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Don Schumacher Racing Pre-Race Report: Gainesville NHRA Gatornationals

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DSR 18Gainesville Pre-Race Report

NHRA Gatornationals
Event 3 of 24 (Gainesville)
Gainesville Raceway – Gainesville, Fla.
March 13-15, 2020

Highlights:

  • NHRA’s winningest team is approaching 350 victories (currently at 347), and by campaigning cars in three different categories (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Factory Stock) during the weekend, achieving that milestone is within reach during the NHRA Gatornationals
  • DSR last ‘tripled-up’ at the 2006 Las Vegas II event with winning entries coming from the Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock categories
  • Tommy Johnson Jr. enters the weekend as the most recent Funny Car winner on tour after having raced to victory at the previous event in Phoenix
    Johnson’s NHRA career began at the 1984 Gatornationals when he made his racing debut while competing in Super Gas at 15-years-old
  • Funny Car point leader Jack Beckman won the season-opener in Pomona and finished as the runner-up in Phoenix. He is seeking his third consecutive final round in 2020
  • Doug Chandler’s ‘giving cars,’ with Beckman behind the wheel of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge, and Johnson piloting the MD Anderson Dodge, have won the last three events, beginning with Pomona II 2019
  • Matt Hagan is seeking his third consecutive Funny Car No. 1 qualifier
  • Funny Car ace Ron Capps spent his most recent off-weekend at the 62nd annual March Meet in Bakersfield, Calif. where he took home the trophy in the AA/Fuel Altered class for the first time
  • Antron Brown made his NHRA debut at the 1998 event, competing in Pro Stock Motorcycle
  • The first of eight Factory Stock Showdown events of 2020 will be contested at the Gatornationals. DSR’s Dodge Challenger Drag Pak duo is comprised of Mark Pawuk, and 2018 FSS series champion Leah Pruett
  • Pruett will pull double-duty in Gainesville, competing in both the Top Fuel and Factory Stock Showdown categories
    Note:
  • At this weekend’s event, DSR will debut a season-long trackside program to benefit MD Anderson. For a minimum donation of 50 dollars, fans have the opportunity to place an ‘in honor of’ sticker on Johnson’s MD Anderson Dodge Funny Car for that particular race weekend. Fans may pose for a photo by the sticker. Proof of donation is required. Please ask for Judy at the MD Anderson Funny Car pit. To donate, visit http://www.mdanderson.org/myfundraising and use the DSRFC solicitation code. (Image of the sticker is available at the bottom of this report)

DSR Driver Information:

Top Fuel:
antron brownANTRON BROWN
Driver of the Matco Tools MOTOR Information Systems/
Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel Dragster

Gainesville Event Highlights:

  • 2013 event champion
  • Four-time runner-up:
    Top Fuel: 2010, 2014, 2017
    Pro Stock Motorcycle: 2006
  • Two-time No. 1 qualifier:
    Top Fuel: 2010
    Pro Stock Motorcycle: 2001

2019 Gainesville Recap:
Qualified fifth; First round exit (defeated by Richie Crampton)

Last Event (Phoenix):
Qualified 13th; Semifinal finish (defeated Terry McMillen in E1, Justin Ashley in E2; defeated by Doug Kalitta in E3)

2020 Statistics:
Two round wins; ranked seventh in points

Career Statistics:
432 races; 66 wins (16 Pro Stock Motorcycle); 49 No. 1 qualifiers (11 PSM)

Noteworthy:

  • Made his NHRA debut at the 1998 event, competing in Pro Stock Motorcycle
  • Campaigning a special one-off livery to promote Matco Tools MOTOR Information Systems

About Matco Tools MOTOR Information Systems:

  • MOTOR Information Systems recently announced a partnership with Matco Tools, a leading manufacturer and distributor of quality professional automotive repair tools, diagnostic equipment and toolboxes, which enables customers to now purchase MOTOR’s collection of manuals and guides exclusively from Matco’s nearly 2,000 distributors.
  • For nearly 100 years, MOTOR has published a wide variety of repair manuals and guides for auto repair shops.
  • For the first time in its history, those manuals and guides will be delivered through a new distribution network: Matco Tools.

Quotable:
“Gainesville is always a big race for us; we love going there. I just remember being there as a kid and seeing Kenny Bernstein, the ‘king of speed,’ break the first 300-mph barrier out there. I’m really looking forward to racing in Gainesville after our outing in Phoenix. Our team is headed in the right direction of being where we want to be, so I’m excited to get out there with our brand-new chassis that we had built at DSR. We’re also bringing out a new livery – the MOTOR Information Systems car exclusively brought to you by Matco Tools. It’s looking really cool, and MOTOR is a catalog book that is a service manual for any type of car. You can buy it from the Matco Tools trucks, so it’s another great tool that Matco brings to the table, and I feel honored to be bringing it out. Hopefully, we can sizzle to our first win of the season in the MOTOR car.”

LEAH PRUETTLEAH PRUETT
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster

2019 Gainesville Recap:
Qualified fourth; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Pat Dakin in E1; defeated by Richie Crampton in E2)

Last Event (Phoenix):
Qualified third; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Doug Foley in E1; defeated by Billy Torrence in E2)

2020 Season Statistics:
Three round wins; ranked third in points

Career Statistics:
143 races; eight wins; 12 No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:

  • Will pull double-duty in Gainesville, competing in both the Top Fuel and Factory Stock Showdown categories

Quotable:
“Eastbound and down! There may have been two weeks off between races, but the action hasn’t stopped for the teams. Our Top Fuel team has organized improved chassis features within the DSM shop that I am excited about in regards to handling and performance come Q1. Additionally, we have been testing the Factory Stock Drag Pak cars in Florida prior to this race, and feel good about our chances. We were just starting to be competitive again at the end of 2019, and have focused our attention this off-season on both building on that momentum with our current Drag Paks, as well as the yet-to-be-released 2020 car. There are only eight races to obtain the challenging goal of winning in both classes on the same Sunday, which is why I’m extra pumped for this event.”

Funny Car:
JACK BECKMANJACK BECKMAN
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Gainesville Event Highlights:

  • 2018 event champion
  • Two-time No. 1 qualifier (2016, 2018)

2019 Gainesville Recap:
Qualified sixth; Semifinal finish (defeated J.R. Todd in E1, Tommy Johnson Jr. in E2; defeated by Tim Wilkerson in E3)

Last Event (Phoenix):
Qualified sixth; Event runner-up (defeated Cruz Pedregon in E1, Jim Campbell in E2, John Force in E3; defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr. in E4)

2020 Season Statistics:
One event win; seven round wins; ranked first in points

Career Statistics:
326 races; 31 wins; 27 No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:

  • Won the season-opener in Pomona and finished as the runner-up in Phoenix. He is seeking his third consecutive final round in 2020

Quotable:
“Saying that I’m looking forward to the Gatornationals would be a huge understatement. We’ve had two-and-a-half weeks off, and to me, this seems like it’s going by slower than the two months we had off in the off-season. I guess a lot of that is due to the tremendous start we’ve had to the season. When you have a car that’s running this good, and I feel like I’m driving good, you almost want to be in it every single weekend. With the way the schedule works, the Gatornationals is kind of on its own island. You have two-and-a-half weeks before it and two-and-a-half weeks after it that you’re off, and then we start hitting the season hard and heavy. So, I can’t think of a better way to punctuate the east coast opener than to leave there with a Wally, and I feel like with the way that everything is jelling on our car, we’re the odds-on favorite to win it. That being said, it’s incredibly difficult to beat four people on race day, but if I was going to be driving for any team, or any car, it’d be that Infinite Hero Dodge Charger, so I’m very much looking forward to this weekend.”

RON CAPPSRON CAPPS
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Gainesville Event Highlights:

  • Three-time event winner (2006, 2007, 2015)
  • Two-time runner-up (2000, 2016)

2019 Gainesville Recap:
Qualified eighth; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Bob Tasca III in E1; defeated by Robert Hight in E2)

Last Event (Phoenix):
Qualified eighth; Semifinal finish (defeated J.R. Todd in E1, Jeff Diehl in E2; defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr. in E3)

2020 Season Statistics:
Three round wins; ranked fourth in points

Career Statistics:
557 races; 64 wins (one Top Fuel); 24 No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:

  • Spent his most recent off-weekend at the 62nd annual March Meet in Bakersfield, Calif. where he took home the trophy in the AA/Fuel Altered class for the first time

Quotable:
“Man, it’s been a nice break, especially for our NAPA team and everything the crew has had to go through with the trailer fire. The break after Phoenix was much-needed for them to go back to the shop and actually unload the trailer and really comb through everything that the fire and the smoke had damaged. I know (crew chief) Rahn Tobler was extremely happy with the performance of the car in Phoenix even though we lost that close race in the semis. We made a huge, huge change in the clutch department, and it responded. When Tobler is happy, it makes me happy.

“Going to Gainesville, and seeing the weather, mid-80s all weekend, and there’s such a passionate group of fans that go to the Gatornationals, and with the history that track holds in the sport, I’m just really excited to get down there. We’re looking to get ourselves back up in points and get our boss, Don Schumacher, another Wally. It’s been a good season so far for the Funny Car department at DSR, and hopefully, we can continue that this weekend. I know we’ll have a great race car. We just need to put together a few good runs and get ourselves right back in it.”

MATT HAGANMATT HAGAN
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Gainesville Event Highlights:

  • 2018 runner-up
  • Two-time No. 1 qualifier (2010, 2011)

2019 Gainesville Recap:
Qualified fifth; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Jonnie Lindberg in E1; defeated by John Force in E2)

Last Event (Phoenix):
Qualified No. 1; First round exit (defeated by Jeff Diehl in E1)

2020 Season Statistics:
Two round wins; ranked fifth in points

Career Statistics:
266 races; 33 wins; 38 No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:

  • No. 1 qualifier at the first two events of 2020

Quotable:
“I’ve never won in Gainesville. I think we’ve got a really good opportunity to win there this year. Our Dodge Hellcat is running strong; we’ve been No. 1 qualifier at the first two races. We just kind of missed the tune-up second round in Pomona when it shook the tires, and then in Phoenix, I hit a cone, so our record on paper is not indicative of how strong this car really is.

“My family is east coast-based, and this is our first race of the year on this side of the country, so it’s always exciting. We know a lot of people down there, and the fans come out in droves. The Gainesville race is a lot of fun.”

TOMMY JOHNSON JR.TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

2019 Gainesville Recap:
Qualified third; Quarterfinal finish (defeated John Smith in E1; defeated by Jack Beckman in E2)

Last Event (Phoenix):
Qualified fourth; Event champion (defeated Paul Lee in E1, Bob Tasca III in E2, Ron Capps in E3, Jack Beckman in E4)

2020 Season Statistics:
One event win; five round wins; ranked second in points

Career Statistics:
472 races; 20 wins (two Top Fuel); 18 No. 1 qualifiers (one Top Fuel)

Noteworthy:

  • Enters the weekend as the most recent Funny Car winner on tour after having raced to victory at the previous event in Phoenix
  • Johnson’s NHRA career began at the 1984 Gatornationals when he made his racing debut while competing in Super Gas at 15-years-old

Quotable:
“Gainesville is one of my favorite races on the tour. It’s kind of where it all started for me, and there are several reasons why I love that race starting all the way back there in 1984. I’m looking forward to it, especially coming off that win in Phoenix. We have a lot of momentum, a great car, and Gainesville is one of the ‘crown jewels’ on the NHRA tour. It’s one of the races you want to win, and I haven’t been able to do that yet. It’s not one of my better tracks, but it’s time to change that. Last year, we ran well, but we had an issue where we were blowing the body off early in the year. This year, we’re coming in with a much better record from the first two races. Hopefully, we can carry the momentum that we gained in Phoenix, and if our car can continue to run as good as it has been, this may be the year where we can finally get that win.”

MD Anderson

With a minimum donation of 50 dollars to MD Anderson, fans can elect to place an ‘in honor of’ sticker on Johnson’s car for the race weekend.

Factory Stock Showdown Series:

MARK PAWUKMARK PAWUK
Driver of the Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak

2019 Gainesville Recap:
DNQ

FSXX Career Statistics:
13 races; two runner-ups; two No. 1 qualifiers

LEAH PRUETTLEAH PRUETT
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak

2019 Gainesville Recap:
Qualified sixth; First round exit (defeated by Kevin Skinner in E1)

FSXX Career Statistics:
17 races; three wins; one runner-up; two No. 1 qualifiers

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.

Follow Don Schumacher Don Schumacher Racing at ShoeRacing.com, on Twitter and Instagram at@shoeracingandFacebook.com/shoeracing.

Photo Credit: Auto Imagery via Don Schumacher Racing, Driver photos: NHRA

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