DSR Pomona II Post-Race Recap
Auto Club NHRA Finals
Event 24 of 24 (Pomona II)
NHRA Countdown, Event 6 of 6
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona – Pomona, California
November 9-11, 2018
DSR Pomona II Elimination Highlights:
- Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) race to runner-up finishes at the final event of the 2018 season
- Schumacher visited the final round for the 153rd time in his career
- Schumacher closes out a nearly 20-year partnership with the U.S. Army ranked second in the Top Fuel standings
- Johnson moved to third in the standings and as the highest ranking DSR Funny Car driver, earns a Dodge Charger Hellcat to drive for a year
- Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel) and Ron Capps (Funny Car) also finish ranked in the top five
Driver of the Matco Tools Maximus 3.0/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 6 (3.704 E.T. at 329.50 MPH)
E1: 3.720 E.T. at 331.12 MPH defeated Doug Kalitta 3.727 E.T. at 325.85 MPH
E2: 4.159 E.T. at 200.62 MPH defeated by Brittany Force 3.687 E.T. at 333.00 MPH
Three-time world champion Antron Brown faced Doug Kalitta in round one as he began his campaign to collect his fourth Auto Club NHRA Finals event win. Brown had the holeshot start over Kalitta and navigated the Matco Tools Maximus 3.0 dragster down the track in 3.720-seconds for the win.
Against his quarterfinal opponent Brittany Force, Brown once again had the starting line advantage, but Force was able to chase him down by half-track as Brown’s machine slowed to a losing 4.159-second E.T.
“We actually hurt the engine in E2 when we were out front, and that’s the bummer about it. We’d just been having that type of year where we’d been giving it all we’ve got and just coming up a little short with little mishaps happening. Our main focus is that we learned a lot this year and next year we just need to do it better. We know qualifying is key, getting into those top-three spots, and we’re going to work on that in the off-season. We’re just going to make our whole program better as a group and get ready for 2019. I know one thing, and that is we like racing for championships and we want to make sure we come into this last race with a shot to win the championship. That’s going to be our focus all year, to run better, run stronger. If you win rounds, you win races.”
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 1 (3.631 E.T. at 332.84 MPH)
E1: 5.133 E.T. at 142.91 MPH defeated by Bill Litton 3.979 E.T. at 309.56 MPH
After a tremendously strong qualifying performance that placed Leah Pritchett in the No. 1 position at the start of eliminations, the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Top Fuel speed record holder bowed out early during her round one matchup versus Bill Litton. Pritchett had the starting line advantage but went up in smoke at the hit of the throttle. Never one to give up the fight, Pritchett pedaled her Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster but was unable to recover. Her 11,000-horsepower machine shoved sideways and the run was recorded a center line infraction.
“Our 2018 was something to be very proud of. We learned more this year than we did the previous year. Ultimately, we finished better than we did the previous year. We feel really good about the off-season even though we didn’t go rounds here this weekend. We know why and it wasn’t a tune-up failure or driver failure – it was a mechanical failure. That’s not going to stop the momentum for 2019 and that’s not just the words behind it. What we’ve proven to ourselves and the world in the last two-and-a-half races shows that the last four-and-a-half months are coming together. It took that long to get our last two races to be in the ZIP code that we want, which happens to be in a different ZIP code than everybody else when it comes to power. I think we’ve been able to return to what this team has stood for for a long time with big power and big numbers. Finally we have that back and we’re just missing one small variable that we’ll pick up during the offseason. When we take a step back after what happened today, yeah, we had a phenomenal season with nothing to hang our heads about at all. And what’s exciting about it is what happens next. The attitude among everyone on this team is so positive and uplifting and progressive, you can’t help but think we had a great season and we’re going to have an even more incredible one next season because of that attitude.”
Driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 8 (3.722 E.T. at 329.75 MPH)
E1: 3.694 E.T. at 332.34 MPH defeated Scott Palmer 3.736 E.T. at 327.27 MPH
E2: 4.667 E.T. at 156.10 MPH defeated Bye (Bill Litton, mechanical malfunction)
E3: 3.705 E.T. at 332.26 MPH defeated Blake Alexander 3.764 E.T. at 322.88 MPH
E4: E4: 3.700 E.T. at 331.61 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.702 E.T. at 330.07 MPH
Tony Schumacher made the most of his final race in the iconic U.S. Army livery, marching all the way to the final round. “The Sarge” surged to a red-hot start in his Mopar-powered Top Fuel machine, clocking a 3.694 E.T. that was quickest of the first round to defeat Scott Palmer and earn a spot in round three when his quarterfinal opponent Bill Litton had mechanical issues on the starting line.
In the semifinals against Blake Alexander, Schumacher led from start to finish to set up a final-round battle against 2018 Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence. Schumacher just missed out on stopping Torrence’s sweep of all six Countdown races. His 3.700-second at 331.61-mph run was quicker and faster than his opponent’s numbers, but Torrence scored the holeshot win thanks to a 0.029 reaction time. Schumacher wrapped up his final season racing for the U.S. Army with one win and took second in Top Fuel final points.
“It was a fantastic race. Honestly, a 0.053 light, a 70 run wins holeshot races. For someone who had a 0.029, he either rolled it in or took a solid guess. He did a great job. Just such a big round for both of us, it was miraculous. We both ran 330 (mph). The winner of that round was the fans. It was a close, just outstanding race. I was on both sides of those many, many times, and I plan on being on both sides of them many, many more. Obviously, we won the first race the Army was ever here with us. We won 80 along the way. We wanted to win this one today for them. We gave it everything we had and came up a few inches short. At the end of the day, once you’re part of the Army life that we’ve been blessed to be a part of, you’re always a part of it. People will always say “Sarge,” there won’t be any new nicknames. It’s just what it is. We’ve done a great job for each other. We’ve done miraculous things. We did everything we set out to do together 19 years ago. It’s been a privilege and an honor to represent the greatest men and women in the world.”
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 2 (3.867 E.T. at 330.96 MPH)
E1: 4.912 E.T. at 255.00 defeated Jeff Arend 8.366 E.T. at 61.13 MPH
E2: 3.936 E.T. at 318.99 MPH defeated John Force 4.023 E.T. at 321.81 MPH
E3: 3.919 E.T. at 322.42 MPH defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr. 3.913 E.T. at 325.06 MPH
In his 300th professional race, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car driver Jack Beckman advanced to the semifinals. Beckman dodged a bullet in the first round, reeling in his car after it veered toward the center line shortly after launch and then eased it down the strip to defeat Jeff Arend, who also encountered on-track issues. Beckman entered the quarterfinals 30-15 in career matchups against opponent John Force and added another mark in the win column against the 16-time champ. Force deep-staged for a sizeable lead off the start, but Beckman caught up quickly and pulled away for the round win with a 3.936-second at 318.99-mph run.
Beckman squared off with teammate Johnson in a match-up of the “giving” cars sponsored by the late Terry Chandler but fell short in a tight race.
“It’s like I said at the DSR meet-and-greet today, this isn’t where we wanted to be this morning coming back to Pomona, sitting in eighth place and not in contention for the championship. We’ve had a good car, we’ve had our ups and downs, but so has everybody. More importantly, we’ve changed lives. We’ve raised over $400,000 in the coin program, we’ve raised more through the auctions, and we get to see the veterans’ lives that we’ve changed. We’re doing great things for a lot of people. I think the momentum is starting to shift back to DSR and you know this is going to give us the fuel in the off-season to work that much harder. We’re going to get back to where we need to be next year.”
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 1 (3.848 E.T. at 331.53 MPH)
E1: 3.904 E.T. at 325.61 MPH defeated Bye (Ray Martin, mechanical malfunction)
E2: 3.921 E.T. at 323.04 MPH defeated Shawn Langdon 3.967 E.T. at 322.81 MPH
E3: 3.932 E.T. at 316.97 MPH defeated by J.R. Todd 3.889 E.T. at 328.14 MPH
Ron Capps closed out the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season by earning the coveted green No. 1 qualifier hat for the 22nd time in his career.
The driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T faced No. 16 qualifier Ray Martin in the opening session of race day. Capps had the advantage of a bye run when his competitor encountered mechanical issues on the starting line and was unable to take the beams.
In the quarterfinals, the SoCal resident faced fellow California native, Shawn Langdon. Capps powered the NAPA Dodge down the track in 3.921-seconds to take the win against Langdon’s 3.967 E.T. The 2016 Funny Car world champion drew newly-crowned 2018 champion J.R. Todd in the semifinals. Capps gave it a solid effort, maneuvering his 11,000-horsepower machine down the Pomona track in under four seconds for the sixth consecutive time, but was unable to defeat Todd’s 3.889-second run.
“We really wanted to put our Funny Car into second place since we didn’t have a chance at the championship this year. That was (crew chief Rahn) Tobler and our whole team’s goal. Besides the championship, there was also a battle for a Dodge Hellcat to drive for a year. The highest finishing DSR Funny Car driver gets one, and I really felt good about my chances. Racing for the Hellcat, it almost felt like trying to win a championship, and I can’t thank Steve Beam at Dodge and Mopar enough for offering that up. It was really fun to try and battle my teammates for that. I’ve been driving a Dodge for 13 years straight and love representing the brand. We’re going to switch to the Hellcat Funny Car body next year, and it was nice to give this old Charger it’s last win at Charlotte and make that great qualifying run in Pomona and end the season on a good note.”
Driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 8 (3.946 E.T. at 323.50 MPH)
E1: 4.115 E.T. at 255.19 MPH defeated by Shawn Langdon 3.918 E.T. at 326.71 MPH
After claiming the win at the 2018 season-opener, Matt Hagan was looking to bookend his year with another Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Wally trophy. His race day began with a first-round matchup against fellow Countdown competitor Shawn Langdon. Hagan launched his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat off of the starting line ahead of his opponent and held on to the lead until the 330-foot mark. He then began to slow near half-track and Langdon was able to drive away with the round win, ending Hagan’s chances for a seventh Pomona trophy.
“Not the ending to the season that we wanted. We came into the Countdown in second. We made some changes and it didn’t go our way. We kind of got stuck in a rut and it spun away from us, but at the end of the day, I’m really proud of my guys. They put together a great race car for me every lap. They’ve worked hard and did a phenomenal job of keeping me safe and keeping me moving forward. We’ve got a good group. It’s one of those things where we have some work to do in the off-season, but I’m excited for what 2019 will hold. We’ll continue to work hard and do a good job for our sponsors.”
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 3 (3.867 E.T. at 326.40 MPH)
E1: 3.905 E.T. at 327.59 MPH defeated Cruz Pedregon 4.034 E.T. at 281.36 MPH
E2: 3.913 E.T. at 324.90 MPH defeated Courtney Force 3.942 E.T. at 321.50 MPH
E3: 3.913 E.T. at 325.06 MPH defeated Jack Beckman 3.919 E.T. at 322.42 MPH
E4: 3.889 E.T. at 327.51 MPH defeated by J.R. Todd 3.872 E.T. at 329.10 MPH
Coming off three consecutive No. 1 spots, Tommy Johnson Jr. started third after holding the provisional pole and earning 14 bonus points during qualifying. The two-time defending event champion at the season-ending Pomona race posted a 3.905-second E.T. at 327.59-mph in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, second quickest of the first round, to beat Cruz Pedregon. Johnson survived a scare in the second round against Courtney Force when his engine initially would not fire up, but once his engine turned over, he lit up the board with a winning 3.913 E.T. that was quickest of the round.
Next up was an all-DSR Mopar Dodge semifinals battle with fellow ‘giving car’ pilot Jack Beckman. Johnson matched his quarterfinals E.T. of 3.913, paired with a speed of 325.06-mph, to outrun his teammate and advance to his fourth straight final round at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, third of the year and 48th of his career. Johnson left nothing on the table against newly-crowned Funny Car champion J.R. Todd, posting his quickest run of race day with a 3.889 at 327.51-mph, but it couldn’t match Todd’s winning 3.872-second pass. With his runner-up finish, Johnson moved to third in the final standings to lead all DSR Funny Car drivers and win the opportunity to drive a Dodge Hellcat for the year.
“It was a great weekend, we just came up a little bit short. I’m proud of my guys; we have such a strong race car. To come out here and finish the season on a competitive note, finish third in points, it’s hard to be ashamed of finishing third so, I’m extremely happy. You always want a better year, unless you’re No. 1, but all in all, not a bad year. I thank Dodge and Mopar for putting the Hellcat on the line for the highest finishing driver. That certainly was in the back of our mind and we’ll put it to good use this year.”
NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Final Standings:
1. Steve Torrence – 2900
2. Tony Schumacher – 2596
3. Clay Millican – 2573
4. Leah Pritchett – 2461
5. Brittany Force – 2417
6. Antron Brown – 2378
7. Mike Salinas – 2308
7. Doug Kalitta – 2308
9. Terry McMillen – 2301
10. Scott Palmer – 2231
1. J.R. Todd – 2726
2. Robert Hight – 2532
3. Tommy Johnson Jr. – 2519
4. Ron Capps – 2510
5. Tim Wilkerson – 2418
6. Courtney Force – 2409
7. Jack Beckman – 2405
8. Matt Hagan – 2371
9. John Force – 2356
10. Shawn Langdon – 2285
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 SRT Hellcat, 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.
DSR also campaigns two Sportsman teams. The two-car Factory Stock Showdown duo is piloted by Pritchett and veteran Pro Stock racer Mark Pawuk. Both drivers compete in Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Paks.
DSR has won 333 NHRA national event titles and 16 world championships.
Photo Credit: Auto Imagery via Don Schumacher Racing