DSR Pomona II Post-Race Recap
Auto Club NHRA Finals
Event 24 of 24 (Pomona II)
Countdown Event 6 of 6
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona
November 15-17, 2019
DSR Pomona II Elimination Highlights:
- Funny Car pilot Jack Beckman closes out the season with a win at the Auto Club NHRA Finals
- Beckman’s victory was his 30th overall, second of the season, and first at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona
- Beckman closed out 2019 second in the standings and with the opportunity to choose a Dodge SRT high-performance vehicle to drive for a year
- Matt Hagan advanced to the semifinal round and finished the season ranked third in the Funny Car standings
- Leah Pritchett raced to a semifinal finish and improved one spot up to fourth behind the wheel of her MOPAR-powered Top Fuel dragster
- With Beckman’s win at the season-closer, all current DSR nitro drivers have been victorious at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona
Beckman Closes 2019 with Funny Car Victory
POMONA, Calif. (November 17, 2019) – Jack Beckman closed the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season by racing the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car to his second victory of the year at the 55th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.
The win for Beckman, his 30th career Funny Car triumph, concluded a season where DSR clinched 11 Funny Car victories in the 24-race NHRA campaign.
Beckman and Funny Car teammate Matt Hagan made strong championship bids, with both drivers entering the race weekend within striking distance of picking up the 2019 title. The two former world champions started race day needing to advance two rounds beyond eventual champion Robert Hight, but both came up short in the end. Beckman finished second and Hagan, winner of the two previous NHRA events, finished third in the final standings.
Beckman opened the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff with a victory in the MOPAR Express Lane NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil in Reading, Pa. and was in contention throughout. He advanced to the final in Charlotte and established new track records in Las Vegas en route to a semifinal finish before this weekend’s final in Pomona.
“Fast Jack” qualified his Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli/John Medlen-tuned Infinite Hero Hellcat second to start race day at the Auto Club NHRA Finals. His machine-like performances all day included consistent runs for the 2012 Funny Car champion, starting with his pass of 3.946 seconds to defeat John Hale.
He ousted J.R. Todd in the second round and took down upset-minded Blake Alexander in the semifinal to advance to his seventh final of the year. The final versus Hight was a rematch of both the season opener, also at Auto Club Raceway, and the Charlotte Countdown race. Beckman made his fifth consecutive three-second pass of 3.920 seconds – the quickest Funny Car E.T. of race day – to secure his first Pomona victory, but he came up just eight points short of earning his second Funny Car title.
“I’ve never won in Funny Car at Pomona. I’ve won Super Comp at the Winternationals twice, so it was awesome to get that win today,” said the Norco, Calif. resident of finally realizing Funny Car victory on his home turf. “If you win at the Winternationals, the rest of the year is going to be okay because you’ve already won something, but if you do it in the finals, your off-season is fantastic. My guys have given me such a great race car lately, and I stumbled a couple of times, and I don’t want to ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ myself in the off-season. But it is what it is, we finished solidly in second, capped off the year with a win, we have a phenomenal car, and things are awesome right now. I’m feeling on top of the world.”
By closing out the year ranked second, Beckman has now finished in the ‘top five’ in 11 out of 13 full-time seasons. He ends 2019 as the highest-ranked DSR driver, which allows him the opportunity to select a Dodge SRT high-performance vehicle to drive for a year.
“The crew guys are already telling me ‘it’s staying in Indy, you’re going to have to come visit it,’” he joked of taking delivery of his new set of wheels.
“I don’t think it would be a stretch to say we had the best Funny Car this year, or at least the last several races,” Beckman went on to add. “Guido and John treated this season like a regular-season in the Countdown. We sacrificed a few races early in the year to get the clutch package right, to get dialed-in to the new track prep, and to get all our spare parts sorted out. And it paid off. Once we got into the Countdown, the car was thumping from the get-go. We runnered-up at Indy, won the next race at Maple Grove, we were always a factor out there, and I’m certain they’re as fired up about next season as I am.”
The 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season kicks off with the season-opener, the NHRA Winternationals, at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Feb. 7th.Qualified: No. 2 (3.876 E.T. at 332.43 MPH)
E1: 3.946 E.T. at 321.65 MPH defeated John Hale 13.434 E.T. at 39.58 MPH
E2: 3.958 E.T. at 324.20 MPH defeated J.R. Todd 4.005 E.T. at 318.47 MPH
E3: 3.956 E.T. at 320.28 MPH defeated Blake Alexander 4.020 E.T. at 308.85 MPH
E4: 3.920 E.T. at 323.27 MPH defeated Robert Hight, No Time
Driver of the Matco Tools Diagnostics Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 9 (3.729 E.T. at 330.07 MPH)
E1: 6.601 E.T. at 114.89 MPH defeated by Brittany Force 4.075 E.T. at 218.41 MPH
Antron Brown qualified the Matco Tools Diagnostics Toyota Top Fuel Dragster ninth to set up a first-round meeting with Brittany Force. Brown, a three-time event winner, was first out of the gate, but his machine went into immediate tire smoke as soon as he stood on the gas, and Force was able to drive away with the win.
The three-time Top Fuel world champ and 66-time race winner closed out the season ranked ninth. Brown has finished in the ‘top 10’ every year since making his debut aboard a Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998.
“Pomona has always been a challenging track, and today was as challenging as ever. When you come here, you’re used to running phenomenal numbers because that’s what it will hold. We were trying to throw down today, but it was tricky. We’re going to suck it up, we have a long off-season coming up, we’re going to prepare, and we’ll come out swinging next year.”
Driver of the MOPAR Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 2 (3.694 E.T. at 322.88 MPH)
E1: 3.753 E.T. at 319.90 MPH defeated Scott Palmer 3.813 E.T. at 312.50 MPH
E2: 3.748 E.T. at 323.12 MPH defeated Jordan Vandergriff 18.760 E.T. at 59.83 MPH
E3: 3.908 E.T. at 302.08 MPH defeated by Doug Kalitta 3.730 E.T. at 331.85 MPH
Top Fuel standout Leah Pritchett got her start competing in NHRA’s Jr. Drag Racing series at age eight, and on Sunday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, she wrapped up her 23rd consecutive NHRA season with a fourth-place finish in the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel championship rankings.
Pritchett started race day qualified second, and while mathematically she was no longer in the 2019 title hunt, the Redlands, Calif. native had her sights set on finishing out the year with a victory at her hometown track. She opened eliminations with a round win against Scott Palmer and then powered the MOPAR Dodge Top Fuel Dragster to the quickest run of round two to dispatch Jordan Vandergriff and earn a bid to the semifinals. Against Doug Kalitta, Pritchett had a hole out as soon as she stood on the throttle, and the eventual race winner was able to drive away with a clean pass for the win.
Pritchett’s semifinal finish enabled her to advance from fifth up to fourth in the standings, tying her career-best finish (2018) in her fourth playoff run.
“On a high note, we had our best Countdown performance yet. We didn’t have any first-round losses, but on the other hand, the semifinals were as far as we went. We definitely have room for improvement, but most impressively, our hot rod has been very responsive. We dropped a cylinder right at the hit in the semifinals against Doug (Kalitta), but we’ll get to the bottom of what caused that. In all, it was a satisfactory race day. We’re looking forward to making more MOPAR-power and putting it to the ground next year, and we can’t wait to get back here in February. This team is dedicated to improving and reigniting our championship chase next year. We’re focusing on the positives and working to improve on our weaknesses.”
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 8 (3.940 E.T. at 328.06 MPH)
E1: 3.949 E.T. at 326.00 MPH defeated Cruz Pedregon 3.982 E.T. at 321.58 MPH
E2: 6.338 E.T. at 83.99 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 4.005 E.T. at 323.04 MPH
Ron Capps entered race day at the final event of the season knowing he was no longer in contention to pick up his second Funny Car world championship in 2019, but he and his NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team were determined to finish the year strong.
Capps qualified eighth for the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona and faced fellow Funny Car veteran Cruz Pedregon in the opening round of eliminations. Pedregon took the early lead, but the 2016 Funny Car world champion was able to chase him down for the win. By posting the third quickest E.T. of the 16 cars vying for a quarterfinal spot, Capps earned lane choice in the next round but faced a tough competitor in his teammate, No. 1 qualifier and championship hopeful Matt Hagan. The Capps/Hagan pairing was set to be a nail-biter of a round, but an engine explosion just passed the 330-foot mark caused Capps to slow, and his stablemate was able to drive away with the win.
The Carlsbad, Calif. resident capped off his 25th season ranked sixth, recording a ‘top 10’ finish for the 15th consecutive year. He picked up three wins in 2019, bringing his current total up to 64 victories, and with 63 Funny Car triumphs, Capps remains the second-winningest Funny Car pilot of all time.
“A little disappointed with how we finished the year. It’s so disheartening to come to Pomona and not be in contention Sunday morning, but once again, you look back, and the NAPA car has been one that’s in the championship discussions every year going into Pomona, and that’s a big, big feather in the cap to all our AutoCare Center guys, (crew chief) Rahn Tobler, myself, and I’m very proud of that.
“With that being said, we really had our focus on coming here and trying to get our car’s performance back and finishing as high in the point standings as possible. We ran third-quickest in round one but then had a tough matchup with our teammate Hagan who was the No. 1 qualifier. We knew Hagan’s team was going to make a good run, and we were going for it. Something broke in our car, and it caused a pretty substantial backfire, and that was the end of our day. We’ll regroup, refresh, and come out strong in 2020
Driver of the MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody
Qualified: No. 1 (3.872 E.T. at 333.58 MPH)
E1: 4.114 E.T. at 275.11 MPH defeated Jonnie Lindberg 4.998 E.T. at 162.98 MPH
E2: 4.005 E.T. at 323.04 MPH defeated Ron Capps 6.338 E.T. at 83.99 MPH
E3: 4.015 E.T. at 326.95 MPH defeated by Robert Hight 3.977 E.T. at 324.59 MPH
Behind the wheel of the MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody, Matt Hagan charged his way into the final race of the 2019 season on the heels of back-to-back Countdown wins. The two-time Funny Car world champion was looking to make it three straight victories and close his campaign by clinching a third world title. His winning momentum continued in qualifying with Hagan grabbing the No. 1 position and 10 qualifying points to close to within 44 points of first, and on Sunday, the ladder put his championship destiny in his team’s hands.
Hagan began eliminations with a rematch of the final from two weeks ago in the Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil at Las Vegas. The result was the same with Hagan coming out victorious versus Jonnie Lindberg. His teammate Ron Capps was the next opponent and Hagan cruised to his 10th consecutive round win behind the wheel of the Dickie Venables-tuned Hellcat. The victory setup the season-defining race with point leader Robert Hight. In his 600th career round of competition, Hagan posted a 4.015-second pass, but was outrun by Hight’s 3.977 E.T.
The surge during the later stages of the Countdown moved him from ninth after St. Louis to finishing third in the final Countdown standings.
“I think we gave it a great shot. I know we might have been counted out after St. Louis. We finished really strong and gave ourselves a chance. I’m really proud of my guys – Dickie Venables, Mike Knudsen, Alex Conway – those guys fought all the way through and never gave up. I think we put on a great show for everyone including our sponsors MOPAR, Pennzoil, Sandvik Coromant. I’m proud to wheel the car for them. It’s one of those things where you never give up. We fought all the way to the end. We lost lane choice today and couldn’t push as hard which put us at a disadvantage. We came in here and earned the No. 1 position in qualifying and put on a good show. We gave the fans what they wanted. It was a great show all the way up to the end. Congratulations to Robert Hight. Those guys won more races than anyone out here this year. They beat us today in the semis and deserve to be champions.”
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 7 (3.918 E.T. at 323.97 MPH)
E1: 4.101 E.T. at 258.02 MPH defeated by J.R. Todd 3.974 E.T. at 323.19 MPH
After posting his best regular-season results, Tommy Johnson, Jr. was confident in his team’s 2019 championship chances driving the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car. Unfortunately for Johnson, the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs didn’t play out the way he had hoped. After qualifying No. 7, Johnson’s season ended with a first-round loss to J.R. Todd at the 55th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, snapping four consecutive final appearances in the season-ending event.
Johnson finished the year ranked eighth. 2019 marked his 30th season behind the wheel of a nitro-burning machine, and it was chocked full of highlights, including capturing two event wins in four final rounds. He reached his 50th final round while competing in Joliet, Ill., and the Las Vegas Four-Wide race marked his 450th professional event.
“Our race day wasn’t good, obviously. Just not the way we wanted to finish, especially having so much success here every year. I felt pretty confident coming in. The track today was just incredibly tricky. You try to make all the right calls. We were good until we hit the bump out there. We hit the bump, and it came loose. We have a tremendous team and had a great season. Unfortunately, we just had a horrible Countdown. It’s tough when your season is based on the last six races. The guys did a great job all year, and we just stumbled when it came time to run for a championship. Our two wins and four final rounds still show we have a really good team. We’ll regroup and have a nice off-season and come back strong for next year.”
2019 NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Final Standings:
1. Steve Torrence – 2607
2. Doug Kalitta – 2604
3. Brittany Force – 2555
4. Leah Pritchett – 2474
5. Billy Torrence – 2458
6. Richie Crampton – 2399
7. Mike Salinas – 2381
8. Austin Prock – 2379
9. Antron Brown – 2329
10. Clay Millican – 2300
1. Robert Hight – 2637
2. Jack Beckman – 2629
3. Matt Hagan – 2563
4. John Force – 2471
5. Bob Tasca III – 2446
6. Ron Capps – 2414
7. J.R. Todd – 2391
8. Tommy Johnson Jr – 2360
9. Shawn Langdon – 2358
10. Tim Wilkerson – 2283
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, Driver photos: NHRA