Leah Pritchett and Ron Capps earned Dodge//SRT® Mopar® an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series double up with Top Fuel and Funny Car wins, respectively, in the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minnesota.
For Pritchett, the win Sunday was her first piloting the Mopar-powered Dodge//SRT Top Fuel dragster in 2019 and first since winning the 2018 Dodge Mile-High Nationals, a span of 26 races. She scored her eighth career win by beating Kyle Wurtzel, Billy Torrence, Austin Prock and Mike Salinas.
Capps defeated fellow Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) and Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car racer Tommy Johnson, Jr. racing the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to score his third Wally of the season, 64th of this career and a record sixth in Brainerd.
With the only the U.S. Nationals remaining before the points are reset for the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship, Dodge//SRT Mopar and DSR drivers hold the second through sixth positions in the Funny Car class – Johnson, Jr. (2nd), Capps (4th), Jack Beckman (5th) and Matt Hagan (6th).
It’s been a challenging season for Pritchett, but on Sunday her DSR team was the last standing after starting the day from the fourth position on the eliminations ladder. After being knocked out in the first round the previous two races, the first hurdle was cleared when Pritchett defeated Wurtzel by posting a lap of 3.744 seconds at 327.43 mph. She followed that win up by defeating the last two winners in consecutive rounds, first defeating Billy Torrence in the second round and then avenging consecutive loses to Austin Prock in the semifinals. By defeating Prock, she reached the final for the 15th time in her career and clinched her spot in the upcoming Countdown to the Championship. In the final, Pritchett left first and smoothly drove away to score her 130th career round win and second race win at Brainerd.
After finishing runner-up two weeks ago in Seattle, Capps was focused on continuing his successful summer run with a great performance in Brainerd. The path to victory was loaded with Countdown contenders and former world champions. He started with reigning Funny Car champion J.R. Todd in round one where he outran Todd by putting up a lap of 3.920 seconds to start the day. Next it was his teammate and No. 2 qualifier Beckman and the two put on a show with Capps besting his first round run with a lap of 3.918 to eliminate Beckman and reach his sixth semifinal of 2019. Capps was solid again in the semifinals while opponent Shawn Langdon smoked his tires to set up the all DSR final. The starting line was the difference and Capps surged to his 50th career win driving for Don Schumacher.
Johnson continued proving he is going to be a factor in the 2019 Funny Car championship chase Sunday with his runner-up finish. He raced the DSR Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car from the fifth position on the ladder and was victorious over Tim Wilkerson in the first round, Johnson followed that by defeating Robert Hight in the quarterfinals with his best run of the day at 3.910 seconds. In the semifinal, he squared off with No. 1 qualifier Matt Hagan and used a tremendous light, .031 reaction time, and lap of 3.930 ET to keep his run for a second Brainerd triumph alive as he reached his 50th career Funny Car final and seventh in Brainerd. In the final, Capps had the starting line advantage and Johnson couldn’t recover despite making it close with a run of 3.947 compared to the winner’s pass of 3.946. Johnson has now finished in the runner-up spot four out of the last five years at Brainerd.
Two-time Funny Car world champion Hagan earned his 35th career No. 1 qualifier aboard the DSR 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Funny Car and clinched his spot in the six-race Countdown to the Championship Saturday. He opened his quest for his first-ever victory in Brainerd Sunday by defeating Dale Creasy, Jr. with a run of 3.937 seconds to advance to the second round where he overpowered Bob Tasca III with another sub 4-second run of 3.954 ET and advanced to his seventh semifinal appearance of 2019. It was an all-DSR/all-Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat semifinal matchup pitting Hagan versus Johnson, Jr. The duo staged a terrific drag race and Johnson’s 3.930 was just enough to end Hagan’s run. Hagan was able to climb to sixth in the season championship standings.
After qualifying the DSR Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car second in the field for the third time in 2019, Beckman rocketed to an opening-round win over Terry Haddock by posting the quickest run and top speed of the weekend at 3.876 seconds at 329.75 mph to advance to the quarterfinals.
In the quarterfinals, he matched up with fellow DSR and Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car racer Ron Capps for the first time head-to-head this season. Capps grabbed the starting-line advantage and Beckman couldn’t catch the four-time Brainerd champion despite posting a pass of 3.945 seconds. Sunday’s exit was the fourth in the previous five races where Beckman has been defeated by a DSR teammate.
Cruz Pedregon and Paul Lee also qualified for Sunday’s 16-car field driving Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Cars. Pedregon qualified his Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat 13th and was defeated by Hight, while Lee lost his first-round matchup with Langdon.
Mopar Dodge//SRT NHRA Sportsman Spotlight
Kevin Leinhart and Dan Zrust were winners of the Dodge Top Finisher honors in Stock Eliminator and Super Stock, respectively, Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway during the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.
Leinart powered his way to a semifinal finish behind the wheel of his R/SA 1969 Dodge Dart. The Dakota City, Nebraska racer powered his Mopar 318 cubic-inch small block V8 through five rounds of Stock Eliminator competition before coming up just 0.18 seconds short of racing to the final.
Zrust, from Maple Grove, Minnesota, piloted his GT/AA 1968 Plymouth Barracuda to the semifinals before being eliminated because he left the starting line early and was disqualified.
The Dodge Top Finisher award, now in its third year, awards $500 to Stock Eliminator and Super Stock drivers who advance the furthest behind the wheel of a Mopar-powered Dodge, Chrysler, or Plymouth race car at all 24 NHRA national events.