a pedal job was good. I was hoping Capps would smoke his tires too and we could pedalfest it out, but credit to those guys for getting down the track. We know moving forward the race tracks are only going to get hotter, so I’m glad we’ve run well in the heat. I feel like we are really close to having the right tune up for it.”
Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
(No. 10 Qualifier – 4.005 ET)
Rd.1: (.093-second reaction time, 4.649 seconds at 251.44 mph) beat to No. 7 Matt Hagan (.082/4.113/287.35)
Rd.2: (.077/8.238/102.56) lost to No. 2 Tommy Johnson, Jr. (.087/5.356/212.03)
“Disappointing weekend. We got beat second round and only made it to the finish line one time, which means we really didn’t acquire any data here and as hot as this place was, we’re going to see a heck of a lot more of that in the summertime. We just had to cycle in a brand-new clutch disc and we really don’t have another option for its spot in the clutch pack, but we might have to rethink how we apply it. The silver lining is, we got a round win out of here so we didn’t take too bad of a beating in the points, but we’ve just got to figure out what this thing needs for power application, and we need to figure it out by Chicago.”
Matt Hagan, Shelor Motor Mile Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
(No. 7 Qualifier – 3.991 ET)
Rd.1: (.082-second reaction time, 4.113 seconds at 287.35 mph) lost to No. 10 Jack Beckman (.087/4.037/309.84)
“It was a really hot, greasy weekend here in Richmond. We were hoping to get us a home state win here in Virginia, but we just could not get our Shelor Motor Mile Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat down the track clean in that race with Jack. He had some trouble too, but not as much as we did. It’s usually a little muggy out here and the humidity is crazy. Thanks to all of our fans that came out all weekend and especially today for the show everyone in NHRA puts on for them. Really looking forward to getting to Chicago. I’ve had a lot of success there. We have won that race several times and set some world records there. And we are just going to keep digging and do everything we can to put this Mopar Funny Car in the winner’s circle very soon.”
Leah Pritchett, Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 6 Qualifier – 3.793 ET)
Rd.1: (.101-second reaction time, 5.388 seconds at 139.06 mph) lost to No. 11 Antron Brown (.064/3.872/312.42)
“The learning curve for these hot conditions is very steep. Unfortunately, we had to race our teammate in round one. We gave it everything we had. We knew they were bringing their A game, and we definitely thought that we were bringing ours. We had confidence in our tune-up. We’ve been chasing clutch wear issues and trying to make them as consistent as possible. At the beginning of this heat wave, we’re taking as much information as we can. This first round loss stings a little bit, but you won’t see another team work as hard as we are right now to find a solution and move past this as soon as possible.”
Up Next: Route 66 NHRA Nationals
Mopar and Dodge//SRT competitors will head next to the 22nd Annual Route 66 NHRA Nationals, May 31 – June 2 at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois. Two-time Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan, a three-time Route 66 Nationals Funny Car winner, will be joined by DSR’s Hellcat Funny Car contingent of previous Route 66 winners – Ron Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson, Jr.
2019 NHRA Championship — Point Standings After Round 8 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)
NHRA Funny Car
1. Robert Hight (3) – 701
2. J.R. Todd (1) – 556
3. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (2) – 548
4. Tommy Johnson, Jr., Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – 527
5. John Force – 524
6. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (1) – 506
7. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – 477
8. Tim Wilkerson – 463
9. Shawn Langdon (1) – 404
10. Bob Tasca III – 369
NHRA Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence (3) – 717
2. Brittany Force (1) –541
3. Doug Kalitta (1) – 498
4. Clay Millican – 489
5. Leah Pritchett, Mopar HEMI – 469
6. Antron Brown – 467
7. Mike Salinas (1) – 466
8. Richie Crampton (1) – 363
9. Terry McMillen – 352
10. Austin Prock – 341