Johnson Jr. Caps Big Season for Dodge with a Win;
Capps is Championship Runner-up for the Fifth Time
November 12, 2017, Pomona, Calif. – A drama-filled Sunday afternoon at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona closed out the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series calendar, as Mopar® Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. gave the brand its 16th victory of the season in the category during the NHRA Finals, and teammate Ron Capps finished as runner-up in the year-end standings.
Austin Williams also claimed the win for Mopar in Stock Eliminator behind the wheel of his 1972 Plymouth Duster.
Mopar HEMI® power from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) claimed a total of 21 wins in the Pro classes over the course of 2017 – the brand’s 80th anniversary year. DSR Dodge Funny Cars reached the winner’s circle 16 times, taking victories in exactly two-thirds of the events this season and winning twice as many races as the rest of the manufacturers combined. In addition, at least one Mopar Dodge Funny Car reached the final round in 21 of 24 events on the schedule. Mopar-backed Top Fuel dragsters from DSR, meanwhile, took five victories and appeared in a total of 10 final rounds.
On Sunday, at Pomona, Johnson drove his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T from DSR past newly crowned 2017 Funny Car champion Robert Hight in the final with a 3.920-second pass at 329.10 mph from the left lane after a .037-second reaction time. Hight struggled to find traction, making a lap of 6.827 at 103.71 after leaving the line with a reaction time of .055.
The victory was Johnson’s second of the season and the 15th of his Funny Car career. He also has two in the Top Fuel category.
Johnson, the defending event winner in the NHRA Finals at the historic Pomona track, first knocked out Dodge driver Bob Bode despite losing a cylinder down track as Bode couldn’t get off the starting line cleanly. Johnson next bested Alexis DeJoria, but due to a faulty parachute, ended up in the sand at the end of the shutdown area.
Undeterred, the team brought out a backup body from last season and bested DSR Mopar teammate Jack Beckman on a side-by-side run to reach their sixth final round of the year. Johnson finished sixth in the final point standings after his victory.
Ron Capps, the defending Funny Car champion, came into the Sunday elimination rounds of the NHRA Finals eight markers behind Robert Hight in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, despite having led the standings for the majority of the season on the strength of eight wins. Capps and his Dodge Charger R/T team from DSR came up just short in their bid for back-to-back world championships, however, as Capps was bested by Del Worsham in round one, guaranteeing Hight the 2017 title. Capps has now been runner-up in Funny Car five times in his career.
Fellow Dodge driver “Fast” Jack Beckman had a very solid weekend, qualifying No. 1 for the second race in a row and opening the Sunday elimination rounds with a pass just .002 off his qualifying elapsed time to push his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T past Jeff Arend, who smoked his tires. Beckman next made another clean pass to eliminate John Force, before ultimately being defeated by Johnson. Beckman finished fourth in the final standings and collected two wins during the 2017 campaign.
Matt Hagan moved to the second round in his Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car from DSR after a solo in round one when Gary Densham was unable to make the call. Hagan’s 2017 campaign then came to a close after he was narrowly defeated by Hight. Hagan took four victories during the season and finished fifth in points.
In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett drove her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil dragster from the DSR stable past Scott Palmer on a clean pass in round one as Palmer went up in smoke. Pritchett was then defeated in round two at the hands of Shawn Langdon after he staged exceptionally late. Despite the loss, Pritchett still had a breakout year which included four wins and a fifth-place finish in the standings.
Pritchett’s Mopar teammate, eight-time champion Tony Schumacher, was bested on a holeshot victory by Langdon in round one. Schumacher and the U.S. Army team ended their season eighth in the standings with one victory.
Brittany Force claimed the championship in the Top Fuel category.
It was an emotional weekend for Mopar Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson, who ended his 22-year career at Pomona, after announcing his retirement earlier this season. The 2012 champion and 27-time race winner was defeated by longtime friend and competitor Erica Enders in the first round. Johnson finished his final season eighth in points.