Two-time NHRA Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan enhanced his love for Texas Sunday by scoring the first NHRA win by a 2020 Dodge Charger SRT® Hellcat Widebody Hellcat Funny Car. Hagan’s triumph in the 34th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals was the 32nd of his career and third at the Texas Motorplex located outside of Dallas. It rekindled his chances for the 2019 Funny Car points championship.
Hagan knocked out three Countdown to the Championship playoff contenders. The win marked the ninth time in 22 races this season where a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car came out victorious. With his first win in the Countdown, Hagan jumps from seventh to fourth in the championship standings with two races remaining.
“We were carrying the Western Tech and Mopar® CAP colors on this Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Funny Car this weekend,” said Hagan. “We had a message for a lot of students Friday morning. Any time we can reach young kids it is a great thing. I have a few guys on my car that went through Western Tech, so to see the program come full circle is really awesome. I did my job today and my guys did their jobs today and that’s what happens when you put a good group of people together.”
Hagan was one of seven HEMI®-powered Dodge//SRT Mopar drivers that qualified for the 16-car Funny Car field. Jack Beckman reached the second round and remains second in the standings, while Ron Capps, who lost to Beckman in the opening round, holds the sixth position.
The route to Hagan’s fifth final of 2019 was loaded with stout competition. He started his day from the sixth position on the ladder and earned an opening round triumph over Blake Alexander with a pass of 3.903 seconds, Hagan matched that time exactly in the second round when he put reigning world champion J.R. Todd on the trailer for the weekend. Crew Chief Dickie Venables continued his masterpiece, helping Hagan run his best pass of the day, 3.900 seconds at 329.83 mph, in the semifinal to take down Robert Hight, who went red at the starting line.
In a rematch of the 2012 Texas final, Bob Tasca III proved to be no match for Hagan in their 25th career race and third time in a final. Hagan grabbed the starting-line advantage and pulled away during the run to secure the victory.
Beckman returned to the Texas Motorplex looking to close the gap on Countdown leader Robert Hight. After coming up short last Monday in the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals final versus Hight, Beckman qualified an uncharacteristic 12th in the field. The result was a first-round battle with fellow Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car pilot and DSR teammate Capps. The tandem entered the weekend both inside the top four in the championship standings and were fully aware of the importance of going rounds Sunday. Beckman grabbed the starting line advantage in the DSR Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car and pulled away to score his third win over Capps in 2019 with his run of 3.896 seconds, the second quickest of the round.
Up next, Beckman faced Tasca, who posted the best run of the first round. In their first four 2019 matchups, Tasca won the first two while Beckman turned on the win light in the most recent two at Seattle and Indy. Tasca took the early advantage and maintained it throughout to defeat Beckman with a run of 3.742 seconds compared to Beckman’s pass of 3.964. He remains second in the Countdown standings.
Tommy Johnson, Jr. entered the second half of the Countdown looking to regain his regular season form that included two wins, four final-round appearances and 29 round wins in the first 18 races. With just one round win in the first three Countdown races, Johnson was looking for a breakout performance behind the wheel of the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car of DSR at the Texas Motorplex. He picked up his second round win of the Countdown to start the day by defeating fellow Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car racer Paul Lee, posting a run of 3.932 seconds.
The win advanced Johnson to round two where he faced John Force. Despite running his best pass of the weekend, 3.919 seconds, he lost to Force on a holeshot.
Capps used a strong Friday night qualifying pass to earn the Dodge//SRT Mopar driver his seventh consecutive top-half qualifying position. With the fifth position he had an opportunity to take out a Countdown contender in the first round. Capps made a good run of 3.955 seconds but it wasn’t enough to defeat his fellow Dodge driver and DSR teammate Beckman. With the early loss, Capps fell from fourth to sixth in the standings heading into the Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil in Las Vegas.
In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett qualified No. 2 for the third time in four Countdown events. She rolled the Pennzoil Dodge Top Fuel Dragster of DSR through the left lane water box midway through the first round and raced No. 15 qualifier Kebin Kinsley. Kinsley held the early advantage but Pritchett drove around him to score her fourth consecutive first-round victory with a lap of 3.724 seconds at 324.12 mph. In the quarterfinals, Pritchett grabbed the early advantage over Austin Prock but late in the run the DSR machine was losing cylinders, allowing Prock to pull away for the win. Pritchett ranks fifth in the championship standings.
Factory Stock Showdown
In Factory Stock Showdown, Pritchett raced her way to her first FSS final of 2019. The defending FSS champion qualified her DSR Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak No. 2 and defeated David Barton in the first round in the pair’s first-ever meeting in eliminations. She followed that with a triumph over David Janac in the second round and knocked off No. 8 qualifier Randy Taylor to reach her second consecutive Dallas FSS final. In the final Pritchett came up short versus Chris Holbrook, but her three round wins in Texas were the most she has had in a single event all season.
Fellow DSR FSS racer Mark Pawuk qualified the DSR Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak No. 9 and despite losing the starting line advantage in his first round race with Doug Doll, Jr. he grabbed the lead by the 100-foot mark and drove away to advance to round two. Pawuk came up short of making it an all-DSR final when he fell to Holbrook to close his 2019 campaign.
Mopar Dodge//SRT NHRA Sportsman Spotlight
Austin Williams and Jacob Pitt were winners of the Dodge Top Finisher honors in Stock Eliminator and Super Stock, respectively.
Williams, the former NHRA champion Sportsman racer, reached the fourth round in Stock Eliminator at the Texas Motorplex in his F/SA 1972 Plymouth Duster 340. The Waxahachie, Texas, native won three times to reach the semifinals before ending his day with a redlight.
Fort Worth, Texas, racer Pitt piloted his FGT/H 2003 Dodge Stratus to a semifinal finish in Super Stock. Pitt’s 360-cubic-inch Mopar V-8 powered him through four rounds and into a fifth before Pitt was eliminated.
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.