DSR Dallas Elimination Highlights:
- Leah Pritchett wins the 2018 NHRA SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown Series world championship en route to winning the final FSXX event of the season
- Pritchett’s banner day earned event win No. 332 for Don Schumacher Racing, the winningest team in NHRA history, and championship title No. 17
- Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) raced to semifinal finishes
- Johnson cracked into the ‘top five’ in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship standings
- The DSR dragster trio (Antron Brown, Pritchett, Schumacher) remain in the Top Fuel ‘top five’
Driver of the Matco Tools 'Tools for the Cause'/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 11 (3.810 E.T. at 306.60 MPH)
E1: 3.777 E.T. at 323.43 MPH defeated Doug Kalitta 3.830 E.T. at 316.82 MPH
E2: 4.151 E.T. at 241.15 MPH defeated by Tony Schumacher 3.817 E.T. at 323.89 MPH
Antron Brown and Doug Kalitta met in competition for the 53rd time during round one of the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals. Behind the wheel of the Matco Tools ‘Tools for the Cause’/U.S. Army dragster, Brown was quick on the throttle and used his starting line advantage coupled with a solid 3.777-second run to extend his round win record to 31-22 against Kalitta.
Brown drew teammate Tony Schumacher in round two and once again, Brown was first out of the gate. Unfortunately for the three-time Top Fuel world champion, Schumacher was able to overtake Brown’s lead by the 200-foot mark and drive away with the round win when Brown’s machine hazed the tires at the 330.
Brown leaves Texas ranked fifth in the Countdown to the Championship point standings.
“It wasn’t the day we wanted. We started off in E1 the way we wanted to, but we’re just going through the second round blues right now. We went out there and it got through the clutch too much and it dropped a hole. Then the clutch caught up with the engine and it just spun the tires. We’ve just got to keep working hard. We know we are right on the cusp of some great things, but we just have to make it happen right now. We have three races left in the Countdown to the Championship. We’re sitting solid in fifth place, but that’s not where we want to be. We want to be in the top three. We still have a shot for that. Our main focus is just to go back and regroup and we have to come out swinging in Charlotte next weekend. We can’t race scared, we just have to go out there and throw it down.”
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 9 (3.808 E.T. at 324.51 MPH)
E1: 3.831 E.T. at 324.20 MPH defeated Kebin Kinsley 4.548 E.T. at 172.45 MPH
E2: 4.228 E.T. at 201.91 MPH defeated by Clay Millican 3.783 E.T. at 321.50 MPH
Leah Pritchett overcame a No. 9 qualifying spot outside of the top half of the field to defeat the higher-qualified Kebin Kinsley, posting a 3.831-second at 324.20-mph run en route to leading from start to finish.
In the quarterfinals against Clay Millican, the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel driver matched her opponent’s 0.072 reaction but dropped a cylinder right at the launch, ending any chance at a deep Dallas run. Pritchett is fourth in the Top Fuel standings with her hopes for two titles still alive heading into the all-important final three-race stretch.
“Some people say the glass is half empty or half full. For us, we think it’s half full. We’ve experienced gremlins we’ve never experienced before in Dallas. We thought we had them completely flushed under after a not really good day of qualifying on Saturday. Were able to fix it and get that first-round win. But, with the boost problems we’d been having, that resulted in a cylinder dropping at the hit in the second round. It would’ve been awesome for everybody, including us, to take out Clay Millican so we could climb higher into the championship chase. This Mopar team is undoubtedly still in it and we are looking forward to still chasing it and we’re definitely not counting this team or this car or any of the guys out. We have a couple of things to fix and I have confidence in this team that we will turn it around. I’ll tell you what, for the fans and the people who are watching this Countdown, it’s going to get interesting and it’s going to be good and we’re going to give it absolutely everything we have because that’s what we do.”
Driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 3 (3.745 E.T. at 329.58 MPH)
E1: 3.747 E.T. at 325.69 MPH defeated Shawn Reed 3.900 E.T. at 322.34 MPH
E2: 3.817 E.T. at 323.89 MPH defeated Antron Brown 4.151 E.T. at 241.15 MPH
E3: 4.917 E.T. at 166.64 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.779 E.T. at 321.73 MPH
After a stellar final qualifying run late Saturday vaulted Schumacher to the No. 3 spot on the elimination ladder, “The Sarge” laid down a smooth and steady opening-round win over No. 14 qualifier Shawn Reed. The U.S. Army car crossed the finish line in 3.747-seconds at 325.69-mph to Reed’s 3.900-second pass. That set up a meeting with teammate Antron Brown, their third intramural elimination battle in the last six events. Schumacher was solid and steady once again with a run of 3.817-seconds at 323.89-mph while Brown smoked the tires midway down the track.
Trailing Torrence by 125 points at the start of the day, Schumacher and the U.S. Army team were hoping to turn his playoff momentum in their favor with the chance to leave Texas Motorplex having significantly downsized that deficit. But it was not meant to be as Schumacher hazed the tires at halftrack and had to settle for a run of 4.917-seconds to Torrence’s 3.779 seconds pass.
Schumacher, the winningest Top Fuel driver at the Texas Motorplex with six career event titles, will enter the next event ranked third.
“We came here in the hunt, even though we may not be leaving here in the hunt, but we finally figured out two dramatic issues with our U.S. Army car. Now we can run at the level we need to run at. We may not win a championship with it because it might be too late. If we go off and beat (Steve) Torrence right now and win the championship after struggling the way we have lately, it’s almost disrespectful to the sport. Have we pulled off things like that before? No. We’ve won races but we’ve always done it in some dramatic form and, right now, winning off of some luck would not be the way we would want to do it. We do have a great car after this weekend, but we’re down to 12 rounds and he’s a lot of rounds ahead of us. He’s got to go out in the first round at the next three races and we have to win them all. Is it impossible? No, but he’s dominated this year. If he wins the championship, I’ll be proud to call him champ. His team’s led the way all year, and Clay Millican's done the same thing. So, let’s watch them battle it. We’ll see if we can get in everybody’s way and see if we can earn some points and finish off the season No. 1, 2 or 3 but, realistically, we didn’t have that championship car until this weekend. We’re just getting back to that point.”
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 5 (3.968 E.T. at 316.52 MPH)
E1: 3.969 E.T. at 317.27 MPH defeated Courtney Force 3.985 E.T. at 318.17 MPH
E2: 4.055 E.T. at 260.36 MPH defeated by J.R. Todd 3.991 E.T. at 318.69 MPH
“Fast” Jack Beckman, a two-time runner-up at Dallas, qualified strong in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car, collecting the No. 5 spot on his final qualifying run. A powerhouse matchup against Courtney Force awaited him in the opening round. The elite pair entered the race deadlocked at 10-10 in previous matchups, and were appropriately enough dead even off the starting tree with identical 0.082 reaction times, but Beckman was able to claim the early lead and hold off Force in a tight drag race with a winning 3.969-second at 317.27-mph pass.
In the quarterfinals, the Infinite Hero team faced J.R. Todd. Beckman trailed off the start but quickly reclaimed the lead before putting out a cylinder and veering toward the centerline, forcing him to back off as Todd went down the strip for the win. Beckman, the 2012 NHRA Funny Car champ, leaves Dallas eighth in the standings.
“You can wish and hope that the planets line up, but that probably does it for us in the championship. The reality is that we needed to get to the final round today. We took out Courtney (Force) first round. Had the ladder we needed with J.R. (Todd) second round. We were literally driving away and it put another hole out. It has not wanted to keep eight cylinders to the finish line all weekend and despite that, we had an incredibly fast car. We figured out how to make this thing a rocketship early in the run. We just need to figure out how to keep all the E3 spark plugs lit until the finish line. I’m excited. I think we’ll be racing for trophies the rest of the year and that motivates us.”
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 7 (3.986 E.T. at 317.12 MPH)
E1: 4.024 E.T. at 314.39 MPH defeated by John Force 3.986 E.T. at 325.30 MPH
Starting race day from the No. 7 position, Ron Capps faced John Force in a marquee first-round matchup rife with Countdown implications. It was the 97th time the two winningest Funny Car drivers in the sports’ history had met in competition. Capps launched his NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T off of the starting line first and led until the 600-foot mark before Force pulled ahead and was able to drive away for the win, ending Capps’ day.
While the first-round loss caused Capps to fall from fifth to sixth in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship standings, the points are still relatively close among the Top 10 ranked Funny Car pilots as the NHRA heads to the fourth event of the six-race playoff schedule.
“It was a strange weekend of qualifying here at Dallas for a lot of cars. It was luck of the draw for race day and when you have a team like John Force first round, it’s going to be tough. It was a close race. I didn’t see him until right at the end.
“Our mentality was to come in here and win the last four races and with points-and-a-half at Pomona, we now have to win the last three races. With the race car we have and the team we have, it’s very possible. It can be done. Once again, the NAPA guys gave me a great car and we lost a close race. It hurts right now and we’re going to shake it off and go to zMax.”
Driver of the Pennzoil Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 15 (4.169 E.T. at 255.92 MPH)
E1: 4.058 E.T. at 317.12 MPH defeated by Bob Tasca III 3.998 E.T. at 319.37 MPH
The 2018 AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals were anything but kind to Matt Hagan. The two-time Texas Motorplex winner struggled to make a full pass under power throughout qualifying, placing Hagan uncharacteristically in the 15th position to start race day.
Hagan sought to salvage the weekend on Sunday, but despite making a full pull (4.058-seconds) was unable to get past Countdown spoiler Bob Tasca III’s 3.998 E.T. in round one.
Despite the early exit, Hagan remains in seventh departing Ennis, Texas.
“We have to work to put out some of the Kalitta and Force cars and we need to step it up and go some rounds to put ourselves in a better position in the championship chase. We’re working hard with some new combinations and we have a lot of help from our teammate and we’re moving forward. We’re going to stay positive and go into Charlotte with a game plan and grow and have a good weekend for Mopar and Pennzoil and DSR.”
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 1 (3.918 E.T. at 321.73 MPH)The Results:
E1: 3.981 E.T. at 324.44 MPH defeated Terry Haddock 5.079 E.T. at 150.15 MPH
E2: 3.937 E.T. at 322.65 MPH defeated Cruz Pedregon 4.036 E.T. at 303.78 MPH
E3: 3.964 E.T. at 321.58 MPH defeated by J.R. Todd 3.952 E.T. at 320.89 MPH
Tommy Johnson Jr. unleashed a 3.918-second run in the fourth and final qualifying session in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to claim the sixteenth No. 1 qualifier spot of his career, his first of 2018 and first at Texas Motorplex. Johnson had a big advantage off the starting line in scoring a round one defeat of Terry Haddock with his 3.981-second pass, the third lowest E.T. of the session.
In round two, the John Collins-tuned Dodge posted another stellar E.T., a 3.937-second pass — the quickest of the quarterfinals — to take out Cruz Pedregon.
During Johnson’s sixth semifinal appearance of the last seven events, he recorded a clean, solid 3.964-second at 321.58-mph run but was behind from the start against opponent J.R. Todd and was unable to make up any ground, ending his day. Johnson moved up to fourth in the Countdown playoff standings with his Dallas performance.
“We’ve got a really good race car now it’s just a matter of putting it all together on Sundays. The continuous improvement is great and hopefully we can keep doing that and have a little luck go our way. We feel really good. If a few of the top cars stumble, we’re right there. We’re in the hunt and not out of this championship yet.”
Factory Stock Showdown Series:
Driver of the Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 9 (8.269 E.T. at 165.72 MPH)
E1: 8.204 E.T. at 165.60 MPH defeated by Kevin Skinner 8.188 E.T. at 166.81 MPH
After battling poor track conditions and losing out on a qualifying session due to inclement weather, Mark Pawuk qualified ninth in his Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak. Against Kevin Skinner, Pawuk had a slight starting line advantage but was unable to chase down his opponent, causing the U.S. Nationals runner-up to bow out early at the final Factory Stock Showdown event of the season.
“We struggled the first qualifying session on Friday. It looks like (the issues) might date back to St. Louis so we’re not sure what’s going on with our car. Losing two rounds of qualifying information this weekend, spinning the tires really hard during Q2 on Friday night and then dealing with the rain all day on Saturday just set us way behind. We had a good drag race this morning but our car didn’t perform. We’ll figure out what’s going with our Don Schumacher Racing Factory Stock Dodge Challenger Drag Pak and get ready for next season.”
Image courtesy of: David Hakim/DodgeGarage.com