DSR Topeka Post Race Recap
Menard’s NHRA Heartland Nationals
presented by Minties
Event 8 of 24 (Topeka)
Heartland Motorsports Park – Topeka, Kan.
May 18-21, 2018
DSR Topeka Elimination Highlights:
- Tony Schumacher advances to the semifinal round
- Three out of four DSR Funny Cars advance to the quarterfinals
- Schumacher and Leah Pritchett leave Topeka ranked in the top five of the Top Fuel standings
- Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan finish the weekend ranked No. 2 and No. 3 (respectively) in Funny Car points
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. 12 (3.832 E.T. at 322.96 MPH)
E1: 4.254 E.T. at 301.07 MPH defeated by Leah Pritchett 4.060 E.T. at 304.39 MPH
Antron Brown has been a final round contender at the NHRA Heartland Nationals for the past two years in a row. The defending event champion started race day with a tough draw against his Army Racing teammate Leah Pritchett en route to what he had hoped would be his first win of 2018 and 50th of his Top Fuel career.
Brown and Pritchett were machine-like off of the starting line, with 0.048 and 0.047-second reaction times, respectively. Tricky track conditions gave way to a pedalfest with both drivers skillfully stepping on and off the throttle in an effort to get their rails to regain traction. Pritchett was able to recover first and crossed the finish line before Brown.
“We went out there and we just shook. The track was tricky in that right lane and we just knew going in that it was going to be all about lane choice. We didn’t have lane choice. It was still good enough to get the race win because (the Schumacher Electric team) struggled in the left lane, but (Leah Pritchett) just did a better job getting back on it quicker than I did. Hey, that’s how this racing is going right now. We’re just going to keep working.
“We’ll go back and get ready for our next race and try to do a test session in Indy between now and then. We’ll come out with our guns blazing. We’ll keep our heads down and keep on working and just get our car back on track where we need it to be. That’s our main focus right now.
“We made some strides here. I pedaled the car and it did not tear up, it did not blow up. We made three of four qualifying runs down the track, so we’re making progress. Are we where we want to be? No. So, let’s just go ahead and keep working hard until we get to where we want to be.”
Driver of the Schumacher Electric Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 5 (3.776 E.T. at 324.51 MPH)
E1: 4.060 E.T. at 304.39 MPH defeated Antron Brown 4.254 E.T. at 301.07 MPH
E2: 9.302 E.T. at 87.02 MPH defeated by Tony Schumacher 3.931 E.T. at 231.71 MPH
Leah Pritchett, winner of the previous race on the NHRA tour, found herself lined up next to her Don Schumacher Racing/U.S. Army stablemate, Antron Brown in round one of eliminations.
Pritchett and Brown’s ultra-quick reflexes launched them off of the starting line with nearly identical reaction times (0.047 to Brown’s 0.048), but traction issues plagued both teams. Both drivers were on and off the throttle, and Pritchett was able to regain traction first and drive to the win.
The six-time Top Fuel winner faced another tough opponent in her round two matchup against teammate Tony Schumacher. Unfortunately, a computer malfunction caused the Schumacher Electric rail to go up in smoke at the hit of the throttle, and Schumacher was able to drive to the win.
“We had an injector issue on the burnout and it revved really high. When that happened, I looked down and watched the dash go blank. The high revs caused me to go on a super-long burnout. I stopped the car and then it wouldn’t go into reverse. I gave it eight tries or so and, at that moment, we had to get back so we wouldn’t be holding Tony up. Finally got it to go back, but then, because it was revving so high, I had a hard time getting it into a forward gear to stage. Eventually we (were able to) get staged. Anything can happen once the yellow light comes on. Well, because of the unusually high revs, we smoked the tires at the hit and it was over.
“It turns out, our entire computer system died, and that was what was causing the problems we had there, so we’re going to be searching for a solution for that over the next week and a half. We’re going to do whatever it takes to put it behind us, which means fine-tooth-combing this race car.”
“I must say, during all this, it is the coolest thing in the world for me as a driver to be running at night like we were. It really puts a smile on my face.”
Driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 4 (3.771 E.T. at 331.12 MPH)
E1: 3.781 E.T. at 326.24 MPH defeated Bill Litton 3.950 E.T. at 270.48 MPH
E2: 3.931 E.T. at 231.71 MPH defeated Leah Pritchett 9.302 E.T. at 87.02 MPH
E3: 5.198 E.T. at 139.31 MPH defeated by Clay Millican 3.676 E.T. at 331.20 MPH
Tony Schumacher had his chance to exact revenge against Bill Litton, who knocked out the eight-time Top Fuel world champion in the first round at the previous event in Atlanta. ‘The Sarge’ sent Litton home with a straight-down-the-groove 3.781-second at 326.24-mph pass.
Next up was an all-Don Schumacher Racing Mopar-powered battle against Schumacher Electric teammate Leah Pritchett. No. 4 qualifier Schumacher’s 3.931 E.T. easily earned the win after Pritchett smoked the tires shortly after takeoff.
Schumacher then had to wait until Monday morning to contend for his second NHRA Heartland Nationals Wally when racing was suspended on Sunday evening with the semifinal and final rounds rescheduled for the following day.
The Army Racing team faced Clay Millican in the opening round of the ‘Monday Nationals.’ Schumacher had a slight starting line advantage but encountered issues early on and Millican never trailed for the win.
“We made a few subtle changes coming into the weekend to fix some problems we’ve been having, lately. So, I’m not sure we could’ve run the number to beat what Millican did anyway, but, it would’ve gone down the track if we had run at the scheduled time. It is what it is. He made a fantastic run. We could complain that we set up a car to run at 10 o’clock but we ended up running at 11. Yeah, it’s the same for both of us, but it seemed to play right into their hands.
“In the big picture, we dropped a position in the standings but we’re still in the same relative position to the leader that we were in at the beginning of the weekend and we picked up on almost everybody else. We’re still more consistent than we’ve been in recent years, and we’re still learning and getting better each week. We just need to go out and keep racing. And I will say that I plan on winning this championship. This U.S. Army team has all the right guys to get it done.”
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 12 (4.086 E.T. at 304.53 MPH)
E1: 4.776 E.T. at 186.77 MPH defeated Bob Tasca III No Time
E2: 4.058 E.T. at 310.20 MPH defeated by J.R. Todd 3.949 E.T. at 323.12 MPH
A three-time finalist and two-time winner at Topeka, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T pilot Jack Beckman scored a round one win over Bob Tasca III. Tasca’s car encountered problems early, while Beckman deftly pedaled his Mopar Dodge Funny Car down the track to advance.
In the quarterfinals, Beckman moved first off of the line with a .072-second reaction to opponent J.R. Todd’s slower .086 mark, but Todd caught up by the 330-foot cone and passed the 2012 Funny Car World Champion for the win.
“The silver lining for us is as much as we had struggled in qualifying, we still felt like we had a good car. Then the huge rains came and round one was basically a one-lane race track, especially for the Funny Cars. We were one of the only, if not the only, Funny Car to win out of the less desired lane. Then we just got outrun in the second round. But this is one of those crap-shoot type of races where the conditions change so wildly and the track temperature and grip varies dramatically, and sometimes it’s just whoever makes the best educated guess that wins.
“We will pack up, and we will go back to Brownsburg (Indiana), restock everything and get ready for four in a row. This is really going to be the point in the season where you need to find your tune up. There’s no question in my mind that we will be a Countdown car. Could we afford to stumble a few more times before the Countdown starts? Of course we can. But it’s important to me that we look at big picture stuff, which is the championship, but don’t forget small picture stuff, which is race wins between now and then. I actually can’t wait to get my bags packed for that four in a row.”
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 7 (4.021 E.T. at 317.79 MPH)
E1: 4.322 E.T. at 315.64 MPH defeated by Shawn Langdon 4.021 E.T. at 322.19 MPH
Ron Capps opened eliminations hoping to defend his 2017 event crown and add to his four career wins in Topeka, along with two runner-up finishes. Starting from the No. 7 spot in his Hemi-powered NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T, Capps trailed early against opponent Shawn Langdon and was unable to make up ground with his 4.322-second at 315.64-mph pass.
Next up for the 2016 Funny Car World Champion is the Route 66 NHRA Nationals, where Capps was also victorious in the 2017 campaign and will have another chance to repeat.
“We really felt good coming into this race with the changes that (crew chief Rahn) Tobler made on the race car. We felt like whatever the conditions were going to be, we were going to be better off. Unfortunately, as soon as I stepped on the gas, the car started shaking the tires. I gave it a quick pedal and it hooked up, but our opponent ran a 4.02 and we were done for the day.”
Driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 8 (4.028 E.T. at 315.78 MPH)
E1: 3.942 E.T. at 326.79 MPH defeated Tim Wilkerson 4.024 E.T. at 314.31 MPH
E2: 3.936 E.T. at 328.94 MPH defeated by Courtney Force 3.934 E.T. at 328.54 MPH
Matt Hagan qualified his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T in the top half of the field at No. 8 and drew Tim Wilkerson in his opening-round battle. Both drivers recorded solid runs, but only Hagan dipped into the three-second range with a winning 3.942-second pass.
The 2017 runner-up and 2016 winner at Topeka had lane choice over Courtney Force in the quarterfinals. In the end, just a tick over 12 feet separated Hagan from the round win in a nail biter of a finish. His 3.936 E.T. was edged out at the stripe by Force’s 3.934.
“I want to say that I’m just really proud of my guys. They did a great job on Sunday. We had a 55-minute turn and they did a great job making the turn with three guys in new positions, just really thrashing hard and trying to get things done.
“All in all, a pretty good race day, even though we only went to the second round. It’s just one of those things where you have to put it in perspective. Courtney Force and those guys have had a tenth on the field and we just went nose-to-nose and basically ran an identical run with them. When you put that in perspective, it really shows how much we’ve stepped it up right now, being able to throw down with those guys when everybody else is still kind of running 4.0’s out there.”
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 6 (4.008 E.T. at 313.00 MPH)
E1: 3.950 E.T. at 325.06 MPH defeated John Force 4.391 E.T. at 284.03 MPH
E2: 3.986 E.T. at 327.98 MPH defeated by Robert Hight 3.924 E.T. at 330.23 MPH
Tommy Johnson Jr. earned the sixth spot in qualifying behind the wheel of his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T. He first faced off with John Force. Johnson Jr., a native of Ottumwa, Iowa, charged hard down the track in 3.950-seconds to Force’s 4.391 E.T., and for the second race in a row, a DSR Dodge eliminated the 16-time champion in the first round.
In the quarterfinals, lane choice and a solid 3.986-second at 327.98-mph pass weren’t enough to best another driver from the Force camp, Robert Hight.
“It was just strange conditions; a long wait all day. The car ran great, just tricky to know what to do out there. I knew we’d have to push on that (second) one and (we) just came up short.
“Joliet is up next and that’s one of those tracks where you show up and you always seem to do well, so you look forward to going to those. I can’t wait to get there and see if we can’t get that momentum going.”
NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Points Standings:
1 Steve Torrence – 664
2 Clay Millican – 569
3 Tony Schumacher – 539
4 Doug Kalitta – 497
5 Leah Pritchett – 489
6 Terry McMillen – 432
7 Brittany Force – 428
8 Antron Brown – 423
9 Richie Crampton – 312
10 Mike Salinas – 308
1 Courtney Force – 670
2 Jack Beckman – 590
3 Matt Hagan – 540
4 Robert Hight – 512
5 J.R. Todd – 504
6 Tommy Johnson Jr. – 490
7 Ron Capps – 440
8 Cruz Pedregon – 399
9 Shawn Langdon – 373
10 Jonnie Lindberg – 351
ABOUT DON SCHUMACHER RACING
Don Schumacher Racing, headquartered in Brownsburg, Ind., fields seven professional NHRA teams. In Top Fuel, the U.S. Army dragster driven by eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, the Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster driven by three-time world champion Antron Brown and the Mopar/Papa John’s Pizza/Pennzoil/FireAde/U.S. Army dragster driven by Leah Pritchett; and in Funny Car, 2016 world champion Ron Capps in the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T; two-time world champion Matt Hagan in the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T, and 2012 NHRA world champion Jack Beckman in Terry and Doug Chandler’s Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge and the Chandlers’ Make-A-Wish Dodge driven by Tommy Johnson Jr., Mark Pawuk,
DSR also campaigns a Sportsman program. Pritchett drives a Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak in the Factory Stock Showdown series, and a second Factory Stock Showdown entry, piloted by veteran Pro Stock racer Mark Pawuk was recently announced, with plans to compete as a DSR Factory Stock duo later this summer.
DSR has won 321 NHRA national event titles and 16 world championships.
Photo Credit: Auto Imagery via Don Schumacher Racing, Driver photos courtesy of NHRA