The 2021 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Drag Racing series season got off to a fast start for Mopar® and Dodge//SRT® performance brands as Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) veteran driver Ron Capps drove his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car to the top seeded position for Sunday’s 52nd annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Gatornationals at historic Gainesville Raceway.
After finishing fourth in the closely contested 2020 Funny Car championship that went right down to the wire, Capps kicked off the season-opening weekend the way he ended 2020 at the Dodge NHRA finals in Las Vegas; as No. 1 qualifier going into race day. Coming into the Gatornationals as a three-time and defending Funny Car winner, Capps took his HEMI®-powered DSR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to the top of the timing sheets in Friday qualifying with a 3.895-second run at 329.02 mph to give him the provisional lead position on the eliminations ladder. While Capps also ran the quickest lap in the second qualifying session, neither he nor anyone else was able to better his Q1 time in any of the sessions, giving him his 26th career No. 1 qualifier position. He’ll see No. 16 seed Jim Campbell as his first round opponent on Sunday morning.
2020 NHRA Funny Car World Champion, Matt Hagan will take his “Demon-possessed” DSR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye into race day as the eighth seed after a best qualifying lap of 3.981 seconds at 324.59 mph in the second session where he posted the third quickest time. He’ll start his world championship defense and work to make his way through eliminations in the hopes of earning his first Gatornationals title win by facing No. 9 seed Bob Tasca as his first elimination round opponent of the year.
Battling in the Top Fuel top-three through most of the 2020 season and closing out the year fourth in the championship has DSR’s Leah Pruett motivated to get this new season off to a flying start and looking to score her first Gatornationals event win. In qualifying, Pruett took her red, black and chrome Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye dragster for a 3.741 sec./ 326.32 mph pass in her final run to move her up in the third-seeded position on the eliminations ladder and grant her lane choice against Mike Bucher in the first round.
In the NHRA Sportsman class, the fourth-generation 2021 Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak made its much-anticipated official on track debut in the Factory Stock Showdown (FSS) series on Friday. Leah Pruett wheeled her white and blue new generation drag pak to a solid first qualifying run with a 7.966 second pass at 175.09 mph to post the sixth quickest pass against a 29-car field in provisional qualifying. On Saturday, she improved on that performance with a 7.892 sec./ 173.49 mph run to put her 13th overall and set up an opening round match-up against No. 4 seed John Cerbone.
Teammate Mark Pawuk steadily improved his DSR-prepared Empaco Equipment Mopar Drag Pak through qualifying as well and posted his best time on his final run late Saturday night with a 7.873 sec. / 174.12 mph pass to earn his 11- seed position on the FSS eliminations ladder. He’ll line up next to Jim Betz for the opening round on Sunday morning. Television coverage of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season-opening event, the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, begins Sunday morning, March 14, with a one-hour FS1 qualifying show at 11 a.m. Eastern, while the three-hour eliminations show, including live coverage of the final round, launches at noon on the national FOX Broadcast Network.
NHRA Championship Points Standings:Following qualifying at Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Ron Capps (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat)–44
2. Alexis DeJoria –40
3. Tim Wilkerson –37
4. John Force –36
5. Robert Hight –35
6. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) –34
6. J.R. Todd –34
8. Cruz Pedregon–33
9. Blake Alexander –32
9. Chad Green–32
9. Paul Lee –32
9. Bob Tasca III –32
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Steve Torrance –44
2. Billy Torrence –42
3. Leah Pruett (Mopar Dodge//SRT) –37
4. Brittany Force –35
5. Doug Kalitta –34
5. Shawn Langdon –34
5. Mike Salinas –34
8. Josh Hart –33
9. Justin Ashley –32
9. Antron Brown –32
9. Doug Foley –32
9. Clay Millican –32