DSR Pomona I Post-Race Recap
Event 1 of 24 (Pomona I)
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona – Pomona, California
February 8-11, 2019
Note: The majority of Sunday’s elimination rounds were postponed until Monday due to persistent rain
DSR Pomona I Elimination Highlights:
- Jack Beckman advanced to his first NHRA Winternationals Funny Car final round
- Tommy Johnson Jr. raced to a semifinal finish
- Beckman and Johnson depart Pomona sitting No. 2 and 3 in points
- Beckman picked up his 400th professional round win during E1
Driver of the Matco Tools Maximus 3.0 Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 3 (3.696 E.T. at 333.08 MPH)
E1: 3.733 E.T. at 329.26 MPH defeated by Leah Pritchett 3.707 E.T. at 325.61 MPH
After powering to the No. 3 qualifying spot with a stout 3.696 second pass, three-time Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown started race day with a first-round matchup against teammate Leah Pritchett.
Brown and Pritchett were nearly even leaving the starting line, but Pritchett gained a slight lead almost immediately and held on to take the win with her 3.707 second pass versus Brown’s 3.733 E.T., dashing his hopes for his first NHRA Winternationals Wally trophy.
“The track is tricky the tighter it gets out there. We had a good combination, and we went up there and tried to do a ‘rinse and repeat’ and improve a little bit. We thought we had enough to run a 68 or 67 but the track was so good it nuked the clutch out there on the race track. It slows you down when you go through the clutch like that. The good thing is, we got down a hard race track that a lot of other cars couldn’t. A lot of cars were shaking and everything else. We just had the wrong pick of the litter. We had our teammate and they made a better lap than we did and they got the win. We’re looking good going into Phoenix, our next race. We’re very confident in this Matco Tools Toyota. We have a car that can go down the track every time and can be very competitive and will get better and better each lap. We’re looking forward to getting to that next race and getting back to it.
“I believe we have a car that can run with any car out there. We showed that this weekend. We just got to keep working; work on our shook numbers. Our car is phenomenal from the 330 (foot mark) all the way through the back door, you’ve just got to pick away at it. It’s a long marathon of a race season. Our main focus is when we get to that final leg, the last six races, we have a strong kick and can go out there and contend for a championship.”
Driver of the Sparkling Ice Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 12 (3.963 E.T. at 214.59 MPH)
E1: 3.707 E.T. at 325.61 MPH defeated Antron Brown 3.733 E.T. at 329.26 MPH
E2: 4.622 E.T. at 147.12 MPH defeated by Terry McMillen 3.696 E.T. at 329.91 MPH
After struggling to make a clean pass during qualifying, Leah Pritchett unleashed an impressive 3.707 E.T. in round one of eliminations to claim the upset win against her higher-qualified teammate Antron Brown.
Pritchett was on a good run against opponent Terry McMillen in the quarterfinals before her 11,000 horsepower Top Fuel dragster started dropping cylinders and gave way to a fireball before halftrack, ending the 2017 Winternationals champion’s hopes of another event win at her hometown track.
“Awe man, what a turn of events here on Monday. The guys did a great job making the car faster, leaner and meaner. The competition is super stiff. Unfortunately, the challenges we faced during Saturday’s qualifying sessions showed up again today. We had a small window to push really hard. We have some parts that aren’t exactly agreeing with the way that we are running this car. We are continuing to learn. This was not the way we wanted to start the season, but it’s good to be back out here. I think we put on a good show for the fans. I’m surround by great people here at Don Schumacher Racing and this Sparkling Ice/MOPAR/Pennzoil team will be ready to fight in Phoenix with a little different strategy.”
Funny Car:JACK BECKMAN
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 2 (3.900 E.T. at 330.23 MPH)
E1: 4.102 E.T. at 237.96 MPH defeated Bye
E2: 3.875 E.T. at 331.94 MPH defeated Cruz Pedregon 3.962 E.T. at 328.46 MPH
E3: 3.898 E.T. at 327.59 MPH defeated Tommy Johnson Jr. 5.216 E.T. at 144.83 MPH
E4: 3.880 E.T. at 329.42 MPH defeated by Robert Hight 3.881 E.T. at 329.75 MPH
Norco, Calif. resident Jack Beckman was hoping to end the day at his home track with his first Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Funny Car Wally but would have to settle for a runner-up finish.
Beckman and the Dean Antonelli/John Medlen-led Infinite Hero Foundation team qualified second for the NHRA Winternationals by recording the quickest pass (3.900 seconds) of the final qualifying session.
Beckman was scheduled to run opposite Phil Burkhart Jr. in round one of eliminations, but his opponent did not make the call, allowing Beckman to earn his 400th round win once he took the lights. In the quarterfinals, the 2012 Funny Car world champion made his best pass of the weekend (3.875 seconds) to earn the round win and meet his teammate, Tommy Johnson Jr., in the semifinals. Beckman navigated the Infinite Hero Hellcat cleanly down the track and posted a 3.898 to activate the win light against Johnson.
The stage was set for an epic final round matchup between the two highest qualified drivers. Beckman, who won his first NHRA national event at the 1998 Winternationals while competing in Super Comp, laid down a 3.880 second pass against Robert Hight, but Hight was able to maintain his narrow starting line advantage to snag the holeshot victory.
“As a driver, the last thing you want is to look at that time slip and see that you got beat on a holeshot. Final rounds are a little different because drivers will roll it in a little bit because we don’t care about lane choice.
“I am so proud of everybody here. We didn’t test. We were struggling until the last qualifying run and then laid down a lap that put us second, but I don’t think that painted the full picture. We had made wholesale changes – five out of our six clutch discs are different than when we left here in November, and for the guys to zero-in on it that quick without the benefit of pre-season testing and take this car to the final round and run it as quick as anybody right now, I can’t wait for Phoenix.”
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 5 (3.915 E.T. at 304.87 MPH)
E1: 3.933 E.T. at 323.04 MPH defeated Gary Densham 12.020 E.T. at 83.20 MPH
E2: 4.092 E.T. at 248.07 MPH defeated by John Force 3.900 E.T. at 323.19 MPH
Ron Capps kicked off his 25th season as a professional NHRA drag racer by posting a stout 3.915 second E.T. in his new NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat and qualifying in the top-half of the field.
After persistent showers forced the NHRA to postpone Sunday’s race, Capps had to wait until Monday morning to square off against Gary Densham in round one of eliminations. The three-time Winternationals champion launched the NAPA Dodge off of the line first and maintained the lead from start to finish, crossing the stripe in 3.933 seconds at 323.04 mph.
In the quarterfinals, Capps went toe-to-toe with John Force, the only Funny Car driver in the history of the sport to have claimed more wins than Capps. Once again, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car pilot took the lead with a slight starting line advantage but his machine starting dropping cylinders down track. Force was able to claim the win with his 3.900 second E.T. versus Capps’ 4.092.
“We are still looking at the data, but that second round of eliminations got really fast. We had the luxury of watching the cars before us and we knew what Force’s team could do. And in that run, we just went after it. I love when we go up there and try to go low E.T. (Crew chief) Rahn Tobler doesn’t smoke the tires often, so we will have to look at the data and see exactly what happened.”
“The car drives so much better, so much nicer, and I have to have way less steering input, which is a good thing. There’s more downforce on the front end, which is great. I’m excited about running these new Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat bodies. I think it’s going to be a fun year.”
Driver of the MOPAR Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 4 (3.909 E.T. at 326.79 MPH)
E1: 4.140 E.T. at 243.33 MPH defeated by John Force 3.890 E.T. at 333.74 MPH
Matt Hagan entered the race weekend as the two-time defending event champ and with his sights set on becoming the fourth Funny Car pilot in history to win the season-opening event three years in a row. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be for the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona E.T. and speed track record holder. Hagan was out of the gate first against opponent John Force. The MOPAR Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat held the lead until the 330-mark before slowing to a 4.140 and allowing Force’s session-best 3.890 E.T. to claim the win.
“Obviously not the Winternationals we were hoping for. We won this race the past two years in a row and were hoping to make it three. I think if maybe we struggle at the beginning of the season than we’ll do well at the end because the last couple of years we’ve done well at the beginning and then stumbled at the end. At least that’s how I’m trying to look at it right now. Our MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is going down the race track, but it was just one of those things. We hit the bump out there and the clutch came at it really hard and pulled the tires loose. No excuses, on to the next race but I think with the way we qualified and the way the cars been running, I’m happy with it.”
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 3 (3.904 E.T. at 327.03 MPH)
E1: 4.193 E.T. at 288.33 MPH defeated Tim Wilkerson 5.822 E.T. at 121.03 MPH
E2: 3.876 E.T. at 326.87 MPH defeated Shawn Langdon 3.982 E.T. at 324.05 MPH
E3: 5.216 E.T. at 144.83 MPH defeated by Jack Beckman 3.898 E.T. at 327.59 MPH
Fresh off a runner-up finish at the most recent event at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Make-A-Wish team picked up right where they left off, making two bonus point-worthy runs during qualifying to claim the No. 3 starting position.
Johnson picked off tough competitors in Tim Wilkerson and Shawn Langdon to earn a spot in the semifinals which featured a ‘giving car’ matchup between Johnson and teammate Jack Beckman behind the wheel of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Hellcat.
Against his teammate, Johnson was quick off of the line and earned the holeshot advantage before his 11,000 horsepower Funny Car shook hard and rattled the tires, enabling Beckman to drive past and capture the round win.
“It’s been a really good start to the season; our best start as a team. To leave here third in points and makes some really nice runs, I’m really happy with this car. We finished the year with it and put it away last winter. We brought it out and it picked right back up where it left off. I’m really excited and think we have a really competitive team for the rest of the year.”
NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:
1. Doug Kalitta – 117
2. Steve Torrence – 106
3. Terry McMillen – 72
4. Mike Salinas – 70
5. Billy Torrence – 56
6. Leah Pritchett – 52
6. Austin Prock – 52
8. Antron Brown – 37
9. Richie Crampton – 35
9. Scott Palmer – 35
1. Robert Hight – 121
2. Jack Beckman – 100
3. Tommy Johnson Jr. – 81
4. John Force – 71
5. Shawn Langdon – 58
6. Ron Capps – 57
7. Bob Tasca III – 55
8. Cruz Pedregon – 54
9. Matt Hagan – 37
10. Jim Campbell – 32
10. Gary Densham – 32
10. Frank Pedregon – 32
10. J.R. Todd – 32
10. Tim Wilkerson – 32
ABOUT DON SCHUMACHER RACING
Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) is the winningest team in NHRA Drag Racing history, having claimed more than 325 NHRA national event titles and 17 world championships since opening its doors in 1998.
Headquartered in Brownsburg, Indiana, DSR fields seven professional teams competing in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series. In Top Fuel, the Matco Tools dragster driven by three-time world champion Antron Brown, the MOPAR/Pennzoil/Sparkling Ice dragster driven by Leah Pritchett and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher’s machine. 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 Matt Hagan, and in Terry and 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 Make-A-Wish Dodge.
DSR also campaigns two Factory Stock Showdown entries. The duo is piloted by Pritchett, the 2018 Factory Stock Showdown Series champion, and former Pro Stock racer Mark Pawuk.
Photo Credit: Auto Imagery via Don Schumacher Racing