DSR NHRA Midwest Nationals Post-Race Recap
Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals Presented by Pennzoil
Event No. 8
World Wide Technology Raceway – Madison, Ill.
October 2-4, 2020
DSR Elimination Highlights:
- Tommy Johnson Jr. delivered the 11th consecutive Funny Car victory for Don Schumacher Racing, making drag racing’s winningest organization the first in NHRA history to go 11-in-a-row in a single category
- Johnson’s triumph was his second of the season, 21st of his career, and places him solidly in the thick of the Funny Car championship hunt with his teammates
- Matt Hagan, who posted a runner-up finish, moved into the Funny Car point lead, and DSR maintains its stronghold on the category by occupying the top four spots in the standings
- 34 points separate No. 1 ranked Hagan, No. 2 ranked Jack Beckman, and third-ranked Johnson, setting the stage for what could be a fierce three-man championship showdown between Hagan and Doug Chandler’s ‘giving cars’
- Leah Pruett walked away unharmed after a wild ride in the Top Fuel quarterfinals. She remains third in the point standings
- All seven DSR nitro-burning pilots advanced to the quarterfinals, and Tony Schumacher cracked into the ‘top 10’ in the Top Fuel standings
Cold temperatures prevented Factory Stock Showdown Series competitors from taking to the track on Sunday. NHRA Midwest Nationals Factory Stock competition is set to resume at the upcoming Houston event. It is to-be-announced whether qualifying from the St. Louis event will carry over into the Houston race.
Tommy Johnson Jr. Wins NHRA Midwest Nationals;
Keeps Funny Car Title Hopes Alive
MADISON, Ill. (October 5, 2020) – Behind the wheel of the Doug Chandler-sponsored MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, Tommy Johnson Jr. delivered the 11th consecutive Funny Car victory for Don Schumacher Racing, making drag racing’s winningest organization the first in NHRA history to go 11-in-a-row in a single category. Johnson’s NHRA Midwest Nationals triumph was his second of the season, 21st in his career, and first at World Wide Technology Raceway. For Johnson, who was battling it out to stay relevant in the all-DSR championship chase, the win cements him as a viable threat to capture that elusive first Funny Car world title.
After qualifying eighth, Johnson zoomed past Terry Haddock in the opening round of eliminations to face Paul Lee in the quarterfinals where it was Johnson’s right foot that sealed the victory with Johnson taking the win in 3.943 seconds versus Lee’s 3.892. The semifinals featured a showdown between Johnson and Jack Beckman, placing Doug Chandler’s ‘giving cars’ directly in the spotlight to square off for a berth to the final round. Beckman gave it a solid effort, but his was no match for Johnson’s session-best run of 3.896-seconds.
For the fourth time this year, the stage was set for an all-DSR Dodge Funny Car final elimination showdown, and Johnson was prepared to seek vengeance on Hagan in what was a rematch of the Indy 1 final round where Hagan emerged with the trophy. The tree lit up and Johnson launched ahead of Hagan, powering the MD Anderson Dodge to a stellar 3.884-second run, narrowly edging past his teammate with a margin of victory of less than 13-thousandths-of-a-second. Johnson’s triumph earned trophy No. 353 for DSR.
“What a different set of circumstances from last weekend at Gainesville where it was hot and humid, to come to St. Louis where it’s cold and the track is tight,” said Johnson. “My guys did a great job of adapting. It’s really hard to make your cars run well in these conditions. The cars want to run good, but it’s hard to get them down the track.
“The team did a great job of adjusting and made the right changes and it kept getting better and better with each run,” said Johnson speaking of his string of four consecutive sub-four-second elimination round passes. “Racing teammates (Jack) Beckman and (Matt) Hagan in the final was some of the best drag races all weekend. It was close and it was tight and if you want to win this championship you have to step up to the plate. Today this MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat stepped up to that plate. It was just an outstanding car and the fans got a show at the Mopar Express Lane Midwest Nationals presented by Pennzoil with the win.”
While Johnson remains in third, he is within close striking distance of his teammates who occupy the top two spots. Johnson sits within 18 points of No. 2 ranked Beckman, and 34 points behind No. 1 ranked Hagan.
“The last couple races have been “must do well” races and you look over there (at DSR teammates) and they’re still going rounds, so when you do face-up against them, it’s a must-win. You can’t let them keep going rounds and you fall a round behind. It was huge to be able to take out both of them (Beckman and Hagan) today and keep ourselves securely planted in it and make it a solid three-man race right now. We look forward to making Doug Chandler proud.”
Qualified: No. 8 (7.220 E.T. at 118.97 MPH)The Results:
E1: 3.919 E.T. at 324.05 MPH defeated Terry Haddock 4.174 E.T. at 283.31 MPH
E2: 3.943 E.T. at 324.51 MPH defeated Paul Lee 3.892 E.T. at 330.72 MPH
E3: 3.896 E.T. at 327.98 MPH defeated Jack Beckman 3.903 E.T. at 330.80 MPH
E4: 3.884 E.T. at 326.08 MPH defeated Matt Hagan 3.886 E.T. at 333.0 MPH
Driver of the Matco Tools ‘Tools for the Cause’/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 3 (3.720 E.T. at 326.95 MPH)
E1: 3.733 E.T. at 328.06 MPH defeated Justin Ashley 4.060 E.T. at 224.92 MPH
E2: 3.733 E.T. at 322.58 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.710 E.T. at 326.08 MPH
No other NHRA drag racer has been more successful at World Wide Technology Raceway than Antron Brown. With five St. Louis victories, Brown leads the NHRA pro classes in number of wins at the facility that sits in the shadows of the Gateway Arch. Brown, who debuted the ‘pinked out’ Matco Tools ‘Tools for the Cause’/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota dragster which he will run for the remainder of the season, entered the weekend looking extend his Midwest Nationals win count and breakthrough for his first win of the year. He seeded his 11,000-horsepower machine third for the second consecutive week and faced upstart Justin Ashley in the first round. Against Ashley, Brown took his machine straight down the groove for the win to set up a quarterfinal meeting with buddy Steve Torrence. Brown and Torrence were nearly even leaving the starting line, but Torrence took the early lead and never trailed for the win.
“It was a good race weekend for this Matco Tools team here at St. Louis. We qualified well again. We wanted to go more rounds. The positives are that we got the car leaving better, and it’s performing consistently. (Crew chiefs) Brian (Corradi) and Mark (Oswald) are getting things figured out. We had something break on us that second round. We’re picking at the tune-up, and we just came up short in a great drag race. We’ll get ready for Dallas in a few weeks. We want to qualify well again and stay consistent and go rounds.”
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 9 (4.310 E.T. at 249.07 MPH)
E1: 3.676 E.T. at 328.38 MPH defeated Pat Dakin 11.187 E.T. at 70.73 MPH
E2: No time, broke. Defeated by Tony Schumacher 3.750 E.T. at 291.13 MPH
Leah Pruett entered the NHRA Midwest Nationals ranked third and focused on gaining traction in the Top Fuel point standings. After advancing to the semifinals or better at the last four events, Pruett who returned to the familiar blue-and-white Mopar livery this weekend, had her sights set on the St. Louis trophy.
From the ninth seed, Pruett ran a blistering 3.676-second pass in the opening round of race day to easily defeat her opponent who struggled to get past the starting line. The run held up to be low E.T. of the event and she took her win light into the quarterfinals with lane choice over teammate Tony Schumacher. Her quest for a first St. Louis Top Fuel Wally was cut short in round two when halfway through the race, Pruett’s dragster broke in two and sent the speedster on a wild, airborne ride before coming to a stop. Pruett exited her vehicle unaided and unhurt, but understandably disappointed. She remains in third heading into the final three races of the season.
“That was the most intense round of competition I’ve ever had and the wildest ride I’ve ever had, that’s for sure. We’re still taking time to process and look at the parts and put a plan together for how to move forward. For me, my body is fine. My mind is fine. The DSR chassis and Impact safety equipment did everything it was supposed to. As a drag racer, this is what we do. There’s a risk. I think the quicker you can get back on the track, the better. Let’s not ever do that again. I thank the Lord, my team, the chassis shop, Don Schumacher, and everybody that helped. Not a great start to October and that was an early Halloween surprise. That’s for sure.”
Driver of the Okuma/Sandvik Coromant
Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 1 (3.680 E.T. at 332.92 MPH)
E1: 3.754 E.T. at 316.67 MPH defeated Kebin Kinsley 7.943 E.T. at 82.24 MPH
E2: 3.750 E.T. at 291.13 MPH defeated Leah Pruett – No time, broke
E3: No time, broke on the burnout; defeated by Doug Kalitta
Tony Schumacher rocketed the Okuma/Sandvik Coromant/Toyota dragster to a 3.680 second at 332.92 mph pass during Saturday’s lone qualifying session to reset the St. Louis Top Fuel speed record and earn the 88th No. 1 qualifier of his career. Starting from the pole position for the first time since the 2018 Richmond, Va. event, Schumacher was in prime position for a long day of going rounds as he sought to claim his first win since returning to the seat of a Top Fuel dragster back in July.
Schumacher, a two-time St. Louis champ, registered a winning 3.754 E.T. to dispatch his round-one opponent and earn a bid into round two to battle it out with Leah Pruett for a spot in the semifinals. Against Pruett, Schumacher took the early lead and never trailed for the win while his stablemate suffered a malfunction in the opposite lane which caused her machine to snap in the middle and become airborne before settling to a safe stop.
“It was unfortunate that we couldn’t take a shot at Doug Kalitta who is running for a championship as we have Leah (Pruett) out here as a team car that’s fighting for that championship too. We made a great showing this weekend for Sandvik and Okuma and all of the DSM partners. We had an awesome car getting the pole with that 3.68. In the semis, the throttle stuck on the burnout, and at that point, I pulled back two or three times, and as it’s motoring down the track and building speed, I just had to shut it off. That’s the responsible thing to do. The little gremlins are biting us. We don’t have a complete package just yet. Our guys are doing their best, but haven’t worked together very long. We’re doing the best we can with what we have. We’re thankful that Leah is safe, but you put it in perspective that, yeah, we got beat in the semis, but our team driver was protected because of all the great safety precautions we take at DSR with the chassis and canopy. We’ll go to Dallas, Texas, my home state, Toyota’s home state, in two weeks and get back after chasing a win.”
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 5 (4.750 E.T. at 185.03 MPH)
E1: 3.885 E.T. at 332.10 MPH defeated Blake Alexander 6.630 E.T. at 95.37 MPH
E2: 3.890 E.T. at 329.50 MPH defeated Dan Wilkerson 3.976 E.T. at 314.97 MPH
E3: 3.903 E.T. at 330.80 MPH defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr. 3.896 E.T. at 327.98 MPH
Starting from the fifth seed, Jack Beckman, a two-time 2020 event champion, kicked off his race day by speeding through the 1,000-foot timers in 3.885 seconds at 332.10 mph to clock low E.T. of round one and trailer his first opponent, Blake Alexander. Beckman then faced Dan Wilkerson in the second round and used the quickest run of the quarterfinals at 3.890 seconds to capture the victory. The round win set up a semifinal match between Doug Chandler’s ‘giving cars’ with Beckman set to square off against teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. Aboard the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge, Beckman made another stellar sub-four-second run, but his 3.903 E.T. couldn’t keep pace with Johnson’s 3.896-second pass, ending Beckman’s day.
After carrying the Funny Car point lead throughout six of the first seven events, Beckman ceded the top spot to teammate Matt Hagan on Sunday. Beckman occupies the No. 2 spot on the leaderboard and trails Hagan by 16 points.
“It’s not the way I thought the day would end. I really thought we had the car to beat. Guido (Dean Antonelli) and (John) Medlen tuned perfect for today’s conditions. We were low E.T., low E.T. and in the semis second-low E.T. The problem was the car we pulled up next to, Tommy Johnson, was low E.T. The silver lining is a DSR Dodge Funny Car wins for the 11th straight race for Don Schumacher. The upside for us is that we have three more chances to get trophies and the way our car is performing I wouldn’t put it past us.”
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 14 (12.851 E.T. at 71.93 MPH)
E1: 3.894 E.T. at 331.77 MPH defeated Cruz Pedregon 14.145 E.T. at 65.73 MPH
E2: 5.182 E.T. at 113.44 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 4.085 E.T. at 249.58 MPH
Ron Capps was armed with the utmost confidence upon entering the NHRA Midwest Nationals. Not only did he arrive at World Wide Technology Raceway fresh off of a win from the previous event, but the driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge has had tremendous success at the Madison, Ill. facility. With four St. Louis victories on his resume, Capps is the winningest Funny Car pilot in the venue’s history, and was looking to pick up his third win of the season on Sunday.
With only one run to make it in the show, Capps, like nearly all of his competitors, had to pedal his way to the finish line and eventually settled into the No. 14 spot. Against his first-round competitor, Cruz Pedregon, Capps navigated the NAPA Dodge to a stellar 3.894-second pass at 331.77 mph to defeat his tire-smoking opponent. The run earned Capps lane choice in round two versus teammate Matt Hagan, and held up to be the second-quickest of the round. In the battle of the DSR Dodges, Hagan came out on top despite running a slow 4.085 E.T. as Capps’ machine banged the blower near halftrack before giving way to a small explosion.
“I’m not sure what to say at this point. The NAPA guys are tearing the car apart to see what went wrong. That’s two pretty good boomers in two races. We have to figure out what the issue is. We have a great running car. We had lane choice. It hurts worse when you see your opponent go out and run 4.08 when you have an issue like that. It’s depressing when we have such a great car. The good thing is, I know they’ll dissect the problem and find out exactly what the issue was and we’ll have it fixed for Dallas in two weeks.”
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 6 (5.105 E.T. at 148.15 MPH)
E1: 3.959 E.T. at 319.98 MPH defeated Bob Bode 4.080 E.T. at 266.21 MPH
E2: 4.085 E.T. at 249.58 MPH defeated Ron Capps 5.182 E.T. at 113.44 MPH
E3: 3.935 E.T. at 328.62 MPH defeated Alexis DeJoria 8.043 E.T. at 87.47 MPH
E4: 3.886 E.T. at 330.0 MPH defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr. 3.884 E.T. at 326.08 MPH
Matt Hagan, a two-time 2020 event champion, had advanced to the semifinals or beyond in five of the first seven races of the season and knew a strong performance at the NHRA Midwest Nationals would yield him the opportunity to take over the Funny Car point lead.
Hagan began his weekend by qualifying the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat sixth to open up his elimination round march against Bob Bode. The Virginia native clocked a winning 3.959 E.T. to defeat his opponent and earn a spot in the quarterfinals where he was set to go toe-to-toe with teammate and fellow championship contender, Ron Capps. Against Capps, Hagan nabbed the starting line advantage and despite hazing the tires near the top end, held on for the win over his teammate who suffered a mechanical malfunction. In the semifinals, the two-time Funny Car world champion faced Alexis DeJoria where he clocked a 3.935 E.T. versus his opponent who rattled the tires early into her run. With the semifinal victory, Hagan moved into the points lead, surpassing Jack Beckman, who bowed out in the semifinals.
The final round featured an all-DSR Dodge showdown, and the chance to claim DSR’s 11th consecutive Funny Car victory. Hagan piloted his Mopar machine to an impressive 3.886-second at 333.0-mph pass, but Tommy Johnson Jr. captured the win with his 3.844 E.T. to deliver win No. 353 for Don Schumacher.
Hagan carries a 16-point lead over Beckman heading into the third-to-last race of the season.
“As tough as it is to lose a close final like that, we gained ground and took the points lead. We had a good weekend and it’s hard to complain when you make a final round. That was the bad side of a really good drag race for our Mopar team. It’s a Mopar-sponsored event and we wanted to win for Mopar and Express Lane, but at least another DSR Dodge Hellcat won again with Tommy (Johnson). I just can’t say enough about my guy working so hard with no mistakes. (Crew chief) Dickie Venables is really tuning a mean race car. We’ve had such a fast car all season long. We’re making ground and that’s what matters. We’re used to this thing being tight and most of these championships are won on the final day of the season by one or two points. I’m extremely proud of my guys. It was a good day and weekend at St. Louis.”NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:
1. Steve Torrence – 642
2. Doug Kalitta – 640
3. Leah Pruett – 562
4. Billy Torrence – 506
5. Terry McMillen – 436
6. Justin Ashley – 433
7. Antron Brown – 425
8. Shawn Langdon – 415
9. Clay Millican – 347
10. Tony Schumacher – 234
1. Matt Hagan – 659
2. Jack Beckman – 643
3. Tommy Johnson Jr. – 625
4. Ron Capps – 527
5. Tim Wilkerson – 480
6. J.R. Todd – 473
7. Bob Tasca III – 465
8. Alexis DeJoria – 375
9. Paul Lee – 319
10. Cruz Pedregon – 303
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 353, 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 seven 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 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 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