E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals
Event 3 of 24 (Indy 1)
Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis
July 11-12, 2020
DSR Elimination Highlights:
Matt Hagan wins the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals and moves to third in points
Hagan’s win was his 34th overall, third in the last six events, and win No. 348 for DSR
For the second consecutive event, the final round featured an all-DSR Dodge Funny Car final,
For the sixth consecutive event, DSR was triumphant in the Funny Car category, and parked a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat in the winner’s circle
DSR occupies the 1-2-3 spots in the Funny Car point standings
In Top Fuel, Antron Brown advanced to the semifinals and cracked into the ‘top five’ in standings
Matt Hagan Wins NHRA 2020 Restart, Sixth Consecutive Funny Car Trophy for DSR
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (July 12, 2020) – It had been 140 days since teams of the NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season had fired up their engines for race day, but for E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals Funny Car event champion Matt Hagan, it was well worth the lengthy wait. On Sunday at the first event back since the NHRA season was halted due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Hagan hoisted the 34th Wally trophy of his career and earned victory No. 348 for Don Schumacher Racing, the winningest team in NHRA history. With Hagan securing DSR’s sixth consecutive Funny Car triumph (dating back to October 2019), the Brownsburg, Ind.-based organization is quickly approaching the coveted ‘350 wins’ milestone.
Hagan began his march to the Indianapolis winner’s circle by qualifying his Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat sixth to lock-in lane choice over his first-round opponent, Dan Wilkerson. Hagan’s quick reaction time earned him the immediate starting line advantage and he never trailed for the win, clocking a 4.025 E.T. to secure lane choice over point leader and 2020 season-opener victor, Jack Beckman. It was a nail-biter of a race between the two former world champions, with Hagan crossing the finish line in 3.949-seconds, narrowly defeating Beckman’s 3.969-second effort.
In the semifinals, Hagan faced his first-round opponent’s father, Tim Wilkerson. The 2016 U.S. Nationals champ used his stout reaction time and solid 3.959-second pass to oust the elder Wilkerson and earn a bid to the finals, his first of the season, where he would face No. 1 qualifier and NHRA Arizona Nationals event winner Tommy Johnson Jr. Both Johnson and Hagan recorded 3.959-second E.T.s in the semifinals, but lane choice went to Hagan based on speed. Johnson appeared unstoppable all day, posting low E.T. in the first two sessions, before tying Hagan for low in the semis. In front of a live FOX TV audience, the DSR Dodges of Hagan and Johnson pulled up to the starting line for the final round. Hagan stood on the gas first for the early lead and despite an engine backfire near the finish line, was able to hold on for the win over Johnson who was shut off after dropping a cylinder.
“It was a big change going from super cool conditions, and being able to run really hard, and then watching (crew chief) Dickie Venables make the adjustments when it’s a 140-degree race track, and different things like that,” said Hagan of the differing weather conditions teams experienced throughout race day. “Really proud of Dickie, (assistant crew chief) Mike Knudsen, Alex Conway, and all my guys that are wrenching on the car to make these adjustments.
“My guys put a great race car underneath me,” added Hagan, who was the No. 1 qualifier at the first two events of the season. “We kept lane choice all day long and to be able to make those calls, and to go out there and run hard in this heat, is really telling. Tommy Johnson, he really had the car to beat this weekend. He rolled out of the box really strong. That whole team over there, they’re going to be tough for us all year long. I’m just really proud and excited to be a part of NHRA that’s bringing it out here with the fans. We’re back out here, and we’ve got this race underneath us to show people that we can do this, and do it right. People are taking the necessary precautions and making sure we’re staying safe. It’s just really nice to be back into drag racing and to be able to hold up the Wally again.”
Qualified: No. 6 (4.090 E.T. at 289.07 MPH)
E1: 4.025 E.T. at 315.27 MPH defeated Dan Wilkerson 4.238 E.T. at 249.44 MPH
E2: 3.949 E.T. at 321.19 MPH defeated Jack Beckman 3.969 E.T. at 316.90 MPH
E3: 3.959 E.T. at 322.34 MPH defeated Tim Wilkerson 4.349 E.T. at 211.43 MPH
E4: 4.328 E.T. at 215.00 MPH defeated Tommy Johnson Jr. 5.854 E.T. at 117.84 MPH
Driver of the Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 14 (4.397 E.T. at 185.82 MPH)
E1: 3.997 E.T. at 242.71 MPH defeated Terry McMillen 6.659 E.T. at 89.70 MPH
E2: 3.780 E.T. at 316.01 MPH defeated Clay Millican 4.145 E.T. at 222.80 MPH
E3: 5.565 E.T. at 125.00 MPH defeated by Doug Kalitta 3.794 E.T. at 319.07 MPH
Hometown favorite Antron Brown began race day at the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals from the No. 14 position and facing Terry McMillen in round one of eliminations. Brown used his quick reaction time to take the initial lead and powered the Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel dragster across the finish line in 3.997 seconds to defeat a tire-smoking McMillen. Brown drew Clay Millican as his quarterfinal opponent, and clocked a 3.780 E.T., his best of the weekend, to outrun Millican’s 4.145-second effort. In the semifinal round, it was a monster matchup between two Top Fuel powerhouse teams with Brown staging opposite Doug Kalitta. Brown was off the starting line first but started losing traction early on and Kalitta was able to drive away with the win.
“It was a learning weekend. It was a rocky start, but the more runs we get, the better we get. And that’s what we need, more laps. We have a new combination from the beginning of this year and we’re striving to get better. Like any team, the only way to get better is practice and that’s by making laps down the race track. The more runs we get, I’m very confident our team will get stronger and stronger. I’m really excited that we helped get Tony (Schumacher) back out here. We could have done better with that car, but we learned. We made some big strides this weekend and will be even better. Our main focus is to get ready for next weekend. We gained some points by going to the semis and I’m proud of my guys; they stuck together through a very busy week. It’s like the new decal we put on all the DSR cars this weekend, Stronger Together. We’re stronger when we all come together and I can’t wait ‘til next week.”
Note: The ‘Stronger Together’ decal Brown mentions refers to a sticker placed on all eight DSR cars which symbolizes Don Schumacher Racing’s unwavering stance in not tolerating racism of any kind. DSR remains dedicated in its commitment to fostering a culture of unity and inclusion.
Driver of the Nordic Boats/Revchem Composites Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 12 (4.120 E.T. at 228.58 MPH)
E1: Broke, No Time; defeated by T.J. Zizzo 3.778 at 326.40 MPH
Cory McClenathan was looking to add a third Indy win to his long and storied resume during the E3 Spark Plug NHRA Nationals, but the first race of his two-event ‘comeback tour’ didn’t garner the results he had envisioned. McClenathan qualified his Nordic Boats/Revchem Composites Top Fuel dragster in the No. 12 spot to set up a round-one matchup with No. 5 qualifier T.J. Zizzo on Sunday morning. McClenathan pulled up to the line and stood on the gas for his burnout, but was unable to get his car to switch into reverse and back up to the starting line. Eventually, crew members were able to push him back, and he had a brief opportunity to stage, but the car wouldn’t move forward, ending McClenathan’s day before he had an opportunity to take the beams.
McClenathan will have another shot at claiming his 35th Top Fuel win when he returns to Indy for the NHRA Summernationals next weekend.
“The Top Fuel cars are set up in a way where they have a neutral safety switch on them so if the car locks up coming off the track, you either push a button or the car has a device on it. This car has that device on it that unlocks it so we can take it out of forward, and go all the way past reverse and into neutral. For some reason, it did that after the burnout and there’s no coming back when it does that. I tried quite a few things to get it the car to back up. Hats off to T.J. Zizzo and that team for being gentlemen and waiting and letting us push back to try and make the lap, but at that point, it wouldn’t go into forward. It’s great to get back in the seat of a Top Fuel car for the first time in months and drive a canopy car for the first time with DSR. I look at this weekend as a test session for us and we’ll do better next weekend and I’m very excited.”
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 10 (3.934 E.T. at 306.33 MPH)
E1: 3.817 E.T. at 262.03 MPH defeated Tony Schumacher 4.108 E.T. at 253.14 MPH
E2: 3.813 E.T. at 319.14 MPH defeated by Doug Kalitta 3.803 E.T. at 321.58 MPH
Leah Pruett won the Indianapolis Factory Stock Showdown Wally trophy in 2018 and was hoping to pick up an Indy Mello Yello Wally during the 2020 NHRA restart. She qualified her Mopar Top Fuel dragster 10th and found herself squaring off with Tony Schumacher in the first round of eliminations at his long-awaited first race back. Against the winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA history, Pruett was first to step on the throttle, and although she slowed near the eighth-mile marker, Pruett led from start to finish as Schumacher encountered problems early on. The quarterfinal round saw Pruett lining up opposite another Top Fuel heavy-hitter, current point leader Doug Kalitta. Once again, Pruett had the starting line advantage and maintained her lead until just past the eighth-mile block when Kalitta pulled ahead and posted the win in a close side-by-side race.
“It was an early morning start, but we were more than ready. Racing Tony (Schumacher) isn’t ideal. Tony had traction issues and we had the (blower) belt release which is one of the worst feelings as a driver. You’re ahead, you’re going, you’re making power and all of a sudden, you’re coasting. I heard Tony pedal and I was thinking ‘oh my God, just make it.’ It felt great to get the win light. We brought everything we had against Doug Kalitta in a heavy-hitter matchup and it was one of the closest races we’ve had in a long time. What that shows is that this Mopar/Pennzoil team hasn’t skipped a beat. We’re as strong as we’ve ever been and we’ll keep progressing and come back here next weekend with a solid foundation for both cars with Cory (McClenathan) and me, and we’ll be ready to go after that Wally.”
Driver of the Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 7 (3.877 E.T. at 292.90 MPH)
E1: 4.108 E.T. at 253.14 MPH defeated by Leah Pruett 3.817 E.T. at 262.03 MPH
The NHRA’s most successful Top Fuel driver of all-time entered the race weekend with the goal of extending his unprecedented Indianapolis win count to 11 Lucas Oil Raceway victories. Right out of the box, Tony Schumacher and the Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel team looked stout. They started their weekend by clocking a 3.877 E.T., the second-quickest pass of the first session. Schumacher and his Brian Corradi-led team were in the final pairing to run during Q2 and watched as their Q1 time got pushed back to seventh on the ladder. They were prepared to step it up and reclaim their spot at the top of the field, but Mother Nature had other plans, and rain forced NHRA to suspend the session before Schumacher had a chance to run. His No. 7 qualifying position set up a round-one meeting with Leah Pruett on Sunday morning. Against Pruett, Schumacher’s car charged hard out of the gate, but he encountered issues early on, allowing him to give up the win to his teammate.
Schumacher and the Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel team will be back next weekend where Schumacher will look to add to his 84 Top Fuel wins.
“When we look at the weekend, we got two test runs and one qualifying run, and we’re just a little behind, but the guys are doing a great job, and I’m happy as can be. We’re excited about next weekend here at Indy and we’re going to have a great time. In round one of eliminations, it shook, and I pedaled it, but I could see Leah (Pruett) was too far ahead, and I didn’t want to hurt parts so I clicked it off. We weren’t going to win and there’s no need to jeopardize parts we need for next weekend.”
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 3 (4.050 E.T. at 298.47 MPH)
E1: 4.099 E.T. at 250.60 MPH defeated Mike McIntire 4.506 E.T. at 203.55 MPH
E2: 3.969 E.T. at 316.90 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 3.949 E.T. at 321.19 MPH
Jack Beckman qualified for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals in dramatic fashion. After struggling to make a full pull in Q1, Beckman started the second and final session sitting in 14th. As he sat strapped into his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, he heard the cars in front of him bump out of the field and into the 17th position. It was a ‘make or break’ moment as he pulled up to the line for Q2, and crew chiefs Dean Antonelli and John Medlen weren’t taking any chances. They tuned Beckman’s machine to a 4.050 E.T., which held up to be third-quickest heading into race day.
Against his first-round opponent, Mike McIntire, Beckman had the starting line advantage and maintained his lead throughout the run, despite losing traction just prior to crossing the beams. In the quarterfinals, Beckman went head-to-head with DSR Dodge teammate Matt Hagan. The former world champs had previously battled it out 48 times, with each clocking the win 24 times. Beckman was once again first on the throttle, but by half-track, Hagan had caught up and began to pull away for the win.
“That was the first time we made it to the lights under power in six runs this weekend. We have been having an issue with downtrack tire spin and we obviously remedied that. The crazy thing is, we ran second-low E.T. of the meet by backing the car down and that tells us what we need to do for next weekend. It’s upsetting to lose, but with a new front-half on this car, the silver lining is we have a good baseline tune-up for next weekend, and I think we’re going to be a favorite when we roll back up for Q1.”
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 16 (4.555 E.T. at 184.70 MPH)
E1: 3.956 E.T. at 294.24 MPH defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr. 3.896 E.T. at 324.90 MPH
After waiting nearly four-and-a-half months, Ron Capps was eager to hop back into the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat and resume his quest for his first 2020 victory. The race weekend got off to a bumpy start for Capps who struggled to get down the track in Q1, posting a 4.555 E.T. When he pulled up to the line for Q2, an ignition issue prevented him from being able to stage the car and make a run, and he was forced to settle on his Q1 time and start Sunday from 16th.
Capps and the NAPA team knew their first-round competitor would be tough. They faced teammate and No. 1 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr., who was still riding the momentum from his win at the last-contested NHRA event back in February. Capps pulled up to the line and laid down a solid 3.956 E.T., the second-quickest run of the entire first session. Unfortunately for Capps, the only car to run better happened to be his opponent, who clocked a 3.896.
While they didn’t walk away with the round win, Capps and the NAPA team are comforted by the fact that they have their car back and know they’re capable of running big numbers.
“We didn’t qualify where we wanted to, but I always brag about our NAPA team that we can win from any starting position. My friend and former teammate Larry Dixon texted me yesterday and said you have a much better chance of winning from the 16th position than the 17th. We just went up there and did what we do. (Crew chief Rahn) Tobler did a great job reading the race track without lane choice. We had to go up and race (crew chief) John Collins, who we know well, and Tommy Johnson, who is as good as it gets in the driver’s seat. At that point, we were second-quickest of the round and I shut the car off a little early because Tommy was ahead of me. I’m very happy with how the weekend finished after that run. Unfortunately, we just put ourselves in a bad position with qualifying and we just can’t do that. That’s not our MO. I’m very excited about next weekend.”
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 1 (3.983 E.T. at 317.72 MPH)
E1: 3.896 E.T. at 324.90 MPH defeated Ron Capps 3.956 E.T. at 294.24 MPH
E2: 3.963 E.T. at 318.32 MPH defeated Blake Alexander (Broke; No Time)
E3: 3.959 E.T. at 319.29 MPH defeated J.R. Todd 9.211 E.T. at 77.50 MPH
E4: 5.854 E.T. at 117.84 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 4.328 E.T. at 215.00 MPH
Tommy Johnson Jr. came oh-so-close to securing his second consecutive win of 2020 on Sunday during the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals. Johnson entered the race weekend as the most recent Funny Car winner on tour and continued to dominate the class by claiming the No. 1 qualifying position after two sessions on Saturday. During race day, Johnson appeared to be unstoppable as he laid down three stout passes to make a deep-dive through the competitive Funny Car field.
A resident of nearby Avon, Ind., Johnson began eliminations with a first-round matchup against his DSR Dodge teammate, Ron Capps. It was clear Johnson and his John Collins/Rip Reynolds-led MD Anderson Funny Car team weren’t taking their stablemate lightly. The crew chief duo turned up the wick and tuned Johnson to a 3.896 – low E.T. of the meet – to defeat Capps and earn lane choice over Blake Alexander in round two. Alexander had problems from the get-go and was unable to stage his machine. Johnson let loose with a 3.963 E.T. on a solo to set up a semifinal battle with J.R. Todd. Once again, Johnson’s MD Anderson machine looked flawless as he navigated it down the track in 3.959 seconds, earning a bid to the final round where he would face another DSR Dodge teammate, Matt Hagan.
Johnson was seeking not only his first Indianapolis trophy but a spot at the top of the Funny Car leaderboard. He entered the round sitting a mere two points behind leader Jack Beckman, and a win would have ensured him the No. 1 position. Johnson stood on the gas and almost immediately, his car dropped a cylinder, while Hagan drove by for the win.
“I’m kind of disappointed, but it’s hard to be disappointed when you go to the final round and get a No. 1 qualifier. We have a great car, just like we did at Phoenix. Out of nowhere it put a cylinder out and (crew chief) John (Collins) did the right thing by trying to shut me off and just after he did that, I watched Matt (Hagan) blow up. I think I could have beat him on seven (cylinders), but it was probably the right decision to not risk hurting parts. It’s still a great weekend and we have such a solid race car, and with a shortened season and no Countdown, being near the top of the points is the most important thing.”
NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings: Top Fuel
1. Doug Kalitta - 310
2. Steve Torrence - 199
3. Billy Torrence - 190 4. Leah Pruett - 189
5. Antron Brown - 174
6. Brittany Force - 153
7. Shawn Langdon - 144
8. Clay Millican - 142
9. Justin Ashley - 140
10. Austin Prock - 131 Funny Car
1. Jack Beckman - 278
2. Tommy Johnson Jr. - 276
3. Matt Hagan - 238
4. Tim Wilkerson - 179
5. John Force - 173 6. Ron Capps - 159
7. Alexis DeJoria - 154
8. Bob Tasca III - 149
9. J.R. Todd - 141
10. Robert Hight - 100
About Don Schumacher Racing:
Established in 1998 as a single-car Top Fuel team, Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) has grown to become the winningest organization in NHRA Drag Racing history. Including team owner Don Schumacher’s five NHRA Funny Car titles from the 1970s, DSR’s current win count stands at 347, and DSR is looking forward to reaching the ‘350 milestone’ early in the 2020 season. DSR owns 17 world championships in three different NHRA categories.
Headquartered in Brownsburg, Indiana, DSR currently fields eight professional teams competing in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. In Top Fuel, the Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota dragster driven by three-time world champion Antron Brown, the Nordic Boats/Revchem Composites/Hawkeye Industries dragster driven by Cory McClenathan, the Mopar/Pennzoil/Okuma dragster driven by Leah Pruett, and the Global Electronic Technology machine driven by eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher. In Funny Car, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driven by 2016 world champion Ron Capps, the Mopar Express Lane/Pennzoil/Sandvik Coromant Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat piloted by two-time series title-holder Matt Hagan, and in Doug Chandler's ‘giving cars,’ 2012 NHRA world champion Jack Beckman in the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge, and Tommy Johnson Jr. behind the wheel of the MD Anderson Dodge.
DSR also campaigns two Factory Stock Showdown entries. The duo is piloted by Pruett, the 2018 Factory Stock Showdown Series champion, and former Pro Stock racer Mark Pawuk.
Follow Don Schumacher Racing at Shoeracing.com, on Twitter and Instagram at @shoeracing and Facebook.com/shoeracing.