DSR NHRA U.S. Nationals Post-Race Recap
Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals
Event No. 6
Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis
September 4-6, 2020
DSR Elimination Highlights:
- Fresh off the heels of achieving NHRA national event win No. 350 on Saturday evening, Don Schumacher Racing continued its triumphant streak on Sunday when Jack Beckman raced to victory to deliver the ninth consecutive Funny Car Wally trophy for drag racing’s winningest organization.
– Beckman is a two-time winner and four-time finalist in 2020, and moved back into the Funny Car point lead
- DSR campaigned entries in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Factory Stock Showdown – and had a contender compete in the final round of each of the three classes
- Leah Pruett led the DSR Top Fuel brigade by driving the Dodge Hellcat Redeye dragster to a runner-up finish and moved into second in the Top Fuel point standings
- No. 2 Factory Stock qualifier Mark Pawuk advanced to the final round, and made sub-eight second passes in each of the five elimination rounds
- DSR maintained its stronghold on the Funny Car category with three Dodge Hellcats occupying the 1-2-3 spots
Jack Beckman Extends DSR’s Funny Car Win Streak to Nine-in-a-Row
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (September 6, 2020) – Fresh off the heels of achieving NHRA national event win No. 350 on Saturday evening, Don Schumacher Racing continued its triumphant streak on Sunday during the prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Jack Beckman defeated J.R. Todd in the Funny Car final round to deliver the ninth consecutive Funny Car Wally trophy for drag racing’s winningest organization.
Beckman’s march to the winner’s circle began by qualifying seventh with his Q3 run during the rescheduled NHRA Summernationals (Indy 2) final round. Beckman and DSR teammate Matt Hagan squared off to vie for the Indy 2 crown, and the chance to win the 350th title for Don Schumacher on the 50th anniversary of the drag racing patriarch’s first NHRA national event win. Hagan outran Beckman to capture the victory, but Beckman didn’t have to wait long for another shot at redemption.
On Sunday morning, Beckman’s run through the Funny Car field began when he drove the Doug Chandler-sponsored Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to a stout 3.909 E.T. against Cruz Pedregon’s tire-smoking effort. In the quarterfinals, the 2012 Funny Car world champion ousted teammate Ron Capps before trailering Tim Wilkerson with a holeshot victory during the semifinals. In his second final round appearance in a 24-hour period, Beckman lined up opposite J.R. Todd to battle it out for the event championship. The Infinite Hero machine blasted down the track in 3.908-seconds to post the win over Todd’s 3.960-second effort and keep DSR’s Funny Car win streak, which dates back to October 2019, alive.
“This may be the last time I race at Indy, and that Infinite Hero Dodge Charger team left nothing on the race track,” said Beckman referring to the recent news announcing the conclusion of the Chandler family Giving Car program at the end of the 2020 season. “This is what drag racing is all about. A huge thank you to Terry Chandler for starting this program, and Doug Chandler for keeping it going. We had six wonderful years, a whole lot of Wally trophies, and a whole lot of amazing fans. I also want to give a special shout-out to Judy Pittman. It’s her birthday today. She’s the Chandler family representative and is by our side at every race, and we were glad to be able to get this done on her birthday. I hope I can keep racing next year but I’m going to revel in this. Our team was awesome today.”
With his win at ‘the Big Go,’ Beckman, a two-time winner and four-time finalist in 2020, reclaimed his position at the top of the Funny Car standings. Beckman held the point lead through the first four events, before briefly falling to second at the last event.
Qualified: No. 7 (3.940 E.T. at 325.53 MPH)
E1: 3.909 E.T. at 327.74 MPH defeated Cruz Pedregon 7.734 E.T. at 87.81 MPH
E2: 4.003 E.T. at 316.01 MPH defeated Ron Capps 5.454 E.T. at 137.79 MPH
E3: 3.915 E.T. at 329.10 MPH defeated Tim Wilkerson 3.914 E.T. at 324.59 MPH
E4: 3.908 E.T. at 327.35 MPH defeated J.R. Todd 3.960 E.T. at 324.28 MPH
Driver of the Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 7 (3.747 E.T. at 327.19 MPH)
E1: 3.752 E.T. at 325.61 MPH defeated T.J. Zizzo 3.793 E.T. at 320.81 MPH
E2: 4.088 E.T. at 246.30 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.750 E.T. at 325.77 MPH
Starting from the top half of the field for the third consecutive event, hometown racer Antron Brown kicked off race day with a round-one matchup against T.J. Zizzo. Brown used a starting line advantage coupled with a solid 3.752 E.T. to extend his round win record to 7-2 over Zizzo and advance to the quarterfinals.
During his E2 showdown with longtime pal Steve Torrence, Brown once again was first out of the gate and carried the lead in his Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology Toyota until just before the 660-foot cones when he started to haze the tires. Torrence was able to chase him down and drive away with the round win, ending Brown’s chances for a fourth U.S. Nationals trophy.
“It wasn’t the U.S. Nationals race day that we wanted. We made three really good consistent runs. We made three of five runs in the mid-3.70s. This Matco Tools team is on the mend. We really felt that was our race in the second round against ‘SteveO’ (Torrence). We got too aggressive. The car was trying to run way too fast, like a high .60. We have five races left and we’re going to hit it hard. We have to attack these five. We’ll keep chasing and get ready for Gainesville. We’re close.”
Driver of the Nordic Boats/Revchem Composites Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 9 (3.762 E.T. at 304.74 MPH)
E1: 3.761 E.T. at 313.58 MPH defeated Doug Foley 3.768 E.T. at 322.65 MPH
E2: 3.731 E.T. at 330.47 MPH defeated by Shawn Langdon 3.723 E.T. at 319.90 MPH
Cory McClenathan made a strong Q1 pass of 3.762-seconds to qualify the Nordic Boats/Revchem Composites dragster solidly in the competitive Top Fuel field. In his 19th U.S. Nationals start, McClenathan faced No. 8 qualifier Doug Foley in round one. Against Foley, McClenathan had the starting line advantage and powered his dragster to his best E.T. of the season to earn the round win over his opponent. Round two found McClenathan squaring off against a heavy-hitter – No. 1 qualifier Shawn Langdon. McClenathan launched hard and kept it hooked up to run a career-best (E.T. and speed) run of 3.731 seconds at 330.47-mph, but was edged out by Langdon’s 3.723-second pass.
“What do you say. These cars keep getting faster and faster, and I feel like I’m now just getting my footing and (crew chief) Todd Okuhara and the guys are getting a handle on it. The competition should fear this car. It can step up and bite anybody at the top of the field. My biggest thing now is how do we move forward? How do we find a way to finance the car for the rest of the year? We have a great race car and now we can help our teammates in the points. We’d be a great a blocker car. I have to thank Nordic Boats and Revchem Composites, and we kept the Pennzoil in the motor all weekend long here at Indy. The car had no problems. Big thanks to everyone. My guys did a hell of a job. Let’s see if we can back up Leah (Pruett) and help out our teammates at DSR. I really have to thank everyone at DSR for all they’ve done the past few months. Let’s move forward.”
Driver of the Mopar Dodge SRT Hellcat Redeye Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 6 (3.742 E.T. at 326.24 MPH)
E1: 3.703 E.T. at 325.61 MPH defeated Terry McMillen 3.726 E.T. at 320.13 MPH
E2: 4.312 E.T. at 211.89 MPH defeated Tony Schumacher 9.048 E.T. at 79.71 MPH
E3: 3.743 E.T. at 322.34 MPH defeated Steve Torrence 3.724 E.T. at 325.14 MPH
E4: 5.141 E.T. at 145.75 MPH defeated by Shawn Langdon 3.705 E.T. at 326.32 MPH
Another driver in DSR’s stable with the opportunity to add more hardware to the team’s trophy case was Top Fuel pilot Leah Pruett who drove her fierce new-look Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye from the No. 6 spot to her first final elimination round appearance at the historic race affectionately known to drag racing fans as “the Big Go”.
To get there, Pruett powered her way past Terry McMillen in the opening round to pair up with DSR teammate Tony Schumacher in the quarterfinals. Lady luck played a part in providing her an opportunity to advance as Schumacher dropped a cylinder early in his run while Pruett’s dragster smoked the tires, requiring some pedaling to get her back on track and across the finish line to move to the semi-finals against Steve Torrence.
Pruett’s 0.053-second reaction time against her opponent’s 0.093, gave her the edge that she needed by turning on the win lights with a 3.743 sec /322.34 mph pass to Torrence’s quickest run of the event at 3.724/325.14, to capture the holeshot win with a margin of victory of 0.0215 seconds.
Pruett then faced Shawn Langdon for the first time in a final round but saw her opportunity to battle for the win go up in tire smoke at halftrack, settling for a runner-up finish As a consolation prize, her efforts this weekend moved her into second place in Top Fuel Championship standings.
“This Big Go did not disappoint on the intensity meter from needing to make a good lap in Q3 just to make the show to throwing down a .70 in the first round against Terry (McMillen) to run a 3.72. Those are the conditions we love to flourish in. After the second round they moved up the session 35 minutes and in one of the most impressive moments was the preparation for the semifinal round. To see this Dodge SRT team stay cool and calm and deliver what we did in the semis makes me very proud. We fed off of that and tried to duplicate that for the final and had clutch wear issues. We leave here second in points and that is incredible. The team faced a lot of challenges today mechanically, mentally and time-wise and we are going to take this as a building block for Gainesville.”
Driver of the Okuma/Sandvik Coromant Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 14 (3.863 E.T. at 311.63 MPH)
E1: 3.770 E.T. at 324.59 MPH defeated Clay Millican 3.763 E.T. at 286.74 MPH
E2: 9.048 E.T. at 79.71 MPH defeated by Leah Pruett 4.312 E.T. at 211.89 MPH
Tony Schumacher reunited with longtime crew chief Mike Green to campaign the Okuma/Sandvik Coromant Toyota at the final six events of the 2020 season, starting with the prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals. Schumacher has claimed an unprecedented 10 U.S. Nats victories, with three of them occurring during his time with Green calling the shots. Knowing they will compete at the rest of the events, the Schumacher/Green duo were looking to make headway in the Top Fuel points as they seek to crack into the top 10. They banked 20 points during round one on Sunday morning when Schumacher claimed the upset holeshot victory over his higher-qualified opponent, Clay Millican. Up next for the winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA history was a quarterfinal meeting with teammate Leah Pruett. Once again, Schumacher was the first to stand on the gas, but he started dropping cylinders right at the hit of the throttle. Pruett also encountered issues, smoking the tires early, but she was already far enough downtrack and was able to post the round win.
“We showed up, got three qualifying runs, and ran ok. We didn’t have a great car and had to make a big change. Mike Green did a lot of listening. We have a lot of talent here at DSR. We ran a good first round. We made some more changes against Leah (Pruett) and when I hit the gas it dropped a cylinder and Mike just shut me off. Unfortunately, she had problems and smoked the tires, and more than likely we could have beat her, but we could have done some damage. We’re trying not to go out and hurt parts and pieces. It’s unnecessary. It’s heartbreaking, but now we go root for Leah and hope she gets into that points lead.”
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 2 (3.881 E.T. at 327.19 MPH)
E1: 3.924 E.T. at 328.06 MPH defeated Jim Campbell 4.902 E.T. at 166.25 MPH
E2: 5.454 E.T. at 137.79 MPH defeated by Jack Beckman 4.003 E.T. at 316.01 MPH
Still riding the momentum of his win at the Dodge NHRA Indy Nationals at the previous event, Ron Capps drove the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to a provisional No. 1 qualifier run on Friday night. He was knocked from the top spot while waiting to make a pass during Q3, but by powering to the second-quickest run of the final session, earned the No. 2 starting position. While he was thrilled to pick up his first Indianapolis trophy at the last event, he had his sights set on the ultimate Indy prize – a U.S. Nationals victory, and based on his strong qualifying performance, he looked to be in a good position to accomplish that goal.
In the opening session, Capps came out firing on all cylinders and advanced easily with a 3.924 E.T. at 328.06 mph to defeat Jim Campbell and move on to face teammate Jack Beckman in the quarterfinals. With identical reaction times of 0.067, Capps took the lead early, but lost traction at the 300-foot mark and eventually ceded the run to Beckman, the eventual U.S. Nationals Funny Car champion.
“Another U.S. Nationals in the books, and we came into race day with such confidence. Our NAPA guys did such a great job during qualifying. Came off the trailer No. 1 on Friday and went down the track in all conditions. It was sunny out on Saturday and we went down again. It gives you great confidence. We made a great run first round. Our DSR teammates are so good, you don’t want to run into them until the final round. The way the ladder lined up, we had to run the Infinite Hero car in round two and we both went up there to go low E.T., and that’s the way it works. Unfortunately, the car shook and pulled the tires loose. It’s rare for this car to do that. (My crew chief) Rahn Tobler is looking at the data now and we’ll figure out what happened and get after it at the next race in Gainesville. We have five races to run for a championship. It’s exciting. Vegas is for points-and-a-half, but we want to get a run on it these next races. It sort of feels like a Countdown and we’ll fight back to the top.”
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye
Qualified: No. 5 (3.919 E.T. at 328.54 MPH)
E1: 3.942 E.T. at 326.63 MPH defeated Paul Lee 4.737 E.T. at 169.13 MPH
E2: 3.939 E.T. at 327.03 MPH defeated Bob Tasca III 3.940 E.T. at 328.46 MPH
E3: 4.132 E.T. at 273.05 MPH defeated by J.R. Todd 3.946 E.T. at 327.03 MPH
Matt Hagan had already taken ownership of a Wally trophy during the U.S. Nationals race weekend before Sunday’s elimination rounds had even gotten underway. On Saturday evening, he and Jack Beckman squared off in the rescheduled, rain-delayed Indy 2 final round where Hagan raced to victory to earn win No. 350 for DSR. The milestone triumph was made all the more special as he was able to deliver it to team owner Don Schumacher on the 50th anniversary of Schumacher’s first NHRA national event victory which also occurred at the historic Indianapolis venue.
By qualifying fifth for Sunday’s Funny Car field, Hagan was in prime position to double-up on the hardware. He drew Paul Lee in round one and charged into the quarterfinals with a 3.942 E.T. to defeat Lee’s tire-smoker. Hagan then earned the holeshot victory over Bob Tasca III, posting a 3.939 E.T. behind the wheel of the red-hot Hellcat Redeye versus his opponent’s solid 3.940. In the semifinals, Hagan once again was out of the gate first. He and his opponent, J.R. Todd, ran side-by-side down the track until Hagan’s machine got loose just before reaching the finish line, and Todd was able to pull ahead for the win.
Hagan started the race weekend occupying the No. 3 spot on the Funny Car leaderboard, but his Saturday night win combined with a semifinal appearance on Sunday propelled him up to second in points.
“We had a really great weekend. It was a great points weekend for this Mopar Dodge SRT Hellcat team by winning that race on Saturday night. We covered a lot of ground. We brought home another trophy for DSR. A milestone trophy, win No. 350. This Hellcat race car is running great. I’m hating to leave Indy, we did so well here. We’ve got great data, it’s hard to want to leave. We’re going rounds and turning on win lights. Our team and Beckman are throwing down and battling it out, and it’s going to be a fight all the way to the end and that’s what I love. I love being a part of that. I’m really excited to try and bring it home for Mopar. Let’s keep winning races.”
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Riley Kids Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 1 (3.878 E.T. at 326.40 MPH)
E1: 4.011 E.T. at 276.58 MPH defeated by Dale Creasy 4.009 E.T. at 315.64 MPH
As has been a U.S. Nationals tradition since 2014, Avon, Ind. resident Tommy Johnson Jr. was once again behind the wheel of the special Riley Kids Funny Car, helping to raise awareness for DSR’s local children’s hospital at drag racing’s premier event. Johnson put the Riley Kids car prominently in the spotlight by powering his machine to low E.T. of both of Saturday’s qualifying sessions to start race day from the No. 1 spot for the third time in the last four events.
Johnson faced Dale Creasy Jr. in round one of eliminations and was even with his opponent leaving the starting line but the Riley Kids car quit near the top end, and Creasy was able to pull ahead to claim the upset win.
“That was a heartbreaking loss for this team and Riley Hospital for Children. We’ve had such a great weekend in qualifying and a great performing car. You can’t predict parts failure and something happened late in the run. The car was on a really good run. It was going to be a nice, solid pass in the first round to take the win and move on. Something happened on the top end of the track and we’re still trying to figure out what it was. It was so late in the run I was ready to reach over for the parachute levers and then it just broke loose. It’s heartbreaking, but the year’s not over yet. We just have to move on to the next one in Florida in three weeks. We have a solid race car. If we can get some luck to go our way, we’ll be good.”
Factory Stock Showdown Series:
Driver of the Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 2 (7.903 E.T. at 174.41 MPH)
E1: 7.965 E.T. at 173.49 MPH defeated Kim Shirley 8.795 E.T. at 154.90 MPH
E2: 7.957 E.T. at 173.99 MPH defeated John Cerbone 8.107 E.T. at 169.32 MPH
E3: 7.967 E.T. at 173.56 MPH defeated Richard Bierie 8.160 E.T. at 168.05 MPH
E4: 7.966 E.T. at 172.96 MPH defeated Daniel Condon 8.057 E.T. at 169.49 MPH
E5: 7.979 E.T. 172.83 MPH defeated Aaron Stanfield 7.918 E.T. at 172.98 MPH
Mark Pawuk led the DSR Dodge Challenger Drag Pak duo by qualifying his Empaco Equipment-sponsored machine second out of a competitive 24-car field. His stellar Q2 performance carried over from qualifying and helped him earn a bid to the finals, his second at Indy behind the wheel of a Factory Stock machine. He advanced past E1 on Saturday night to earn a spot in round two on Sunday where he ran the lowest E.T. of the session. He used his reaction time advantage coupled with a 7.967-second pass to advance to round four and then clocked a 7.966 E.T. to move on to his third FSS final round. In the finals, he posted his sixth consecutive sub-eight second run, but his 7.979 wasn’t enough to outrun Aaron Stanfield.
“It was a great weekend for the DSR Drak Pak Challengers. We came up just a little short in the final. It was my third Indy final and I was hoping this would be the charm, but we gave it our all. We’re definitely back on track to go rounds. Kevin (Helms) and Terry (Snyder), Kyle (Pawuk) all worked very hard. Our teammate, Leah (Pruett), also ran great. We’re looking forward to going to Gainesville and keeping the momentum going.”
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 6 (7.958 E.T. at 172.08 MPH)
E1: 7.969 E.T. at 171.64 MPH defeated James Jeschke Jr. 8.207 E.T. at 161.98 MPH
E2: 8.031 E.T. at 170.95 MPH defeated by Jesse Alexandra 7.988 E.T. at 172.70 MPH
Double-duty driver Leah Pruett earned a sixth-seeded qualifying position in ‘the Big Go’ Factory Stock Showdown field. The 2018 FSS U.S. Nationals champion was hoping to pick up her second Indy Wally trophy on Sunday, but she was outrun by competitor Jesse Alexandra in E2 after picking up a first-round win on Saturday night.
“It was like a Barnham & Bailey Circus. Running, not running. Changing firesuits. We thought we’d run back-to-back after Top Fuel. Our competition knows they need to play some games on the line. They know we have good Drag Paks that can run solid numbers now. We ran great this weekend and just got flat beat in the second round. It was great to see Mark (Pawuk) go to the final round. With no testing, to come to the U.S. Nationals and go rounds and qualify well and prepare for the Gatornationals is great. We need to find a little more in the tune-up and we can do that in the next few weeks.”NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:
1. Doug Kalitta – 492
2. Leah Pruett – 442
3. Steve Torrence – 432
4. Justin Ashley – 370
5. Billy Torrence – 331
6. Shawn Langdon – 330
7. Antron Brown – 316
8. Terry McMillen – 305
9. Clay Millican – 279
10. T.J. Zizzo – 179
1. Jack Beckman – 517
2. Matt Hagan – 482
3. Tommy Johnson Jr. – 460
4. J.R. Todd – 387
5. Ron Capps – 376
6. Bob Tasca III – 355
7. Tim Wilkerson – 348
8. Alexis DeJoria – 241
9. Cruz Pedregon – 234
10. Paul Lee – 225
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 351, and DSR is one of a very small handful of teams in the motorsports industry to surpass the 350 milestone. DSR owns 17 world championships in three different NHRA categories.
Headquartered in Brownsburg, Indiana, DSR currently fields eight 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, the Nordic Boats/Revchem Composites/Hawkeye Industries dragster driven by Cory McClenathan, the Mopar/Pennzoil dragster driven by Leah Pruett, and the Okuma/Sandvik Coromant machine driven by eight-time world champion, Tony Schumacher. 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