Dodge/Mopar® Drivers Lead Fuel Categories After SpringNationals Showdown

4 years ago Racing

April 22, 2018, Auburn Hills, Mich. – There were highs and lows for Dodge drivers at the NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas. When the smoke cleared, Jack Beckman and Tony Schumacher went enough rounds to lead the Funny Car and Top Fuel categories after round five of the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Race season.

Leah Pritchett, Beckman and Schumacher took their Nitro machines to the semifinals in the ultra-competitive action, but none could get to the finals. Pritchett seemed poised for the best run of the weekend after qualifying on Saturday.

Pritchett, the defending SpringNationals champ,  turned heads on Saturday afternoon when the Mopar® Dodge dragster rocketed to the top with an impressive 3.680-second pass. The team earned their first No. 1 qualifier of the season and was set up for success on race day. Led by crew chief duo Todd Okuhara and Joe Barlam, the team dismissed of Top Fuel newbie Terry Brian in the opening round on Sunday with another sub 3.7-second pass, the lowest elapsed time of the opening round.

In the second round, Pritchett defeated rival Steve Torrence in one of the best side-by-side races of the day. Pritchett got the edge on the starting line and posted a 3.740, 320-mph lap over Torrence’s 3.778-second effort.

For the first time all weekend at the track near Houston, teams faced sunny skies for the semifinal round and Pritchett’s dragster hazed the tires in the semifinal race against Terry McMillen. McMillen also struggled down the tricky 1,000-ft. course, but was able to take the win light.

The No. 1 qualifier effort, which was a track elapsed time record, and two round wins provide momentum for Pritchett and the Mopar team heading into next weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte.

Funny Car points leader Jack Beckman’s race day started with a pedal-fest against opponent Richard Townsend. Beckman was able to get Terry and Doug Chandler’s Infinite Hero Foundation Funny Car to recover quickly and earned the round win. In the quarterfinals, Beckman once again masterfully pedaled his way to victory, and set off the win light ahead of Del Worsham.

The semifinal matchup found the 2012 Funny Car world champion facing Robert Hight, the reigning world champ. Beckman was first off of the starting line, but his 4.113-second pass was no match for Hight’s 3.959 lap.

Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster team advanced to the semifinals on Sunday as the NHRA began its three-race swing. In the opening session, Schumacher defeated Bill Litton with his 3.703-second pass on a tricky race track. In round two, he had the starting line advantage over Clay Millican and powered the Army dragster to a 3.737-second winning pass.

In the semifinals, Schumacher went into tire smoke for the first time during the weekend and coasted to a 5.074 as Brittany Force got the round win with her 3.766-second run. The Army team will leave Baytown tied for the Top Fuel points lead with Steve Torrence.

Matt Hagan’s first trip to the winner’s circle came during the 2010 Houston race. His attempt to add a 2018 NHRA SpringNationals Wally to his trophy collection started with a tough draw, his DSR teammate, Dodge driver Ron Capps. Hagan and Capps charged hard out of the gate, with Capps pulling away first in the battle of DSR Dodge racecars. Both vehicles were neck-and-neck until about the 650-foot mark, when Hagan was able to pull ahead and score the win when Capps’ car went silent past halftrack.

In the quarterfinals, Hagan squared off against Tim Wilkerson. Both drivers had nearly identical reaction times and the Mopar Express Lane/Pennzoil Dodge was even with Wilkerson’s machine until about 330-feet when dropped cylinders caused Hagan to slow and his opponent was able to pull away for the win. Hagan moved up to second in NHRA Funny Car points heading to Charlotte’s Four-Wide race next weekend.

Tommy Johnson Jr.’s first round loss against opponent J.R. Todd was the ultimate example of ‘wrong place at the wrong time.’ Johnson, who was previously 3-0 against Todd, charged out of the gate with all candles lit. Both Johnson and Todd were straight down the groove in an exciting side-by-side race. Unfortunately for Johnson, Todd edged past and was able to take the win with his 3.955-second pass vs. Johnson’s 3.989.



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