Aiming for the Top in Topeka: Menards NHRA Nationals Preview

9 months ago Racing

The countdown to the “Countdown to the Championship” will begin this weekend at the Menards NHRA Nationals Presented By PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park near Topeka, Kansas. This race marks the first of three remaining national events before the NHRA’s seven-race playoff series starting on September 9 at the Mopar® Express Lane NHRA Nationals Presented By Pennzoil in Reading, Pennsylvania.

With all Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) drivers sitting in at least the top ten, now’s the time to buckle down an extra loop and set their sights on the next set of races to secure more points. Here’s what the drivers had to say after the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California, in preparation for the next race.

Funny Car:

Matt Hagan, DSR Performance Dodge Charger SRT® Hellcat Redeye

DSR Performance Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye

“It’s been a tricky track all weekend here at Pomona with these hot temps and (Crew Chief) Dickie (Venables) got the car to go down a very tough race track to give us a fighting chance. It just didn’t run good enough. We learned a lot racing in this heat and in conditions of which we had very little data. Now we do have some data if we face hot conditions like this in the future. We’re ready for a little break next weekend before we start again in a few weeks at Topeka (Kan.) and Brainerd (Minn.). It’ll be hot in Kansas and maybe some of what we learned here will help us there. We have a lot of racing left; this is the halfway point of the schedule. We’re going to dig in deep, work hard and win a few more of these races.”

Ron Capps, DSR NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

DSR NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

“I was hoping a win was coming. This team, time and time again, they’ve given me one of the coolest cars to drive and this (weekend) was one of the most extreme conditions we’ve ever had. To do it at Pomona in the summer, with all my friends and family here, I can’t even tell you how amazing it is. We’re going to have a blast (celebrating).

“I was thinking this week maybe I should stop saying ‘a win’s coming,’ because I felt like I was jinxing it, but I truly felt like Pac-Man. You know, we were just chomping through these Camping World series points – semifinal after semifinal, a final in Houston. We’ve been consistent and just chomping these points up week after week. I really think we can have the regular season point lead going into the Countdown, we just need to keep doing what we’re doing.

“These were probably some of the most extreme conditions I’ve driven a Funny Car in, and maybe even the most fun car to drive. Everyone’s been tearing their hair out trying to get down the track and we had things happen and cylinders going out and (Crew Chiefs) Guido (Dean Antonelli) and (John) Medlen were just leaving it be because my NAPA Dodge was running like a bracket car. They’ve got such a nice tune-up that you can put a cylinder out and get through that rough spot and still make it down the track. We were quietly going about it every run.”

Cruz Pedregon, Cruz Pedregon Racing Snap-on® Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Cruz Pedregon Racing Snap-on® Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

“We had a good solid event. We qualified fourth, which is great, with a 3.96-second run at 317 mph on Friday. We stumbled a little bit on Saturday trying to get the track figured out. Sunday, we were strong starting out with a 4.10-second pass to dispose of Tim Wilkerson. In the second round, we faced John Force and it was a great close race with a 4.35 to 4.36 but came up short. I clicked it off just a little bit early after I spun the tires at half-track and I just went on auto pilot and shut the engine off when I got concerned about the engine revving up, but I probably could’ve kept going for a few more feet and won that round that would have put us in the semis.

“Overall, it was a good event for us. It was challenging with the track at more than 140 degrees track temperature, which is hotter than we’ve been on in years. In fact, (Crew Chief) JC (John Collins), even with all the data he had accumulated through the years, had never been in this hot of a condition; so overall, when you get a quarter final result, it’s a good day for the Snap-on® Tools Dodge Charger SRT® Hellcat. We’ll look forward to a match race in Norwalk on Saturday night, the traditional ‘Night Under Fire’ exhibition event before we focus on Topeka (Kansas). Topeka is a great event for me. I’ve won quite a few races there with Larry Miner and Joe Gibbs. I love the atmosphere there and the track is strong with really good grip and maybe one of the best surfaces on the circuit, so I’ll be looking forward to that. We’re still figuring things out, working out some kinks to make our racecar better and I’m trying to do a better job as a driver, but overall the needle is pointing up.”

TOP FUEL:

Leah Pruett, DSR Sparkling Ice Spiked Dodge//SRT Dragster

DSR Sparkling Ice Spiked Dodge//SRT Dragster

“Justin (Ashley) is an incredible competitor and I wanted nothing but to race against him. This is about the perseverance of this Sparkling Ice Dodge//SRT Mopar team, our dedication to do this on a home track is phenomenal. Thank you so much to everybody that stuck with us. I mean, we dug deep. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Wally (trophy). The most impressive part for me today was how our team has continued to persist and persevere and grow into the success region that we have right now.

“For (Crew Chief) Todd Okuhara to have an aggressive tuning persona and an application while being in the mud, and Neal Strausbaugh, having leadership ability and bringing us all together. It’s about the fundamentals of what’s happening in the trailer and having each other’s back and pulling the rope in the same direction. We had been doing that, but we really got in sync together and that’s what makes me the most proud. This win is because of the progression over the last couple of weeks and what it has taken. The Dodge SRT Sparkling Ice team definitely deserves every bit of this one no matter how it came. I’m very proud of them.”

NHRA Championship Points Standings:

Following the rescheduled NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Ron Capps (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 734 (1)
2. Bob Tasca III – 729 (2)
3. John Force – 698 (2)
4. Robert Hight – 697 (2)
5. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 689 (1)
6. J.R. Todd – 677 (1)
7. Alexis DeJoria – 632
8. Tim Wilkerson – 552
9. Cruz Pedregon (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 537 (1)
10. Blake Alexander– 343

TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Steve Torrence – 1,014 (6)
2. Antron Brown – 701(1)
3. Brittany Force – 625
4. Leah Pruett (Mopar Dodge//SRT) – 579 (1)
5. Shawn Langdon – 514
6. Mike Salinas – 513
7. Justin Ashley – 466
8. Billy Torrence – 448 (1)
9. Doug Kalitta – 439
10. Clay Millican – 388

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