DSR Indianapolis Post-Race Recap
NHRA U.S. Nationals
Event 18 of 24 (Indianapolis) – Lucas Oil Raceway
Aug. 30 – Sept. 2, 2019
DSR Indianapolis Elimination Highlights:
- Funny Car No. 1 qualifier Jack Beckman capped off a near-perfect race weekend with a runner-up finish
- Semifinalist Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) lead the DSR brigade heading into the start of the Countdown to the Championship, with both drivers starting from the No. 3 position.
- Beckman and Ron Capps (Funny Car) join Brown and Johnson with ‘top five’ rankings
- Funny Car pilot Matt Hagan raced to his fourth consecutive semifinal appearance
- Factory Stock Showdown Series No. 1 qualifier Mark Pawuk led the DSR Drag Pak duo by racing to a quarterfinal finish
Driver of the Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 6 (3.678 E.T. at 327.19 MPH)
E1: 3.723 E.T. at 328.22 MPH defeated Jordan Vandergriff 3.790 E.T. at 322.50 MPH
E2: 3.785 E.T. at 323.58 MPH defeated Steve Torrence 4.772 E.T. at 111.45 MPH
E3: 4.768 E.T. at 156.06 MPH defeated by Billy Torrence 3.757 E.T. at 324.44 MPH
Pittsboro, Ind. resident Antron Brown qualified sixth out of a loaded 21-car Top Fuel field at his hometown event to set up a round-one matchup with Jordan Vandergriff. Brown, a three-time Indy champ, was hoping to capture his first win of the year at the final event of NHRA’s regular season and looked to be in prime position after powering to a smooth 3.723-second pass to defeat his first opponent.
In the quarterfinals, it was the three-time Top Fuel world champion pitted against point leader and reigning world champion, Steve Torrence. Brown piloted his Matco Tools Toyota to a 3.785 E.T., easily defeating Torrence’s instant tire-smoker. Another heavy hitter faced Brown in the semifinals, this time it was Torrence’s dad, Billy. Brown moved first but hazed the tires before the 660-foot cone, and his fellow Countdown contender was able to drive away with the clean round win.
Brown entered race day at the Big Go sitting fifth in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship standings, but his march to the semifinals allowed him to bank an additional 90 points to his running total and helped him maneuver from fifth up to third to start the playoff battle.
“Anytime we make it to the semifinals is a good day. Of course, we wanted to win the U.S. Nationals, but the track got a little tricky. We’re just going to keep on working. We’re getting better and better, and the positive is, we moved up to third in the rankings, so that puts us up there closer with the front-runners. We’ve got a good game plan heading into Reading, so we’ll do our best to execute that and see what we can do. I think as the weather gets cooler and cooler as we close out our season, we’ll really be able to run good, and I think we’ll be right there with everyone.
“Moving into the ‘top three’ today was huge. Those are points you can’t make up; every point counts, and it’s a chess game. There are 24 rounds of available points, so if you start off in the lead, you’ve already got one round ahead of the person behind you. So, for us, we’re going to try and catch Steve (Torrence) and get in front and maintain that lead. If you win those first few races, that puts you in a good position to race the last three with confidence, and that’s our game plan.”
Driver of the MOPAR Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 7 (3.701 E.T. at 322.42 MPH)
E1: 20.604 E.T. at 20.91 MPH defeated by Shawn Reed 3.772 E.T. at 320.51 MPH
Leah Pritchett was looking to follow her victory in Brainerd two weeks ago with a strong performance at the U.S. Nationals. After qualifying the MOPAR Dodge Top Fuel Dragster inside the top-half of the quickest Top Fuel field in NHRA history, she squared off with Shawn Reed in round one. The two had five previous races with Pritchett winning them all. Pritchett took a starting line advantage, but immediately lost traction, knocked off the blower and coasted to a pass of 20.604 while Reed cruised to victory with his clean run. Pritchett will start her quest for a championship in two weeks from the seventh position in the standings.
“We had every intention of going four solid rounds today. This is a numbers game, and a math and engineering game, and right now things aren’t lining up. We work really hard to be our best, and we aren’t going to give up until we figure this out. I’m really proud of this team, as well as the partners we have, and the fans that come out and support us. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the best of luck here in Indy, but we have had some good luck and solid performances in Reading, and we are ready to finish this marathon with the strongest sprint.”
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 1 (3.861 E.T. at 330.07 MPH)
E1: 3.899 E.T. at 328.86 MPH defeated Justin Schriefer (Broke, No Time)
E2: 3.922 E.T. at 325.61 MPH defeated Bob Tasca III 3.943 E.T. at 326.95 MPH
E3: 4.065 E.T. at 250.09 MPH defeated J.R. Todd 4.547 E.T. at 193.71 MPH
E4: 3.940 E.T. at 325.92 MPH defeated by John Force 3.919 E.T. at 324.44 MPH
‘Fast’ Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero Foundation team seemed unstoppable as they dominated throughout the four-day marathon NHRA U.S. Nationals race weekend. Beckman and the Dean Antonelli/John Medlen-led team put together a string of impressive runs right out of the gate to earn 16 bonus points and their first No. 1 qualifying position of the season.
Starting from the top of the field for the 25th time in his career, Beckman faced Justin Schriefer in round one. Beckman launched his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat down the track in 3.899 seconds, his fifth sub-3.9 second run of the weekend, while a mechanical malfunction prevented Schriefer from making it off the starting line.
Without the advantage of lane choice in round two, the Infinite Hero team found themselves in the less-desirable right lane versus opponent Bob Tasca III. The Antonelli/Medlen duo was able to pull off what every other Funny Car but one had failed to do in the first two rounds – make a clean pass in the right lane. Beckman’s 3.922 E.T. edged past Tasca’s 3.943 to set up a semifinal matchup with two-time defending Indy champ, J.R. Todd. Once again, the Infinite Hero team was back in the right lane, and once again, they persevered, becoming the first team to thwart Todd’s Indy reign of dominance.
It was a classic DSR-JFR matchup in the finals, with Beckman squaring off against John Force. Beckman was first on the throttle, but Force was able to inch away and score the win with his 3.919 E.T. versus Beckman’s solid 3.940-second run. Although he came up just short of going wire-to-wire at Indy, Beckman’s runner-up finish propelled him from fifth up to fourth to start the Countdown.
“I have to say, the fan in me seeing John Force talking with TV after the race was like seeing Lou Gehrig doing an interview. But losing this race hurts. I don’t want to lose to Babe Ruth. I don’t want to lose to anybody. It’s the U.S. Nationals. We were poised for our first win of the year. We had an amazing Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. We fought for what we got today. Due to all the delays in the first round, we couldn’t push and lost lane choice. So we were in the less-preferred right lane in the second, third, and final rounds. And we were the only car to continually get down that lane quickly. I’m so proud of the guys for doing that. We came up short in the final, but if we would have leaned on it too much and gone out there and smoked the tires, you aren’t making a race out of it. I’m happy for what we did. We had a great weekend, and I was three-hundredths away from having a phenomenal weekend.”
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 4 (3.882 E.T. at 327.66 MPH)
E1: 4.097 E.T. at 270.86 MPH defeated by Ray Martin 3.979 E.T. at 323.04 MPH
Veteran racer Ron Capps has been victorious at every stop along the current NHRA tour with one exception – Indianapolis. The second-winningest Funny Car driver of all-time began his campaign for a first Indy trophy with an impressive qualifying performance, capturing bonus points in four out of five sessions to earn the No. 4 starting position in the quickest Funny Car field in NHRA history.
Capps’ quest for the winner’s circle began with a round one matchup against newbie Ray Martin. Capps was out of the gate first and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge held the lead until losing traction near halftrack. Capps was forced to give up on the run, allowing Martin to claim his first professional round win against the 2016 Funny Car world champion.
While he wasn’t able to capture that elusive first Indy win, Capps’ strong showing during qualifying coupled with three 2019 event wins helped him to lock-in a ‘top five’ spot to start the Countdown to the Championship.
“Looking back in years’ past, this is one of the best cars we’ve had for a chance to win the U.S. Nationals. If things are going to pop up, they usually happen here. We see so many huge upsets in Indy, and we weren’t taking Ray Martin lightly. He was driving the Worsham family car, and we knew that was a car that could run with anybody. I know (crew chief Rahn) Tobler’s plan was to repeat what we did during qualifying and try and get lane choice for next round, and for whatever reason, we had an issue. It was surprising because we were so strong during qualifying, but the bright side is, we’re leaving Indy with a great race car. We ran three 3.89s during qualifying, two of them in the heat of the day, which really gives me a lot of confidence heading into the Countdown.
“We’ve got a great team, and we can kind of exhale, take a weekend off, and head into Maple Grove and be ready to try and repeat the championship we won in 2016.”
Driver of the MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody
Qualified: No. 2 (3.874 E.T. at 327.66 MPH)
E1: 3.892 E.T. at 329.02 MPH defeated Bob Bode (Broke, No Time)
E2: 3.939 E.T. at 320.89 MPH defeated Shawn Langdon 12.468 E.T. at 68.70 MPH
E3: 13.019 E.T. at 75.31 MPH defeated by John Force 3.940 E.T. at 330.88 MPH
For two-time Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan, consistency has been the focus, and that continued during the NHRA U.S. Nationals. After qualifying the MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Funny Car second in the field, the 2016 U.S. Nationals winner opened competition with a smooth run of 3.892 seconds to advance over Bob Bode, who wasn’t able to make a full pass. In the quarterfinals, Hagan made another clean run of 3.939 seconds while his opponent Shawn Langdon went up in smoke. The result moved Hagan into his fourth consecutive semifinal where he faced John Force for the 43rd time in his career. Hagan raced from the tricky right lane and lost traction almost immediately, coasting to the finish with a run of 13.019 seconds while his opponent put together a clean pass. Hagan will start the Countdown to the Championship playoffs from the sixth position.
“We really wanted to have a chance to win Indy, and we did. We’ve got consistency and we are getting really close every weekend. It’s just a few little things here and there. That right lane was like the kiss of death. Keeping lane choice was critical today, and we just lost it by a thousandth of a second or two. We have a great car. The team is working great. The boys made a great turnaround for the semifinal round. I just can’t say enough about how hard everyone is working. We’ve got six races, and we are all in. It’s time to step up and go to work.”
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Riley Kids Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 10 (3.909 E.T. at 319.82 MPH)
E1: 9.686 E.T. at 88.23 MPH defeated by Shawn Langdon 3.895 E.T. at 328.70 MPH
Tommy Johnson Jr. is in the midst of a career-best season, and the two-time 2019 Funny Car winner was looking to add a U.S. Nationals triumph to his list of accomplishments. After struggling during the first two days of qualifying, Johnson put the Riley Kids Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat in the field Sunday with a pair of solid runs to grab the No. 10 position for Monday’s eliminations. Unfortunately, in his first-round race with Shawn Langdon, the issues resurfaced. Johnson left first, but his machine quickly overpowered the track and lost traction. Langdon made a clean run to defeat Johnson, who coasted to a pass of 9.686 seconds. Johnson will now turn his focus to preparing to chase his first Funny Car championship from the third position in the standings.
“It wasn’t the Indy we were looking for. We had a strong car coming in here, and it was just one of those weekends where we just never hit it. We struggled all weekend with a lot of issues. Not the weekend you want that to happen, but at the same time if it’s going to happen, let’s get it out of the way before we get to the Countdown where it’s really important. We’ll shake this off and go out to Reading and start the Countdown. We are going to start it in the best position we ever have, and this team has a great chance at winning a championship. We’re excited to get to Reading and kick things off with the MOPAR Mega Block Party, and the activities that surround that race. Earlier this year in Denver, we were able to win the race for Dodge and MOPAR, and hope to do it again in Reading.”
NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Starting Positions:
1. Steve Torrence – 1742
2. Doug Kalitta – 1184
3. Antron Brown – 1109
4. Brittany Force – 1108
5. Mike Salinas – 1071
6. Clay Millican – 1058
7. Leah Pritchett – 957
8. Austin Prock – 936
9. Richie Crampton – 842
10. Billy Torrence – 819
1. Robert Hight – 1481
2. John Force – 1376
3. Tommy Johnson Jr – 1269
4. Jack Beckman – 1259
5. Ron Capps – 1234
6. Matt Hagan – 1165
7. Bob Tasca III – 1116
8. J.R. Todd – 1095
9. Shawn Langdon – 997
10. Tim Wilkerson – 863
Factory Stock Showdown Series:
Driver of the Empaco Equipment MOPAR Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 1 (7.864 E.T. at 173.36 MPH)
E1: 8.638 E.T. at 121.45 MPH defeated Bye
E2: 7.946 E.T. at 172.39 MPH defeated Allen Johnson 8.173 E.T. at 166.85 MPH
E3: 7.949 E.T. at 171.95 MPH defeated by Arthur Kohn 7.957 E.T. at 171.90 MPH
Driver of the MOPAR Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 10 (7.964 E.T. at 171.25 MPH)
E1: 8.077 E.T. at 169.42 MPH defeated by Bo Butner 8.040 E.T. at 168.07 MPH
ABOUT DON SCHUMACHER RACING
Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) is the winningest team in NHRA Drag Racing history, having claimed more than 335 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