DSR Sonoma Post-Race Recap
NHRA Sonoma Nationals
Event 15 of 24 (Sonoma)
Sonoma Raceway – Sonoma, Calif.
July 26-28, 2019
DSR Sonoma Elimination Highlights:
- Funny Car pilot Matt Hagan raced to a runner-up finish on Sunday during the NHRA Sonoma Nationals
- Antron Brown made history during round one when he became the sixth driver to reach the ‘500 Top Fuel round wins’ milestone
- Brown and Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) recorded semifinal finishes; both drivers leave Sonoma ranked second in the championship standings
- Johnson’s semifinal appearance was his ninth of the season
Driver of the Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 4 (3.721 E.T. at 327.43 MPH)
E1: 3.863 E.T. at 312.35 MPH defeated Cameron Ferre 3.992 E.T. at 254.47 MPH
E2: 4.064 E.T. at 304.74 MPH defeated Doug Kalitta 4.637 E.T. at 191.29 MPH
E3: 3.931 E.T. at 306.95 MPH defeated by Clay Millican 3.858 E.T. at 320.74 MPH
Antron Brown made history on Sunday at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals when he became the sixth driver to capture 500 Top Fuel round wins. The No. 4 qualifier began race day with 499 Top Fuel round wins under his belt, and after defeating Cameron Ferre in the first round of eliminations, he joined Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon, Doug Kalitta, Joe Amato and Corey McClenathan on the elite list of decorated drivers who have reached that milestone.
Brown’s round one win set up a quarterfinal matchup with Kalitta, a fellow ‘500 club’ member. The four-time event champ had a slight starting line advantage over Kalitta. The veteran drivers quickly lost traction at nearly the same spot on the track and both were quick to get back on the throttle. Brown was able to get his Matco Tools machine down to the stripe first and take the win. In the semis, Brown faced Clay Millican and despite a sizeable advantage at the tree, a dropped cylinder caused him to slow and enabled Millican to drive away with the win.
“We felt really good. Our car made a good move off the starting line, we had a good 60-foot, we’ve just been having issues mowing through the clutch, and it caused us to drop a hole which slowed us down. We had a good advantage on him, but at the end of the day, it’s racing, we still have some work to do to get to where we want to be, but the main thing is, we went to the semifinals, so we have to take the positive with it. We’ve got to work on getting our clutch application under control, and once we do that, I think we’ll be able to run with any car out there.”
On earning his 500th round win:
“It’s pretty cool to have your name in the company of the drivers that have accomplished that – with Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon, Joe Amato, Doug Kalitta and Cory Mac. It doesn’t get any better than that. Just to be up there with all the people that I’ve looked up to and raced against. It feels good to be a part of that crew. But my career’s not over by a long shot. I still have a lot of fight in me.”
Driver of the Okuma Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 11 (3.800 E.T. at 321.42 MPH)
E1: 3.774 E.T. at 324.44 MPH defeated by Austin Prock 3.744 E.T. at 327.66 MPH
After making two solid qualifying passes in the heat of the day on Saturday, Leah Pritchett and her Okuma Top Fuel Dragster team looked prime for a long day of going rounds on Sunday. Pritchett and her opponent, Austin Prock, kicked off race day with an exciting side-by-side race. The Sonoma E.T. track record holder rocketed the Okuma machine to its best run of the weekend (3.774 E.T.) but came up about a half-a-car-length short against Prock who posted a 3.744.
“It was definitely the bad end of a great drag race today. It was a great show for the fans to watch, but man, we would’ve beat over three-quarters of our field. We were the first pair out and had a fantastic race car. We made a great run, just got outran. We seem to have an excessive amount of clutch wear that peeps it’s head out on race day, just enough to affect our E.T. We didn’t go out there trying to run a 3.77, we were trying to run a 73 or so. Each time we think we have it figured out, it rears its head, so we’ll be making some major wholesale clutch changes going into Seattle. Not sure what’s more difficult, getting a little bit of good luck on our side or toning down our clutch wear, but I believe we’ll find both in Seattle.”
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 3 (3.879 E.T. at 333.41 MPH)
E1: 3.996 E.T. at 320.74 MPH defeated Jeff Diehl 4.529 E.T. at 195.45 MPH
E2: 3.995 E.T. at 321.81 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 3.924 E.T. at 325.37 MPH
“Fast Jack” Beckman has been exceptionally close to earning his first Wally of 2019, and the 2015 Sonoma Nationals winner was hoping to put it all together this weekend. He qualified third after making four consistent runs and looked poised to breakthrough in the second leg of the Western Swing. Beckman, who was honored with the Eric Medlen Award on Thursday evening, motored his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to an opening-round victory over Jeff Diehl with a pass of 3.996 seconds at 320.74 mph in his 700th career round of competition. The win earned Beckman a rematch with teammate and fellow Hellcat Funny Car racer Matt Hagan, who he defeated last weekend in the first round of the Dodge Mile-High Nationals. Beckman and Hagan powered to the two quickest runs of the session, but Hagan was able to edge past for the win.
“I think it’s probably a measure of respect for our team that our opponents run low E.T. against us so often, but that just tells us we are going to have to push harder relative to the racetrack. Dickie (Venables) and his team just opened a can of you-know-what on us in that run. I don’t know that any crew chief saw that coming. We have a great Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat right now. We made it down the racetrack six times in a row. This team is ready to celebrate on Sunday, and we’re going to go win in Seattle.”
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 9 (3.960 E.T. at 321.19 MPH)
E1: 4.466 E.T. at 197.22 MPH defeated by Blake Alexander 4.010 E.T. at 314.75 MPH
Ron Capps entered the race weekend seeking his fifth Sonoma Raceway victory at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, an event the San Louis Obispo, Calif. native considers to be a ‘home game.’
Behind the wheel of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car, Capps powered to two stout runs in the heat of the day on Saturday and looked to have a good baseline heading into race day.
Starting from the No. 9 spot, Capps faced No. 8 qualifier Blake Alexander in round one. Alexander was out of the gate first, but Capps quickly pulled ahead and held the lead through the 330-foot mark before his car started to haze the tires, allowing his opponent to drive around and take the win.
“We had a great race car in the heat yesterday and really felt comfortable. Not making it down during that Friday night run really hurt us in position, but still, you’ve heard me say a million times about the NAPA Know How and Rahn Tobler being able to go down the track no matter the conditions.
“I felt confident going into race day, but you have to remember that Blake is young and hungry. He won this race in Top Fuel last year, and he drives a Tim Wilkerson team car. It can be a lethal car, and we didn’t take them lightly. We were pushing to run a mid-to-high 3.90, and it just didn’t hold. It’s very rare to see the NAPA car smoke the tires at that point on race day. We’ll service and pack it up and head to Seattle and get back to it on Friday.”
Driver of the MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody
Qualified: No. 6 (3.910 E.T. at 325.77 MPH)
E1: 3.958 E.T. at 324.59 MPH defeated J.R. Todd 4.441 E.T. at 197.97 MPH
E2: 3.924 E.T. at 325.37 MPH defeated Jack Beckman 3.995 E.T. at 321.81 MPH
E3: 3.962 E.T. at 322.42 MPH defeated John Force, Broke (No Time)
E4: 4.030 E.T. at 316.60 MPH defeated by Robert Hight 3.973 E.T. at 325.45 MPH
Matt Hagan gave it a good run for his first Sonoma Raceway Wally trophy but came up just short of ending his day in the winner’s circle when he fell to Robert Hight in the final round. The driver of the MOPAR-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Funny Car’s run to the final began with a round-one meeting with reigning world champion J.R. Todd. Hagan had the holeshot advantage over Todd in what was billed as NHRA’s Funny Car ‘marquee matchup,’ and navigated his machine down the track in 3.958 seconds easily defeating Todd’s tire-smoking effort. Round two pitted Hagan against fellow teammate Jack Beckman. Hagan was looking to exact revenge over his fellow Hellcat driver who defeated him in the first round at the previous event. The pair rocketed their MOPAR-powered Dodges to the two quickest runs of the round, and Hagan’s 3.924 E.T. knocked out Beckman’s solid 3.995-second pass.
The two-time world champion secured the automatic round win in the semifinals when his opponent, John Force, was unable to get his car out of reverse. Hagan’s Dickie Venables-tuned 3.962-second run gave him the advantage of lane choice versus current Funny Car point leader Robert Hight in the finals. In his 58th final round, Hagan posted a 4.030, but it wasn’t enough to defeat Hight’s 3.973.
“This was a really good weekend for us. The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody was really good. We put down some really impressive numbers on our way to the finals. It was important for us to win some rounds and improve ourselves in the standings with Indy coming up quickly. We gained a lot of confidence today, and that’s huge at this point in the year. In the final, we just didn’t have the speed we needed to get that win, but we are right there. I think we have a really strong car right now. It’s driving well and responding to what we want it to do. Our goal now is just to continue being consistent, and hopefully, we’ll pull down a win next weekend in Seattle.”
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody
Qualified: No. 5 (3.886 E.T. at 324.59 MPH)
E1: 4.084 E.T. at 273.72 MPH defeated Cruz Pedregon 3.995 E.T. at 309.98 MPH
E2: 4.031 E.T. at 318.47 MPH defeated Bob Tasca III 5.622 E.T. at 129.85 MPH
E3: 4.046 E.T. at 318.54 MPH defeated by Robert Hight 4.011 E.T. at 323.19 MPH
Last weekend’s winner Tommy Johnson Jr. is in the midst of a career-best season behind the wheel of the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat and in Sonoma, he was chasing his third triumph of 2019. After qualifying fifth with Friday night’s run of 3.886 seconds, he faced Cruz Pedregon in the opening round. Pedregon left early and set off the red light, handing Johnson the victory and setting up a rematch of last week’s final with Bob Tasca III in round two. Just like last weekend in Denver, Johnson again turned on the win light with a smooth run of 4.031 seconds at 318.47 mph to advance to his ninth semifinal of the season. Johnson’s consecutive round win run was halted at six when he couldn’t drive around Robert Hight, but he heads to Seattle with momentum and sitting solidly in second in the championship standings.
“I’m just extremely pleased with the way this Dodge Hellcat is performing. Today’s result wasn’t a win like last weekend, but that was a solid semifinal drag race with Robert Hight. We are ranked one and two in the points, and we put on a great show for the fans here today. It was a really close race, and things are going to get interesting. We are getting closer to the Countdown, and this car is performing flawlessly. We just need a little bit more. The next couple of races leading up to Indy, hopefully, we can get just a tick better. I think we are setting ourselves up for a really strong finish to this season.”
NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:
1. Steve Torrence – 1486
2t. Antron Brown – 914
2t. Clay Millican – 914
4. Brittany Force – 894
5. Doug Kalitta – 887
6. Mike Salinas – 802
7. Leah Pritchett – 749
8. Richie Crampton – 719
9t. Terry McMillen- 641
9t. Austin Prock – 641
1. Robert Hight – 1283
2. Tommy Johnson Jr – 1084
3. John Force – 1035
4. Jack Beckman – 964
5. Ron Capps – 962
6. Bob Tasca III – 924
7. J.R. Todd – 889
8. Matt Hagan – 888
9. Shawn Langdon – 786
10. Tim Wilkerson – 757
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, Driver photos: NHRA