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Leah Pritchett Races to Victory at the NHRA Southern Nationals (DSR Atlanta Post Race Recap)

DSR Atlanta Post Race Recap

NHRA Southern Nationals
Event 7 of 24 (Atlanta)
Atlanta Dragway
Commerce, Ga.
May 4-6, 2018

DSR Atlanta Race Day Highlights:

  • Leah Pritchett raced to her first win of the season at Atlanta Dragway, sixth overall of her career (Top Fuel)
  • Matt Hagan powered to a runner-up finish, his third final round of the season (Funny Car)
  • Hagan and Jack Beckman put two DSR Dodge Funny Car machines in the semifinals
Leah Pritchett Races to Victory at the NHRA Southern Nationals

COMMERCE, Ga. (May 6, 2018) – Leah Pritchett scored her sixth career NHRA Top Fuel triumph aboard the FireAde dragster on Sunday at the 38th annual NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

After a strong qualifying performance, the fourth seeded Pritchett made a clean pass to start the day with a run of 3.903-seconds at 293.73-mph and defeated a tire-smoking Pat Dakin in the first round. She then beat the upset-minded Litton in the second round with another stout run of 3.841-secs at 322.50-mph.

In the semifinal round, Pritchett jumped to an early advantage over Top Fuel upstart Mike Salinas, and pulled away to the finish line, reaching the stripe first with a pass of 3.907 at 312.42 mph compared to Salinas’ pass of 4.212 to reach her ninth career final.

Against her final round opponent Blake Alexander, Pritchett was machine-like with a run of 3.874-secs at 322.42-mph surging to victory over Alexander, who was disqualified for leaving early and activating the red light.

Pritchett’s victory was the first for DSR in Top Fuel since her triumph in Brainerd last August. She also became the 24th different driver to win in Top Fuel at Atlanta Dragway.

“This win feels incredible,” said Pritchett, who recorded seven solid three-second passes out of eight over the course of the race weekend.

“It’s been a while, but I think a (win) drought is all relative. This FireAde/Mopar/U.S. Army/Papa John’s/Pennzoil team knows what it’s like to win and we still have that in our hearts and that’s what we grasp to. And, yes, we may have been the only Top Fuel car for DSR that advanced out of the first round today, but we felt the world of support from the entire organization knowing they were all behind us as we made our run to this win today.

“Thank you, Don Schumacher, for believing in me and giving me a chance two years ago. And for all of Don Schumacher Racing, all the fans, all the guys back at the shop that put those race cars together and keep us safe, this one is for you. It was a special weekend here in Atlanta for a lot of reasons including the ability fulfill a dream of Make-A-Wish child, Luci Toman. She is a true inspiration and it was great having her with me all weekend. We both got our dreams to come true this weekend.”

Qualified: No. 4 (3.788 E.T. at 312.71 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.903 E.T. at 293.73 MPH defeated Pat Dakin 6.389 E.T. at 100.55 MPH
E2: 3.841 E.T. at 322.50 MPH defeated Bill Litton 11.552 E.T. at 82.25 MPH
E3: 3.907 E.T. at 312.42 MPH defeated Mike Salinas 4.212 E.T. at 211.66 MPH
E4: 3.874 E.T. at 322.42 MPH defeated Blake Alexander, Foul (Red Light)

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Points Standing:
435 points, ranked fifth
Leads sixth ranked Antron Brown (390 points)
Trails fourth ranked Clay Millican (448 points)

Driver Information:

Top Fuel:

Driver of Matco's 'Tools for the Cause'/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Matco's Tools for the Cause to benefit the Fisher House Foundation

Qualified: No. 7 (3.802 E.T. at 325.61 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.634 E.T. at 149.33 MPH defeated by Blake Alexander 3.827 E.T. at 323.97 MPH

Race Recap:
As a four-time Top Fuel winner at Atlanta Dragway, Antron Brown entered the 38th running of the NHRA Southern Nationals in a three-way tie for winningest Top Fuel driver at the Commerce, Ga. track.

After qualifying seventh, Brown drew No. 10 qualifier Blake Alexander in round one of eliminations. The two had raced side-by-side in eliminations only once before with Brown emerging the victor. Unfortunately for the six-time Southern Nationals champion (two wins in Pro Stock Motorcycle), Alexander was able to even the score on Sunday morning when Brown’s Matco’s ‘Tools for the Cause’ machine dropped a cylinder and suffered an explosion. Brown crossed the stripe in 4.634-seconds and Alexander was able to drive to victory with his clean 3.827-sec pass.

Brown will have another chance to park his special two-event livery, benefitting the Fisher House Foundation, at the NHRA Heartland Nationals in Topeka, Kan., May 18-20.

“We just need to keep fighting. We’ve been in situations before where we’ve had a tough start to the season. It tries to beat you down, but this is when you do the most learning. We’re learning as a group. The car was on the way to a .77 or a .78. We were nowhere near 330-feet and we were at 2.18 (seconds) when it dropped a hole and then backfired on the opposite side of the engine. Mark (Oswald) and the guys are looking at some stuff. We need to figure out what the cause is and get ready to go to Topeka. We like where the performance of our car is headed. We ran an .80 last night and we would have had a high .70 run here today, so our focus is just to go to Topeka and make complete runs. Once we can make complete runs, then we can start racing. I just need to keep up my game and stay focused.”

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Points Standing:
390 points, ranked sixth
Leads seventh ranked Brittany Force (375 points)
Trails fifth ranked Leah Pritchett (435 points)


Driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 5 (3.794 E.T. at 327.82 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.925 E.T. at 311.27 MPH defeated by Bill Litton 3.915 E.T. at 315.56 MPH

Race Recap:
Mopar-powered U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher added to his remarkable list of career accomplishment’s this weekend, qualifying for his 350th consecutive race, a streak dating back to the 2003 Topeka event. The eight-time Top Fuel World Champion and 83-time event winner started No. 5 in seeking to check off one of the few career milestones he doesn’t own – a victory at Atlanta.
The runner-up last year at the Southern Nationals, and five times overall at the venue, Schumacher matched up against No. 12 qualifier Bill Litton in round one. Unfortunately, Schumacher will continue to chase that elusive Atlanta victory, as Litton recorded a winning 3.915-second at 315.56-mph pass to Schumacher's losing 3.925 at 311.27-mph effort.
“To say we are frustrated would be an understatement. One of my favorite philosophies is ‘over prepare and go with the flow.’ We were prepared to win Atlanta today. The flow didn’t go as planned when the engine dropped a cylinder at the step. I knew we were in trouble as soon as I hit the gas. Litton had only gone down the track once all weekend and we weren’t taking him lightly. We were prepared to make a run in the 3.70s. Hats off to him for making it down the track again, we just couldn’t get by him on seven cylinders. You do everything you can to be ready, but sometimes in racing something out of your control costs you. This U.S. Army team is filled with incredibly talented and smart people, and we will not give up. I know we will win races. This U.S. Army car is too good right now not to be winning. It’s on to Topeka now.”

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Points Standing:
461 points, ranked second
Leads third ranked Doug Kalitta (458 points)
Trails No. 1 ranked Steve Torrence (581 points)

Funny Car:


Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T

Qualified: No. 10 (4.038 E.T. at 318.09 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.410 E.T. at 215.27 MPH defeated J.R. Todd 9.681 E.T. at 79.05 MPH
E2: 4.146 E.T. at 304.74 MPH defeated Bob Tasca III 4.181 E.T. at 296.11 MPH
E3: 4.224 E.T. at 293.41 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 4.111 E.T. at 309.70 MPH

Race Recap:
Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero Foundation Funny Car team struggled throughout qualifying but were able to muster a 4.038-second lap to seed them No. 10 on race day.

The two-time Southern Nationals champion ousted the higher qualified J.R. Todd in round one before defeating Bob Tasca III in the quarterfinals.

The semifinal round found Beckman lined up opposite his Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Matt Hagan. The former world champions had nearly identical reaction times in their Dodge Charger R/Ts, but Hagan was able to power to the round win, ending Beckman’s chances at picking up his second Wally of 2018.

“It’s been a tough weekend for everybody with a nitro car. It’s a very difficult track, in addition to the new track prep approach, which I see some pros and cons to. In other words, they spray a little less glue on there to try to keep the top speed down.

“This is an incredibly tricky track with a lot of bumps. With the shorter wheelbase cars, it drives (the cars) nuts. We will drive over (a bump) and start spinning the tires and sometimes the cars head whichever direction that they want to.

“I’m a competitor and I’m always upset when we get beat, but you’ve got to recognize the big picture. We did a good job this weekend. We went to the semifinals; we lost to another Mopar. We’re inching towards that championship and there’s no reason not to feel optimistic moving forward."

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Points Standing:
538 points, ranked second
Leads third ranked Matt Hagan (487 points)
Trails No. 1 ranked Courtney Force (546 points)


Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T

Qualified: No. 12 (4.107 E.T. at 306.60 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.397 E.T. at 259.11 MPH defeated John Force 4.403 E.T. at 238.68 MPH
E2: 5.792 E.T. at 119.76 MPH defeated by Cruz Pedregon 4.117 E.T. at 298.34 MPH

Race Recap:
NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car pilot Ron Capps qualified twelfth for the 38th annual NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga.

Capps, a two-time Atlanta race winner, and the defending event champion, opened eliminations by facing off against longtime rival John Force. In the 92nd meeting between the past Funny Car world champions, Capps was first out of the gate but hazed the tires early into the run, allowing the No. 5 starter to make up ground by the 330-foot mark. Capps expertly maintained control and was able to pedal his race car and regain traction. When Force, who was previously 0-3 versus Capps in their last three Atlanta matchups, struck the tires at 500-feet, Capps skillfully pointed his NAPA AUTO PARTS machine down the strip to claim the round win.

Capps’ bid for an Atlanta repeat ended in the quarterfinals against the most recent event winner, Cruz Pedregon. Capps was first off of the line once again, but lost traction early into the run and was unable to recover. He slowed to a 5.792-second at 119.76-mph run, and Pedregon was able to drive away with a clean 4.117-sec pass.

“We came in as defending champions at this race last year. It’s a tricky track with tricky conditions. We thought we were going to take the NAPA Dodge to the winner’s circle again, but we got stuck in the left lane. It’s a little more difficult to get down there. We had Cruz Pedegron, who’s probably got the toughest car right now in the class.

"You’re always disappointed when you don’t win, but I think we made huge gains as far as where we started out Friday in qualifying. We’re going to go on to Topeka where we won last year, and see if we can’t get back in the winner’s circle there and start the streak that we had last year.”

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Points Standing:
404 points, ranked seventh
Leads eighth ranked Cruz Pedregon (357 points)
Trails sixth ranked Robert Hight (421 points)

Driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T

Qualified: No. 11 (4.054 E.T. at 301.94 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.106 E.T. at 299.46 MPH defeated Jonnie Lindberg 4.192 E.T. at 253.04 MPH
E2: 4.200 E.T. at 290.26 MPH defeated Tommy Johnson Jr. 4.794 E.T. at 178.99 MPH
E3: 4.111 E.T. at 309.70 MPH defeated Jack Beckman 4.224 E.T. at 293.41 MPH
E4: 4.148 E.T. at 291.13 MPH defeated by Courtney Force 4.046 E.T. at 313.73 MPH

Race Recap:
Hagan, the 2016 event winner at Atlanta Dragway, started in the back half of the field at No. 11, then dispatched a trio of racers ranked higher on the qualifying charts on his march to the final round. The Mopar Express Lane driver recorded the second-quickest pass of the opening round to send home No. 6 qualifier Jonnie Lindberg, setting up the first of two battles with Mopar-powered Dodge DSR teammates.

In the quarterfinals against No. 3 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr., Hagan and his stablemate were equally matched in reaction time. Hagan trailed early in the race, but as Johnson lost traction just before the 330-foot mark, the Virginia cattle rancher was able to surge head for the win. Next up for Hagan was Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T driver and No. 10 qualifier, Jack Beckman, in the semifinals. Beckman had a slight early advantage, but Hagan was able to put his Mopar Express Lane Dodge out front just past the 60-foot mark and hold on for the round win.

In the final round — the 49th of his career and third of the year — Hagan was first off the starting line against No. 1 qualifier Courtney Force, with a superior .047-second reaction time to his opponent’s slower .072. It wasn’t enough to hold up for the win, as Force was able to pass Hagan near the 330-foot mark and pull away for the victory.

With his runner-up performance, Hagan moved up on spot in the Mello Yello points standings, advancing to the third position.

“All in all, a good day. It’s like old school match racing with this track prep. (Crew chief) Dickie Venables did a great job adapting.

“I can’t say enough about my Mopar Dodge team. We had a hole out, killed the tree. It was all there for the taking, it was just a matter of it all coming together, but hey, it’s drag racing. We’ll go to Topeka and get it done.”

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Points Standing:
487 points, ranked third
Leads fourth ranked Tommy Johnson Jr. (436 points)
Trails second ranked Jack Beckman (538 points)

Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 3 (3.968 E.T. at 316.97 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.169 E.T. at 247.11 MPH defeated Jim Campbell 6.098 E.T. at 111.29 MPH
E2: 4.794 E.T. at 178.99 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 4.200 E.T. at 290.26 MPH

Race Recap:
Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Make-A-Wish Dodge Funny Car team were solid during qualifying, earning the No. 3 spot to start race day.

Johnson drew No. 14 qualifier Jim Campbell in the first round of eliminations. The two had squared off in competition four times prior, with Johnson victorious at each meeting. The 15-time Funny Car winner had the immediate lead off of the starting line and never trailed for the win over Campbell’s tire-smoking effort.

In the quarterfinals, Johnson lined up against Matt Hagan. The DSR teammates were nearly identical leaving the starting line with the Make-A-Wish Dodge leading at the 60-foot cone. Johnson started to pull away but lost traction just before the 330-foot mark, and Hagan was able to power past for the round win, ending Johnson’s chances for his first Southern Nationals Wally.

“We had a really good race car and I felt confident going into the day. This has been a really hard track to navigate. There are bumps out there and they’re experimenting with track prep. We seemed to have been adapting pretty well, but unfortunately a bump got us in the second round. The Make-A-Wish Dodge was in the lead and pulling away, then it hits the bump and comes loose. It’s aggravating, but we’ll keep learning and see if we can’t make what we learned today, work for us down the road and make us better.”

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Points Standing:
436 points, ranked fourth
Leads fifth ranked J.R. Todd (428 points)
Trails third ranked Matt Hagan (487 points)


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