DSR Pomona I Qualifying Report
Event 1 of 24 (Pomona I)
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona – Pomona, Calif.
February 7-9, 2020
DSR Pomona I Saturday Highlights:
- Matt Hagan will start the first race day of the 2020 season from the top of the Funny Car leaderboard
- Hagan’s Mopar machine was quick and consistent throughout qualifying, running low E.T. in Q1 and Q4, and second-low E.T. in Q2
- 2019 Mello Yello Series Funny Car runner-up Jack Beckman also enjoyed a strong showing throughout qualifying. Beckman recorded the quickest run of Q3 and was second-quickest in Q1, Q2, and Q4 to earn the most bonus points (nine) among the Funny Car category
- Tommy Johnson Jr. and Ron Capps also secured qualifying positions in the quick-half of the Funny Car field
- Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team were the recipients of the NHRA’s Winternationals ‘Never Rest’ award for their ability to bounce-back from a hauler fire which destroyed a car and prevented them from participating in the Las Vegas pre-season test session
- In Top Fuel, Leah Pruett was the first nitro car to take the track on Saturday, and she set the bar high for her competition when she blasted to the top of the pack with her 3.687-second pass, which held up to be third-quickest of the weekend
- Hagan and Beckman Are Top Qualifiers at Season-Opener in Pomona
POMONA, Calif. (February 9, 2020) – With an impressive blast of 3.841 seconds at 333.25 mph behind the wheel of his Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, Matt Hagan rocketed to the top of the NHRA Winternationals Funny Car leaderboard on Saturday evening at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Hagan began day two of qualifying for the season-opener from the No. 1 spot on the strength of his Friday afternoon Q1 pass of 3.867 seconds, which held firm throughout the third qualifying session. With track conditions steadily improving throughout the field-setting fourth round, Hagan and his Dickie Venables-led Mopar team watched as reigning Funny Car champion Robert Hight laid down a solid run of 3.862 seconds to knock them from the top spot. Not to be outdone, Hagan immediately reclaimed the No. 1 position with his 3.84. In the opposite lane, his teammate Jack Beckman charged his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge to a 3.856 E.T. to also eclipse Hight and move into the No. 2 position.
Both Beckman and Hagan have been on a roll since late in the 2019 season. Beckman solidified himself as a serious title threat with his strong showing at the NHRA U.S. Nationals, the final event of the ‘regular’ season, which saw him earn the Indy pole and a runner-up finish. At the very next race, the first event of the Countdown, Beckman raced to victory and bookended his playoff run with another win at the season-closer. Hagan’s momentum began when he captured back-to-back Countdown victories and the No. 1 qualifier at the 2019 season-closer. Both drivers remained in the title hunt through the final day of the season, with Beckman finishing as the runner-up and Hagan taking third.
For Hagan, a two-time Funny Car world champion and six-time Pomona winner, he attributes much of his recent success to the strong relationship he enjoys with Venables and his crew saying, “This is (Dickie and my) eighth year together, and when you can keep your core team together for that long, it says a lot. We just click, and it’s an amazing feeling to have to know your crew chief is capable of stepping up to the plate, and you’re not just one of those cars that are just trying to make it down the race track. We were just in the lounge today, talking about how long we’ve been together, and it’s just one of those things where we have chemistry, and we mesh. He’s a guy I know I can win a championship with.
“This Mopar Funny Car is just flying out there right now,” added Hagan, who clocked low E.T. of round one and four, and second-low of round two to earn a total of eight bonus points. “When your team puts a hot rod underneath you like that, it’s always fun. We had a great test session, and then came out here and laid down some great numbers. Robert (Hight) took that No. 1 from us, and then we took it back from him, so how can you complain about that?”
Starting from the No. 1 position, Hagan and the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car team will take on Mello Yello series newcomer Alex Miladinovich in round one.
Hagan’s No. 1 qualifier is his 37th overall, and fifth at Pomona. The last two times he started the Winternationals from the pole (2017 and 2018), he was successful in finishing the weekend with the Funny Car Wally trophy in hand. He hopes history will repeat itself on Sunday.
“Going into race day tomorrow, my lights are good, the car is running great, the guys are doing a phenomenal job, and we came off of a really strong season last year, so we’re just focused on keeping the ball rolling.”
Qualified: No. 1 (lane choice)
The Competition: No. 16 Alex Miladinovich
Q1: 3.867 E.T. at 331.20 MPH (Three bonus points for quickest run of the session)
Q2: 9.371 E.T. at 76.54 MPH
Q3: 3.894 E.T. at 329.18 MPH (Two bonus points for second-quickest run of the session)
Q4: 3.841 E.T. at 333.25 MPH (Three bonus points for quickest run of the session)
Bonus Points: Eight
Driver of the Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 9
The Competition: No. 6 Shawn Reed
Q1: 3.780 E.T. at 322.42 MPH
Q2: 3.784 E.T. at 319.07 MPH
Q3: 5.045 E.T. at 140.28 MPH
Q4: 9.053 E.T. at 75.35 MPH
“First race out, and we’re in the show. It’s not where we want to be, but we’ve still got our work cut out for us. With (crew chief) Brian Corradi back on board, and (co-crew chief) Mark Oswald, and the rest of these Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology boys, we’ve just got to keep marching. Tomorrow’s race day, and we’ll go after it tomorrow.”
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 3 (lane choice)
The Competition: No. 12 James Maroney
Q1: 3.715 E.T. at 324.75 MPH (Two bonus points for second-quickest run of the session)
Q2: 6.976 E.T. at 77.63 MPH
Q3: 3.687 E.T. at 328.06 MPH (Two bonus points for second-quickest run of the session)
Q4: 3.728 E.T. at 323.97 MPH
Bonus Points: Four
“I feel like we are on the correct path of continuing our consistency and our success from the end of the 2019 season. It felt like we needed a longer season, but we’re picking up exactly where we left off, and that’s what drives me, and (co-crew chiefs) Todd Okuhara and Neal (Strausbaugh). A .71 off the trailer was stout. I think the most impressive part, of course, besides it being our number that we qualified with, was how we achieved that 3.687 in Q3 after being shut off on the starting line. Given the burnout, back up, hard stop, refueling of the car, and then going straight into the beams, I’m estimating it took 18 minutes. It was unprecedented and a testament to the crew chiefs’ confidence in what we had to go down the track with, and what we needed. There were multiple options that other crew chiefs would have chosen, and we chose that right path. I feel like we are definitely on that right path to a very successful Sunday, regardless of the weather. We’re not worried about potential bye-runs that are here, there, and everywhere. It’s basically four rounds for us, and that’s what we’re going to need to do. Four “W” runs for Sunday.”
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 2 (lane choice)
The Competition: No. 15 Steven Densham
Q1: 3.868 E.T. at 326.95 MPH (Two bonus points for second-quickest run of the session)
Q2: 3.885 E.T. at 328.46 MPH (Two bonus points for second-quickest run of the session)
Q3: 3.885 E.T. at 326.95 MPH (Three bonus points for quickest run of the session)
Q4: 3.856 E.T. at 328.86 MPH (Two bonus points for second-quickest run of the session)
Bonus Points: Nine
“Other than this head cold, it’s been a perfect weekend so far. We’ve gotten bonus points every single session. I’ll drive with a plugged-up head all year long if it means I get a hotrod like this.”
Regarding Sunday’s forecasted weather conditions:
“We might have to throw out all the data that we’ve accumulated so far. It’s going to be interesting. That’s why you want to qualify high; you get a better first-round draw so that if you get a hiccup, you still have a better chance to get that first win light and data.”
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 7 (lane choice)
The Competition: No. 10 Bob Tasca III
Q1: 8.540 E.T. at 83.02 MPH
Q2: 3.947 E.T. at 324.12 MPH
Q3: 3.911 E.T. at 328.38 MPH (One bonus point for third-quickest run of the session)
Q4: 6.905 E.T. at 91.93 MPH
Bonus Points: One
“Obviously, it was a check-out run the first lap, and then to go out and get qualified that second lap, I was so emotional. I just wanted to make sure these guys, as hard as they’ve worked, to get the car down the track and get qualified, that’s always the goal. But in our case, you can’t substitute how much hard work went into it, and the NAPA Know How with (crew chief) Rahn Tobler, and how much he’s trained our guys for that situation. The Cinderella story would be for us to win the race, but right now, it’s one step at a time.”
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 4 (lane choice)
The Competition: No. 13 Cruz Pedregon
Q1: 3.905 E.T. at 318.02 MPH
Q2: 3.906 E.T. at 323.12 MPH (One bonus point for third-quickest run of the session)
Q3: 8.871 E.T. at 73.24 MPH
Q4: 3.881 E.T. at 321.50 MPH
Bonus Points: One
“I’ve got a really good, solid car that’s been really consistent. We just missed it a little bit in Q3, but the other three were really good runs; nice and consistent, and we were able to tune it and adjust it. I think that will be important tomorrow because the weather change will be so drastic that you need a tune-able and adjustable racecar.”
ABOUT DON SCHUMACHER RACING
Established in 1998 as a single-car Top Fuel team, Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) has grown to become the winningest organization in NHRA Drag Racing history. Including team owner Don Schumacher’s five NHRA Funny Car titles from the 1970s, DSR’s current win count stands at 345 entering the 2020 season, and DSR is looking forward to reaching the ‘350 milestone’ early in the year. DSR owns 17 world championships in three different NHRA categories.
Headquartered in Brownsburg, Indiana, DSR currently fields six professional teams competing in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. In Top Fuel, the Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota dragster driven by three-time world champion Antron Brown, and the Mopar/Pennzoil/Okuma dragster driven by Leah Pruett. 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 two-time series title-holder Matt Hagan, and in 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 MD Anderson Dodge.
DSR also campaigns two Factory Stock Showdown entries. The duo is piloted by Pruett, the 2018 Factory Stock Showdown Series champion, and former Pro Stock racer Mark Pawuk.
Photo Credit: Auto Imagery via Don Schumacher Racing, Driver photo: NHRA