DSR Pomona I Post-Race Recap
Event 1 of 24 (Pomona I)
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona – Pomona, Calif.
February 7-9, 2020
DSR Pomona I Elimination Highlights:
- Jack Beckman raced to victory at the 2020 NHRA Winternationals
- Between a near-perfect qualifying performance and four round wins on race day, Beckman amassed 126 points to occupy the Funny Car point lead
- Beckman’s triumph was his 31st in the Funny Car category, and second at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, his hometown facility; it was his first Winternationals victory
- Leah Pruett (Top Fuel) and Matt Hagan (Funny Car) advanced to the semifinals
Beckman Wins Season-Opener at Home Track; Occupies Funny Car Points Lead
POMONA, Calif. (February 10, 2020) – Jack Beckman and the Doug Chandler-sponsored Infinite Hero Foundation Funny Car team started the 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season the same way they ended 2019 – in the winner’s circle at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. While reflecting on Sunday’s victory, his 31st in the Funny Car category, Beckman described his triumph at the 60th running of the NHRA Winternationals as a ‘pinch me’ moment.
“It’s beyond magical,” said Beckman of his first Winternationals Funny Car trophy. “I’ve said it before; you don’t know if your last win is your last win. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this ain’t our last win. The Infinite Hero team is just on it. Our car has been amazing.”
Beckman’s march to the winner’s circle began with a near-perfect showing during qualifying. Behind the wheel of his Doug Chandler-sponsored Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, 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, and lock-in the No. 2 qualifying position. The momentum from his strong qualifying performance carried into race day, when other than a hiccup in round one, he clocked 3.8-second passes in the remaining three elimination rounds. Beckman defeated Steven Densham in round one, teammate Ron Capps in round two, and Alexis DeJoria in the semifinals to set up a final round matchup with John Force.
Against Force, the Dean Antonelli/John Medlen crew chief duo turned up the wick and tuned Beckman to a monster pass of 3.837 seconds, low E.T. of the event. By defeating Force, Beckman was successful in capturing his second nitro win at his hometown facility, and fourth overall, including his two Super Comp wins.“To beat John Force in the final makes it a pretty cool weekend,” said the Norco, Calif. resident. “It’s my home track. I’ve probably spent more time down there on that starting line than anybody else. I feel comfortable here with a lot of friends and family out here today. It was just the perfect storm. I had never won a nitro title here at Pomona until November of last year, and now I’ve got two in a row.”
Over the course of the season-opening weekend, Beckman amassed 126 points and will depart the first race of the year as the Funny Car point leader. The 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Series Funny Car runner-up credits much of his team’s success to his crew chiefs’ testing strategy during the pre-season test session in Las Vegas.
“We legitimately treated pre-season testing as testing,” explained the 2012 Funny Car world champion. “We changed some stuff in the cylinder heads, we ran our spare parts, we ran a whole lot of different disc packages in there, and then we went back to the November tune-up for here. We’ll phase all the new stuff in as the season progresses. [That work] shows. We were ‘top two’ every run in qualifying, and except for the first round, we were low E.T. or second low of every single session. Our car was just absolutely amazing. As a driver, you don’t want to limp your way into the winner’s circle; you want to dominate. It was awesome for us. Good performance comes from confidence. Confidence creates good performance, and I just hope it snowballs for us.”
Qualified: No. 2 (3.856 E.T. at 328.86 MPH)
E1: 4.291 E.T. at 294.18 MPH defeated Steven Densham 7.622 E.T. at 92.71 MPH
E2: 3.871 E.T. at 329.34 MPH defeated Ron Capps 4.625 E.T. at 156.01 MPH
E3: 3.843 E.T. at 332.92 MPH defeated Alexis DeJoria 9.729 E.T. at 78.34 MPH
E4: 3.837 E.T. at 333.33 MPH defeated John Force 3.897 E.T. at 332.34 MPH
Driver of the Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 9 (3.780 E.T. at 322.42 MPH)
E1: 5.233 E.T. at 143.76 MPH defeated by Shawn Reed 3.924 E.T. at 238.26 MPH
Starting from the No. 9 position, three-time Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown faced Shawn Reed as his first race day opponent of 2020. Brown had the immediate starting line advantage, but his machine went into early tire shake. He pedaled it, but it dropped a cylinder and wouldn’t hook back up. The three-time Auto Club Raceway at Pomona winner wisely aborted the run, and his Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel dragster coasted across the stripe in 5.233 seconds, while his opponent was able to take the win with his 3.924-second pass.
“We started off good in the first day of qualifying, and then on Saturday we got after it a little bit, but things didn’t go our way with a dropped hole. On race day, we lined up, we felt really good, and we thought we had a really great shot at getting the round win, but we fell short with some tire shake; the track was extremely cold.
“I have all the confidence in the world in (crew chiefs) Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald, and this whole Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel dragster team. We’re going to keep our heads down, keep pushing, keep working, and get ready for Phoenix. There are plenty of races ahead of us, and the main thing is, we’re going to grow at each and every one. Our game plan is just to keep getting better each and every time we hit the race track.”
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 3 (3.687 E.T. at 328.06 MPH)
E1: 3.659 E.T. at 328.14 MPH defeated Jim Maroney 4.503 E.T. at 179.71 MPH
E2: 3.685 E.T. at 326.40 MPH defeated Shawn Reed 4.466 E.T. at 169.23 MPH
E3: 4.927 E.T. at 140.69 MPH defeated by Austin Prock 3.678 E.T. at 330.63 MPH
By blasting to a stout 3.687-second pass on Saturday afternoon, Leah Pruett earned the No. 3 position to start race day on Sunday at her hometown track. The Redlands, Calif. native drew her former Nostalgia Funny Car competitor Jim Maroney in round one and sent him packing when she dispatched a 3.659 E.T., which held up to be low of race day. The quarterfinal round featured a matchup between Pruett and Shawn Reed. Pruett previously held a 5-1 record over her opponent, and she extended it to 6-1 when she powered her Mopar machine straight down the groove for the win. In the semifinals, Pruett and Austin Prock left the line evenly, but Prock pulled ahead for the win when Pruett’s dragster lost traction early into the run.
“Our heads are held very head high. It’s not easy to manage the amount of horsepower that this team is able to create, but how we manage it will reflect the potential that this team is capable of performing with throughout the year. We’ve found our groove, each crew guy is getting more comfortable with the car, and the results have shown that. This is a much better beginning to the season than we had last season, and we expect a good result at the end. For now, we’re extremely excited about what we can continue to pick away at. Managing the horsepower and the potential is going to be the highlight. We’re not struggling; we’re seeing a lot of great potential. Going into Phoenix next, we definitely plan on finishing the job there in our Mopar dragster.”
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 7 (3.911 E.T. at 328.38 MPH)
E1: 5.241 E.T. at 166.52 MPH defeated Bob Tasca III 9.056 E.T. at 82.90 MPH
E2: 4.625 E.T. at 156.01 MPH defeated by Jack Beckman 3.871 E.T. at 329.34 MPH
The 2020 season got off to a bumpy start for Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car team, but in true championship fashion, the team persevered and overcame an unfavorable situation, reminding everyone why they’re a force to be reckoned with.
While most NHRA teams had the luxury of making several test runs ahead of the season-opener, the NAPA team suffered a hauler fire on their way to the Las Vegas test session, which not only destroyed a truck, trailer, and race car but caused them to miss the test session and the opportunity to collect several runs worth of data heading into race one of 24.
The NAPA team spent the week leading into the Winternationals assessing the damage, rebuilding their cars, and setting up a new race rig. Their hard work paid off when they ran a solid 3.947-second pass on Friday afternoon, and backed it up with a 3.911 E.T. the next day. The 3.911-second run earned them a spot in the top half of the qualifying field. It also caught the eye of NHRA, who presented the NAPA team with their ‘Never Rest’ award for their ability to endure and overcome adversity.
Capps started race day at his home track with a tough first-round matchup against opponent Bob Tasca III. Capps had the opportunity to show off his driving prowess when his machine lost traction almost immediately. He was on and off the throttle and did a masterful job of keeping his Hellcat off the wall as he maneuvered the car to the finish line ahead of his competition. The round win set up an intramural battle against teammate Jack Beckman who’d been near-perfect all weekend. Against Beckman, Capps’ machine dropped a cylinder early into the run before giving way to an engine explosion, which forced him to give up on the race.
“We’re a little behind everyone else that had the luxury of going to pre-season testing in Vegas. I brag about the NAPA Know How our team has, and how Tobler is so well-prepared and has our team so well-prepared for situations like this. We would’ve loved to have made some more runs this weekend, but going .94 and a .91 right after that was such good medicine for these guys. Then, fast forward to Sunday, and we beat Tasca, who’s been running really well; that was a big win.
“We wanted to end our ‘Cinderella weekend’ with a trophy, but getting the ‘Never Rest’ award from NHRA was cool. To go out there, qualify top-half, get lane choice, win first round; we checked all of the boxes except winning the race. That’s pretty good considering these guys have spent a week tearing this thing apart and building a new setup.”
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 1 (3.841 E.T. at 333.25 MPH)
E1: 3.914 E.T. at 330.39 MPH defeated Alex Miladinovich 5.859 E.T. at 124.03 MPH
E2: 4.042 E.T. at 284.03 MPH defeated Tim Wilkerson 6.083 E.T. at 113.18 MPH
E3: 8.859 E.T. at 78.06 MPH defeated by John Force 3.923 E.T. at 331.28 MPH
No. 1 qualifier Matt Hagan knew he had a strong car and that the improvements made to the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car throughout the off-season put him in a good position to repeat the winning performances he enjoyed at the Winternationals in 2015, 2017 and 2018. He rolled into race day with confidence on the heels of an impressive qualifying performance, which saw his Mopar Dodge run low E.T. in Q1 and Q4, and second-low in Q2.
At his 265th professional event, Hagan worked his way through eliminations to a semifinal match-up against John Force to whom he ceded lane choice. The left lane was unkind to the DSR driver, and tire shake ended his hopes to advance further but didn’t dampen his enthusiasm about starting off the 2020 NHRA season on a good note. He will look to continue to build upon his performance at the next event on the schedule, the NHRA Arizona Nationals, where he returns as the defending champion.
“I had a great qualifying and test session and came out here and ran really well. We ended up going to the semis, which was a good, healthy weekend for us. All-in-all, just a great way to start the season, so I’m excited rolling into Phoenix. We’re going to make sure that we end up having some more good runs along the way. The car is working really well. We were No. 1 qualifier here in Pomona, and I think we’re going to carry that momentum into Phoenix. Hopefully, we can turn on some more win lights for Mopar Dodge, for Pennzoil, and for Sandvik and hopefully get a win soon.”
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 4 (3.881 E.T. at 321.50 MPH)
E1: 3.873 E.T. at 324.83 MPH defeated Cruz Pedregon 4.383 E.T. at 221.42 MPH
E2: 8.431 E.T. at 80.69 MPH defeated by John Force 4.011 E.T. at 275.06 MPH
Decked out in a new look, Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat was solid and consistent throughout qualifying for the 2020 season-opener. Johnson powered the MD Anderson Dodge to a 3.881 E.T. in Q4 to secure the fourth seed and a first-round matchup with Cruz Pedregon.
On Sunday morning, Johnson kicked off his campaign for a fourth Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Wally trophy by catapulting his Funny Car to its best run of the weekend (3.873 seconds) in round one to defeat Pedregon and move on to the next round against John Force. After a strong showing all weekend long, a dropped cylinder right at the hit of the throttle in the quarterfinals put the brakes on his efforts to start 2020 with a win.
“We had a great car all through qualifying, low E.T. in the first round, so that [dropping a cylinder] was the last thing we expected out of this thing. Obviously, something went wrong. It just doesn’t go from running that good to just dropping a cylinder right at the hit. We’ll look at all the data, find out what happened, and go into Phoenix with a lot of confidence on how well we ran this weekend.”NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:
1. Doug Kalitta – 117
2. Austin Prock – 99
3. Brittany Force – 87
4. Leah Pruett – 80
5. Clay Millican – 53
6. Justin Ashley – 52
7. Shawn Reed – 51
8. Shawn Langdon – 38
9. Terry McMillen – 34
10. Antron Brown – 32
1. Jack Beckman – 126
2. John Force – 94
3. Matt Hagan – 86
4. Alexis DeJoria – 67
5. Robert Hight – 61
6. Tommy Johnson Jr – 56
7. Ron Capps – 54
8. Tim Wilkerson – 52
9. Paul Lee – 34
10. J.R. Todd – 33
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