DSR Phoenix Post-Race Recap
NHRA Arizona Nationals
Event 2 of 24 (Phoenix)
Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park
February 21-23, 2020
DSR Phoenix Elimination Highlights:
- Tommy Johnson, Jr. drove the MD Anderson Funny Car to its very first event win on Sunday at the NHRA Arizona Nationals, delivering the second consecutive victory for team sponsor Doug Chandler in 2020
- Johnson defeated fellow ‘giving car’ driver and the winner of the season-opener, Jack Beckman, in the final round to earn his 20th NHRA victory and second at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park
- By securing the win, Johnson moved into second in the Funny Car point standings behind Beckman, the current point leader
- Beckman’s final round appearance was his third in a row (Pomona 2 2019, Pomona 1 2020, Phoenix 2020)
- Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Antron Brown (Top Fuel) advanced to the semifinals
Tommy Johnson, Jr. Earns 20th NHRA Victory, and First for MD Anderson
CHANDLER, Ariz. (February 24, 2020) – Tommy Johnson Jr. drove the MD Anderson Funny Car to its very first event win on Sunday afternoon at the NHRA Arizona Nationals, delivering the second consecutive victory for team sponsor Doug Chandler in 2020. Johnson defeated fellow ‘giving car’ driver and the winner of the season-opener, Jack Beckman, in the final round to earn his 20th NHRA victory and second at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.
“There wasn’t going to be a loser,” said Johnson of his final round meeting with Beckman and the Infinite Hero Foundation Funny Car team. “Doug Chandler is supporting both these teams, and both are ‘giving’ cars and paying it forward so much. You love to bring it home for somebody like that who helps so many others. Yeah, I wanted to win, but even if we had lost, Doug still won. That’s the main focus of both of our teams – to go out and do the job that Doug’s wanting us to do, and that is promote these foundations that he’s supporting. No matter who won that one, it was a win. Beckman got the first one of the year, and I got the second one, so it’s even now.
“We’re making the statement that we’re racing to beat cancer, and today we did that,” Johnson continued. “And hopefully, that helps with the support of everybody seeing this car and realizing what we are trying to do here and that is to get people to donate money to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, and let these guys research cancer more and figure out how to not only treat it but stop it.”
As the No. 4 qualifier, Johnson’s journey to the Phoenix winner’s circle began with a first-round victory over Paul Lee. Johnson was first out of the gate and never trailed, capturing the win with his 3.878 E.T. In the quarterfinals, Johnson’s Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat was quick and consistent yet again, crossing the beams in 3.864 seconds while his opponent fouled out by stepping on the throttle early. The semifinals found Johnson duking it out with teammate Ron Capps, and again he did not falter, using a starting line advantage coupled with a solid 3.871 E.T. to earn the holeshot win and set up a final-round meeting with Beckman. Johnson was previously 0-4 in final rounds against his teammate, but this time, the win light would go off in Johnson’s lane when he defeated his tire-smoking stablemate with a 3.883-second at 326.40 mph pass.
“Coming out here today, we had a lot of confidence,” said Johnson, who made his professional debut in 1989 while competing at the Chandler, Ariz. facility in the Top Fuel category. “To go out there first-round and lay down a solid number, we were really happy with that. We weren’t low E.T., but we were really close and to come out second-round and run low E.T. of that session., we knew we had a solid car. As a driver, going into each round, knowing you’ve got a car that’s going to perform, it makes your job a little easier and gives you a little less stress. John Collins, Rip Reynolds, and the guys did a great job. I mean, even in Pomona, we had a good car, we just dropped a cylinder in E2. We even had a little issue with that in qualifying here, and the guys worked hard to fix that, and now it’s running really well and consistent. This team did their homework over the off-season.”
Not only did Johnson get to breathe a small sigh of relief in getting that first win of the year out of the way so early in the season, but he also moved up to second in the Funny Car point standings.
“I was very relieved when I turned the corner down there after the finals; it felt like it took a little bit of pressure off. We had such a good car last year, and we didn’t finish well at all, so it feels good to come out strong and get that out of the way right off the bat and know how good of a car you have. Now, we shift to maintaining it.”Qualified: No. 4 (3.868 E.T. at 323.81 MPH)
E1: 3.878 E.T. at 325.85 MPH defeated Paul Lee 3.898 E.T. at 320.05 MPH
E2: 3.864 E.T. at 323.74 MPH defeated Bob Tasca III, Foul (red light)
E3: 3.871 E.T. at 319.98 MPH defeated Ron Capps 3.864 E.T. at 328.06 MPH
E4: 3.883 E.T. at 326.40 MPH defeated Jack Beckman 6.156 E.T. at 119.31 MPH
Driver of the Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 13 (3.786 E.T. at 324.44 MPH)
E1: 3.729 E.T. at 326.95 MPH defeated Terry McMillen, Foul (red light)
E2: 3.721 E.T. at 326.86 MPH defeated Justin Ashley 10.031 E.T. at 78.07 MPH
E3: 4.360 E.T. at 183.74 MPH defeated by Doug Kalitta 3.672 E.T. at 330.55 MPH
Antron Brown was hoping to pick up his first win of 2020 at the same facility where he licensed in Top Fuel 13 years prior. While he didn’t leave with the Wally trophy, he was successful in collecting two round wins to advance to the Arizona Nationals semifinals. Brown’s race day began with extending his Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park round-one record to 12-1 when he powered the Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel dragster to a winning 3.729-second pass. The quarterfinals pitted Brown against Justin Ashley, and once again, Brown drove his 11,000-horsepower machine to a straight, clean pass for the win. His bid for a fourth Phoenix trophy came to an end in the semifinals when a dropped cylinder caused him to slow to a 4.360 E.T. versus Doug Kalitta’s 3.67.
“We had a good outing today, making it to the semifinals. The good news was simply seeing our Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota/Hangsterfers dragster get back on track. We know we still have our work cut out for us, but it feels good to have some success with the changes we’ve made, which helped us be more consistent. Our team is definitely headed in the right direction. Now, we’re just going to get ready for Gainesville next and keep our heads down and keep moving in maximum overdrive. It’s good to have (crew chief) Brian Corradi back and all of our Matco boys back together. I’m really looking forward to the Gatornationals.”
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 3 (3.680 E.T. at 328.06 MPH)
E1: 3.654 E.T. at 331.12 MPH defeated Doug Foley 5.328 E.T. at 127.81 MPH
E2: 3.688 E.T. at 324.20 MPH defeated by Billy Torrence 3.703 E.T. at 328.78 MPH
Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park has treated Leah Pruett well over the years, beginning with her first-ever Top Fuel victory at the 2016 NHRA Arizona Nationals. Since that time, she has gone on to win from the Phoenix pole in 2017 and finish as the runner-up in 2019. Starting from third for the second event in a row, Pruett was ready for a long day of going rounds. She successfully picked off Doug Foley in round one with a stout 3.654-second pass to set up a meeting with Billy Torrence in the quarterfinals. Against the elder Torrence, Pruett made another solid pass (3.688 E.T.) in her Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster, but her competitor’s starting line advantage enabled him to claim the round win.
“We closed out our Sunday much earlier in the afternoon than we had wanted. Phenomenal performance by the Mopar team in E1 with that 65. I’m disappointed in myself with what happened in E2. Putting that double-bulb on, that was unintentional. I got antsy, and I two-stepped it and was late on the tree. On the return of that, I can guarantee, Gainesville will be nothing but ‘heads down,’ and I’ve got two cars to run. It would be amazing to put them both in the winner’s circle, but the car and the team are doing a phenomenal job. I’m trying to perfect my weaponry – my driving perspective, and I didn’t conquer that this weekend in the second round of eliminations, but one thing is for sure, I guarantee you that I will.”
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 6 (3.889 E.T. at 329.42 MPH)
E1: 4.051 E.T. at 318.02 MPH defeated Cruz Pedregon 6.254 E.T. at 109.34 MPH
E2: 3.895 E.T. at 329.42 MPH defeated Jim Campbell 8.959 E.T. at 70.61 MPH
E3: 3.882 E.T. at 329.91 MPH defeated John Force 3.917 E.T. at 326.63 MPH
E4: 6.156 E.T. at 119.31 MPH defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr. 3.883 E.T. at 326.40 MPH
Jack Beckman entered the race weekend as the Funny Car point leader after winning the season-opener two weeks prior. He was looking to extend his win streak to three-in-a-row and came oh-so-close by advancing all the way to the final round where he faced his ‘giving car’ teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.
Beckman has had Johnson’s number in previous final rounds, never allowing his teammate the win. But on Sunday afternoon, Johnson was able to narrow the score to 1-4. Beckman initially had the advantage as they launched off the starting line but lost traction in the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat and, while he made efforts to pedal it, was unable to recover control quickly enough.
Beckman’s runner-up finish to his teammate still keeps him atop the Funny Car championship standings with 220 points.
“How do you hang your head? We still have the best car, and the points are showing that. We didn’t have the best car here this weekend. We actually struggled a little bit, but it goes to show you great teams pull out all the stops on race day and figure out how to make it happen. I’m happy for my teammate and his MD Anderson car. We didn’t give it to them. They earned it. But we’re going to be tough to beat the entire rest of the year.”
Driver of the Pennzoil Synthetics/NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 8 (3.896 E.T. at 327.66 MPH)
E1: 3.905 E.T. at 329.02 MPH defeated J.R. Todd 6.383 E.T. at 103.46 MPH
E2: 4.184 E.T. at 232.19 MPH defeated Jeff Diehl, Foul (red light)
E3: 3.864 E.T. at 328.06 MPH defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr. 3.871 E.T. at 319.98 MPH
After earning a starting position in the top half of the field, Ron Capps found himself locked into a fierce first-round battle with fellow Funny Car world champion, J.R. Todd. Capps was first on the throttle and led from start to finish, taking the win in his ‘chromed out’ Pennzoil Synthetics/NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat over Todd’s tire-smoking effort. Capps then earned the quarterfinal victory when his next opponent stood on the gas early and fouled out, handing Capps his 750th round win. The milestone accomplishment was achieved at the same facility where Capps earned his very first round win while making his professional NHRA debut in 1995.
In the semifinals, Capps and the Pennzoil/NAPA team faced DSR stablemate Tommy Johnson Jr. Capps powered his machine to its best run of the weekend (3.864 seconds) but couldn’t quite catch up to Johnson, whose starting line advantage earned him the holeshot victory.
“For this team, considering where we were and how few runs we had coming in here, we’ve made huge strides for (crew chief) Rahn Tobler, Even though we lost that close race in the semifinals, Tobler was ecstatic, and it feels like we have our race car back, and that makes everyone feel good. We had a really large clutch-ware problem that we’ve been fighting, and he finally got it down to where he was comfortable, and when he does that, the car goes out and can run in the 3.80s like that.
“Just a close drag race. I accidentally went in and lit the pre-stage and stage lights against TJ and just kind of sat there. He and I have raced and been teammates for a long time. He gave me a second before he went in. It was just letting two cars do the talking. Even though we lost, the good thing was it was a DSR car going into the final. Unfortunately, we lost a close one. But, I feel really comfortable and good, and Rahn Tobler is happy and excited to get to Gainesville.”
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 1 (3.859 E.T. at 331.61 MPH)
E1: Foul (made contact with a timing block), defeated by Jeff Diehl
By earning the No. 1 starting position for the third consecutive event, Matt Hagan and the Mopar team put themselves in prime position to defend their 2019 NHRA Arizona Nationals title. Hagan began Sunday morning by lining up opposite No. 16 qualifier Jeff Diehl in round one, and it was clear crew chief Dickie Venables wasn’t taking their first opponent lightly. The Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat was on a tremendous run but charging hard to the left toward the centerline. Hagan did his best to muscle it back over, but narrowly brushed a timing block just before the finish line, which caused his opponent to claim the automatic round win by default.
“My guys did a heck of a job today; the car was on a really good run. It was just one of those deals where it got inside on me, and I couldn’t get it back. I thought I lifted soon enough not to hit anything, but a header brushed a timing block, and that DQ’d us. But, a heck of a job for this Mopar team to run such a good number like that on race day. We were No. 1 qualifier, have such a good race car, and I hate that I let my team down like that. It’s race day; I was just trying to get to the finish line first. All in all, we’ve got a great car, things are going in the right direction, the guys are working hard, the parts and pieces are working well, and it’s all coming together.”
NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:
1. Doug Kalitta – 212
2. Brittany Force – 153
3. Leah Pruett – 137
4. Austin Prock – 131
5. Steve Torrence – 121
6. Justin Ashley – 108
7. Antron Brown – 103
8. Shawn Langdon – 91
9. Clay Millican – 85
10. Shawn Reed – 83
1. Jack Beckman – 220
2. Tommy Johnson Jr. – 175
3. John Force – 173
4. Ron Capps – 128
5. Matt Hagan – 124
6. Tim Wilkerson – 107
7. Robert Hight – 100
8. Alexis DeJoria – 99
9. Bob Tasca III – 87
10. Paul Lee – 65
10. J.R. Todd – 65
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 347 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 photos: NHRA