September 4, 2017, Brownsburg, Ind. – There were plenty of Big Wins for Dodge at the 2017 U.S. Nationals, NHRA’s premier event, and a near-miss for points leader Ron Capps in Funny Car.
Capps came as close as he ever had to winning the NHRA U.S. Nationals on Monday afternoon. He put his Mopar® HEMI®-powered Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car in the final round for the first time in the ultra-prestigious event at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, but in the end, he finished just shy of checking off the biggest item remaining on the to-do list in his storied career.
“This race is such a big deal,” Capps said after his runner-up effort, looking for a bright spot to overcome his disappointment. “Leaving here as the regular season points leader going into the Countdown to the Championship in Charlotte is the silver lining in a cloud right now.”
And more good news: Capps and the entire Dodge Funny Car team believe they have their car sorted out and ready to defend their championship. “I’ve never been so happy so quickly after a loss like that because I know going into the Countdown, we’ve got our racecar back,” he added with confidence.
Dodge and Mopar still had a very successful U.S. Nationals, however, with Larry Gilley winning the Stock Eliminator category in his 1969 Dodge Dart, while Kevin Helms took home the Wally trophy in Super Stock with a victory in his 2010 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak.
Although Capps was bested by J.R. Todd in the final round of the 63rd annual event known as “The Big Go,” his appearance represented the 16th final for Mopar Dodge Funny Car drivers from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule in 2017. They have won 12 times. Additionally, Capps will enter the Countdown to the Championship playoffs as the No. 1 seed on the strength of six victories and a staggering 39-12 won-loss record.
The point standings re-set for the top ten after the Indianapolis event, putting Capps in prime position to defend his series title from 2016.
In Monday’s final, Capps turned in a very solid 3.949-second pass at 325.53 mph, but still was defeated by Todd’s 3.923 at 325.61. Capps left the starting line with a .057-second reaction time, while Todd left after .054.
Capps first drove his Dodge Charger R/T from DSR past Alexis DeJoria, then powered past fellow Dodge competitor Jim Campbell in the second round as Campbell smoked his tires. Capps next took down Mopar DSR teammate Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T team in a clean, side-by-side race to reach the final round.
Beckman had narrowly bested teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Mopar-powered Riley Hospital for Children team in the first round, ending Johnson’s bid to go to his third straight final. He then defeated a smoking Del Worsham to match up with teammate Capps, where his day came to an end. Beckman and team didn’t walk away from the U.S. Nationals empty-handed, though, as they took the $100,000 victory in the Traxxas Funny Car Nitro Shootout all-star event on Sunday, another giant feather in the Dodge brand’s Big Go cap.
Matt Hagan, meanwhile, qualified his Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T from DSR No. 1 with both ends of the track record, but was upset by Campbell in round one. Hagan’s car shook as he struggled off the line and could never rebound, ending his bid to go back-to-back in the event.
In the Top Fuel ranks, Leah Pritchett opened her day by driving her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil dragster past Wayne Newby on a clean run while Newby smoked the tires and backfired as he left the starting line. Pritchett then defeated Pat Dakin on another strong pass while Dakin’s car went up in flames. Pritchett finally was bested in the semis by eventual winner Steve Torrence as Pritchett smoked the tires at the initial hit of the throttle.
Ten-time and defending event winner Tony Schumacher and the Mopar-powered U.S. Army team knocked out Terry McMillen in the first round on a clean pass as McMillen dropped cylinders. Schumacher next took out Doug Kalitta in a heavyweight battle to take on No. 16 qualifier Kebin Kinsley, who upset Schumacher to advance to the final round.