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Don Schumacher Racing Pre-Race Report: Gainesville

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DSR 18NHRA Gatornationals Pre-Race Report

AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals
Event No. 7
Gainesville Raceway
September 25-27, 2020

Highlights:

  • DSR’s Funny Car contingent will be looking to extend its streak of nine consecutive wins at the Gatornationals. All four DSR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat pilots have claimed at least one victory throughout the first six races of 2020
  • The only other time in the series’ history that a team swept 10 consecutive race wins in a single category was during the 2017 season when the same lineup of current DSR Dodge drivers contributed to that streak
  • DSR is currently in championship contention in each of the three categories it competes in – Top Fuel, Funny Car, and the Factory Stock Showdown Series
  • DSR occupies the top three spots in the Funny Car point rankings with Jack Beckman leading the class. Matt Hagan and Tommy Johnson Jr. sit No. 2 and 3, respectively, and Ron Capps rounds out the top five
  • Leah Pruett arrives in Gainesville second in the Top Fuel championship standings with a runner-up finish at the NHRA U.S. Nationals
  • Pruett will once again pull double-duty, competing in both the Top Fuel and Factory Stock categories, and will have the opportunity to compete for two trophies over the course of the weekend
  • Mark Pawuk occupies the No. 2 spot on the Factory Stock leaderboard after a runner-up finish at the previous event

DSR Driver Information:

Top Fuel:
ANTRON BROWNANTRON BROWN
Driver of the Matco Tools/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 (U.S. Nationals):
Qualified seventh; Quarterfinal finish (defeated T.J. Zizzo in E1; defeated by Steve Torrence in E2)

2020 Statistics:
Six round wins; ranked seventh in points

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

Noteworthy:

  • Brown made his NHRA debut at the 1998 event, competing in Pro Stock Motorcycle

Quotable:
“I’m looking forward to going to Gainesville. It’s always been a track that’s special to me. I remember it like it was just yesterday, back in 1998 when I started my NHRA career on a Pro Stock Motorcycle in Gainesville.

“This race brings a lot of light to our series right now to be able to leave Indy and continue our stretch to race for a championship. With this being the start of us going on the road, I’m very pumped up, very amped, and am looking forward to making some special things happen with our Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota/Hangsterfer’s dragster, and I can’t wait to get to the Gators.”

LEAH PRUETTLEAH PRUETT
Driver of the Mopar Dodge SRT Hellcat Redeye Top Fuel Dragster

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

Last Event (U.S. Nationals):
Qualified sixth; Runner-up finish (defeated Terry McMillen in E1, Tony Schumacher in E2, Steve Torrence in E3; defeated by Shawn Langdon in E4)

2020 Season Statistics:
11 round wins; ranked second in points

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

Noteworthy:

  • Pruett arrives in Gainesville second in the Top Fuel championship standings with a runner-up finish at the NHRA U.S. Nationals
  • Pruett will once again pull double-duty, competing in both the Top Fuel and Factory Stock categories, and will have the opportunity to compete for two trophies over the course of the weekend

Quotable:
“Indy is great, and we’re all very fortunate to have been able to run there as many times as we did, but the essence of traveling and seeing our various fan groups across the country is something I’ve truly missed. We traditionally have not had a great deal of racing success at the Gatornationals, which brings me to my favorite overall Gainesville memory – setting the stock Dodge Demon record on a cool late evening with the talented SRT team back in 2017. Now that we are continuing to adorn the Hellcat Redeye livery at the Gatornationals, I hope to create our very best memory there yet, by putting the themed dragster of Dodge’s most currently available, highest horsepower factory-produced car, the Hellcat Redeye, in the winner’s circle. Something I feel we are outrageously close to doing.

“The championship math is simple. We are basically in what some would call ‘Countdown weather,’ without a Countdown. We are aware of our position, two-and-a-half rounds (50 points) behind Doug (Kalitta) and with Steve Torrence half of a round (10 points) behind us, but that is not our focus. They, and the other strong competitors, are not our focus. Qualifying low, heightening our adaptability and staying focused on our hot rod is what we believe will yield us the results we want.”

TONY SCHUMACHERTONY SCHUMACHER
Driver of the Okuma/Sandvik Coromant
Toyota Top Fuel Dragster

NHRA Gatornationals Event Highlights:
Five-time event winner (2004, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2017)
Four-time runner-up (2000, 2011, 2012, 2015)
Three-time No. 1 qualifier (2006, 2011, 2017)

2019 Gainesville Recap:
DNS

Last Event (U.S. Nationals):
Qualified 14th; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Clay Millican in E1; defeated by Leah Pruett in E2)

Career Statistics:
507 races; 84 wins; 87 No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:

  • Leads the Top Fuel class in number of wins at Gainesville (five): 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2017

Quotable:
“I am absolutely looking forward to a race outside of Indy. I’m ready to see our Florida fans, it’s been so long. Just like at Indy, (crew chief) Mike Green and I have had incredible success in Gainesville. As our new team starts to jell, we should get better week after week. Plus, I really love the Gainesville track.”

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 (U.S. Nationals):
Qualified seventh; Event champion (defeated Cruz Pedregon in E1, Ron Capps in E2, Tim Wilkerson in E3, J.R. Todd in E4)

2020 Season Statistics:
Two event wins; 15 round wins; ranked No. 1 in points

Career Statistics:
330 races; 32 wins; 27 No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:

  • Beckman is the current point leader, and including his U.S. Nationals victory, is a two-time winner in four final rounds in 2020
  • Beckman is currently participating in the Infinite Hero Foundation’s Task Force 22 campaign to help raise vital funds for mental health and suicide prevention programming for our nation’s veterans. The former U.S. Air Force sergeant has donated a custom helmet as well as a Zoom call, available to win now through the end of the month: https://www.infinitehero.org/task-force-22/

Quotable:
“I love Indy, but it’s going to be fun to go to a different venue and I fully expect to see fans foaming at the mouth for drag racing. The fans in this area have been clamoring for this since March, so it’s going to be a lot of fun. You want to win every race you go to and it would be great to give Don Schumacher a 10th straight Funny Car victory. We lost the points lead for a race, so it felt good to come back and vindicate ourselves at the U.S. Nationals, and we’ll try to extend it in Gainesville.”

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 (U.S. Nationals):
Qualified second; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Jim Campbell in E1; defeated by Jack Beckman in E2)

2020 Season Statistics:
One event win; eight round wins; ranked fifth in points

Career Statistics:
561 races; 65 wins (one Top Fuel); 24 No. 1 qualifiers

Quotable:
“There’s always a lot of hoopla surrounding the Gatornationals every year. It’s one of the biggest races on the NHRA circuit, it holds a lot of prestige and history. But this year, 2020, it’s extra special because it’s the first track that we’ll be going to outside of Indianapolis since the pandemic shutdown. Gainesville was the first race that all of us racers hoped would make the cut to get back on the revised NHRA schedule after it was originally postponed.

“The Gatornationals is one of those races where you want to make sure you get a win at least once in your career. I’ve been lucky enough to win at Gainesville, but this year, the way the season has transpired with just five races to go, it seems like we’re in the Countdown. It feels like a sprint to the end, and I couldn’t think of a better race, or a better track to go to than Gainesville to try and get a start on winning the 2020 Funny Car championship. I love the mentality that (crew chief) Rahn Tobler and our team have had at the last few races at Indy. He’s been very aggressive and trying to steal every point we can, and we’re going to try and continue to do that this weekend.”

MATT HAGANMATT HAGAN
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye

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 (U.S. Nationals):
Qualified fifth; Semifinal finish (defeated Paul Lee in E1, Bob Tasca III in E2; defeated by J.R. Todd in E3)

2020 Season Statistics:
Two event wins; 13 round wins; ranked second in points

Career Statistics:
270 races; 35 wins; 38 No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:

  • Hagan is a two-time winner and two-time No. 1 qualifier in 2020; currently sits second in points
  • Recently captured victory No. 350 for Don Schumacher Racing by winning the rescheduled Indy 2 event during the U.S. Nationals
  • Seeking his first Gainesville Funny Car trophy

Quotable:
“I have never won Gainesville. I’ve been to the final there, Jack Beckman beat me in 2018, so I really want to put a Gainesville Wally (trophy) on the shelf. We definitely have the car to do that this year. Our Dodge Hellcat Redeye is really responding well to the adjustments (crew chief) Dickie Venables has been making. I’ve got a really strong race car underneath me, my lights have been great, and I’ve been pretty shallow and making sure we keep lane choice.

“The package we’re creating this year has been great. We’ve won a few races. The points battle is always a dogfight, but especially this year with no points reset. Everything is coming down to these last few races, and it’s going to be a battle to the end. Our DSR team cars are tough, there’s just no way around it. My teammates are good drivers, good leavers, they have good race cars, good tuners, and all of the same parts and pieces that we do, so it’ll come down to who will have the best tune-up/driver combo. I’ve won a championship with Dickie (2014), and my first in 2011, so I understand the pressure and what it takes to get there. Sometimes you just have to sit back and trust in your team and allow all of the hard work they’ve put in over the year and the winter to come to you, so I’m just going to drive this Dodge Hellcat as best as I can, and focus on putting on four win lights this weekend.”

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 (U.S. Nationals):
Qualified No. 1; First round exit (defeated by Dale Creasy Jr. in E1)

2020 Season Statistics:
One event win; 11 round wins; ranked third in points

Career Statistics:
476 races; 20 wins (two Top Fuel); 21 No. 1 qualifiers (one Top Fuel)

Noteworthy:

  • Johnson’s NHRA career began at the 1984 Gatornationals when he made his racing debut while competing in Super Gas at 15-years-old
  • Johnson has one event win and one runner-up in 2020; has qualified No. 1 at three of the last four events; currently sits third in points
  • Seeking his first Gainesville Funny Car trophy

Quotable:
“Gainesville is always a special race for me, it’s where my career started back in 1984. The Gatornationals was the first national event I ever raced. Even though we’re racing there in September and not in March, it’s still the anniversary of the event, so I’m looking forward to it. Gainesville is one of the premier races on the tour, it’s one I’ve never won and I’d really like to get a Gainesville trophy. I’ve got a funny feeling that this may be the year.

“We’re excited to be going to our first race outside of Indianapolis, and going somewhere new for the first time in months. We’re looking forward to a great fan turnout. There’s a lot more pressure on this particular event this year as we’re nearing the points closeout, rather than the points battle just beginning, so it’s a little different than normal.”

Factory Stock Showdown Series:

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

2019 Gainesville Recap:
DNQ

Last Event (U.S. Nationals):
Qualified second; Event runner-up (defeated Kim Shirley in E1, John Cerbone in E2, Richard Bierie in E3, Daniel Condon in E4; defeated by Aaron Stanfield in E5)

FSS Career Statistics:
15 races; three runner-ups; two No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:

  • Pawuk occupies the No. 2 spot on the Factory Stock leaderboard after a runner-up finish at the NHRA U.S. Nationals

Quotable:
“After qualifying No. 2 and going to the finals at the U.S. Nationals, we definitely have shown that we have revived our program. I’m looking forward to the Empaco Equipment Dodge Challenger Drag Pak having another nice, long Sunday and going rounds in Gainesville this weekend. The team is going to test with Leah (Pruett) before the race to try out some new parts and pieces which we think will make us be even more competitive. (Crew chief) Kevin Helms did a great job turning our performance around from that first showing in Indy this year, and we look forward to continuing it this weekend.”

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)

Last Event (U.S. Nationals):
Qualified sixth; Second round exit (defeated James Jeschke Jr. in E1; defeated by Jesse Alexandra in E2)

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

Quotable:
“We have been unable to test for months until this week, which brings me great joy leading into this race. Heading into to South Georgia Motorsports Park with some setup changes Kevin Helms has been wanting to try that will hopefully bring Mark (Pawuk) and I even closer to that win we are both hunting for. I’m proud of Mark and his success in Indy and couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”

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.

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

Photo Credit: Auto Imagery via Don Schumacher Racing

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