Dodge//SRT Mopar driver Jack Beckman closed the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season by racing the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car of Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) to his second victory of the season at the 55th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.
The win for Beckman, his 30th career Funny Car class victory, concluded a season where four drivers raced Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Cars to 11 wins in the 24-race NHRA campaign.
Beckman and fellow Dodge//SRT Mopar and DSR driver Matt Hagan made strong championship bids, but both came up short in the end. Beckman finished second and Hagan, the winner of the two previous NHRA events, finished third in the final season standings.
“I’ve never won in Funny Car at Pomona,” said Beckman. “If you win at the Winternationals (in February), the rest of the year is going to be okay because you’ve already won something, but if you do it in the finals (at the end of the year), your off-season is fantastic. My Infinite Hero Foundation guys have given me such a great race car lately. I stumbled a couple of times, and I don’t want to ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ myself in the off-season. We finished solidly in second, capped off the year with a win. We have a phenomenal Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, and things are awesome right now. I’m feeling on top of the world.”
Beckman opened the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff with a victory in the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania and was in contention throughout. He advanced to the final in Charlotte and established new track records in Las Vegas en route to a semifinal finish before this weekend’s season finale in Pomona. After qualifying second, “Fast Jack” was within two rounds of the top spot in his Dean Antonelli/John Medlen-tuned Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. His machine-like performances all day included consistent runs for the 2012 Funny Car champion starting with his pass of 3.946 seconds to defeat John Hale.
He ousted J.R. Todd in the second round and took down upset-minded Blake Alexander in the semifinal to advance to his seventh final of the year. The final was a rematch of both the season opener, also at Auto Club Raceway, and the Charlotte Countdown race versus eventual Funny Car champion Robert Hight. Beckman made the fastest pass of race day with his lap of 3.920 to secure his first Auto Club NHRA Finals victory, but he came up just eight points short of earning his second Funny Car title.
Hagan charged his way into the final race of the 2019 season championship on the heels of back-to-back Countdown wins. The two-time Funny Car world champion was looking to make it three straight wins to close the campaign and hoping that would clinch a third world title for the driver of the Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody. The momentum continued in qualifying with Hagan grabbing the No. 1 position and 10 qualifying points to close to within 44 points of the top position and on Sunday, the ladder put his championship destiny in his team’s hands.
Hagan began eliminations with a rematch of the final from two weeks ago in the Dodge NHRA Nationals at Las Vegas. The result was the same with Hagan coming out victorious versus Jonnie Lindberg, but his run of 4.114 seconds at 275.11 mph wasn’t enough to keep lane choice in the second round. Fellow DSR and Dodge//SRT teammate Ron Capps was the next opponent and Hagan cruised to his 10th consecutive round win behind the wheel of the Dickie Venables-tuned Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody. The victory set up the season-defining race with points leader Hight. In his 600th career round of competition, Hagan lost the starting line advantage and never caught up en route to posting a lap of 4.015/326.95.
The surge during the later stages of the Countdown moved him from ninth after St. Louis to finishing third in the final Countdown standings.
In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett started race day second on the eliminations ladder in her HEMI®-powered Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster of DSR and opened with a round win against Scott Palmer. She followed that with the quickest run of round two to defeat Jordan Vandergriff and earn her sixth trip to the semifinals. Her day and season ended when she lost a cylinder early in her run against eventual event winner Doug Kalitta.
The Redlands, California native began her racing career competing in NHRA’s Jr. Drag Racing series at age eight and on Sunday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, she wrapped up her 23rd consecutive NHRA season by tying her career-best finish of fourth in the championship rankings.
After posting his best regular-season results, Tommy Johnson, Jr. was confident in his team’s 2019 championship chances driving the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car. Unfortunately for Johnson, the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs didn’t play out the way he hoped. Johnson qualified seventh and his season ended with a first-round loss to J.R. Todd, snapping four consecutive final-round appearances in the season-ending event. He finished eighth in the 2019 championship standings.
Ron Capps was also seeking to close the season with a victory since his championship aspirations were dashed following qualifying. The 2016 Funny Car champion qualified the NAPA Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat eighth and took down fellow Dodge//SRT runner Cruz Pedregon in the opening round. Capps had lane choice in the second round, but his machine slowed dramatically just past the 330-foot mark. He coasted to the finish line, finishing sixth in the final Funny Car standings marking the 15th consecutive season he has finished inside the top-10.
Mopar Dodge//SRT drivers from DSR finished the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season with 12 total race wins in the NHRA Nitro classes, 11 in Funny Car and 1 in Top Fuel.
2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Point Standings: After 24 of 24 Events:
(Season Wins in Parentheses)
Funny Car Point Standings:
1. Robert Hight (6) –2,637
2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (2) –2629
3. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody (4) – 2,563
4. John Force (2) – 2,471
5. Bob Tasca III (2) – 2,446
6. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (3) – 2, 414
7. J.R. Todd (1) – 2,391
8. Tommy Johnson, Jr. Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (2) – 2,360
9. Shawn Langdon (2) – 2,358
10. Tim Wilkerson – 2,283
Top Fuel Point Standings:
1. Steve Torrence (9) –2,607
2. Doug Kalitta (3) –2,604
3. Brittany Force (2) – 2,555
4. Leah Pritchett, Mopar HEMI (1) – 2,474
5. Billy Torrence (1) –2,458
6. Richie Crampton (2) –2399
7. Mike Salinas (2) – 2,381
8. Austin Prock (1) – 2,379
9. Antron Brown – 2,329
10. Clay Millican – 2,300