It was a Father’s Day to remember for Mopar Dodge//SRT drivers Ron Capps and Tony Schumacher, who raced to victory in the Funny Car and Top Fuel classes, respectively, at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee. Capps’ victory marked the fifth straight for a Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver at Bristol Dragway.
The win by Capps was also the third of 2018 for a Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Funny Car driver and moved him to fifth in the Funny Car standings. Along with Tony Schumacher’s victory, Mopar Dodge drivers have now claimed five wins in the NHRA Nitro classes this season.
Capps, the Mopar-powered NAPA Dodge Charger R/T pilot, picked up his second consecutive NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Funny Car Wally and first trophy of the 2018 season. The 2016 world champion defeated John Force, reigning world champ Robert Hight, J.R. Todd and Bob Tasca III on his way to becoming the most decorated Funny Car driver in Bristol Dragway history, with five victories at the picturesque facility.
Both Capps and Force entered the race weekend tied for the most Funny Car wins at Bristol Dragway, with four trophies each. No. 11 starter Capps was quick on the throttle against the veteran driver, launching his Dodge off the starting line in 0.049-seconds and never trailing for the win. Matched up in the quarterfinals against Hight, Capps was machine-like, gaining the holeshot start over his opponent. Hight was able to catch up early in the run, and the veteran drivers battled neck-and-neck until Capps was able to surge ahead and take the win with his 4.208 run.
Capps made a clean pass against Todd in the semifinals, driving right down the groove to take the win and advance to his second final round of the season and second in three races. Capps has now run for the Funny Car trophy 112 times — second only to John Force in Funny Car career final-round appearances.
In the finals, Capps quickly made up a small starting line advantage by Tasca and added to his lead all the way down to the finish stripe. The victory earned him his 58th Funny Car win, 59th overall and a milestone 300th nitro event Wally for DSR.
Mopar-powered U.S. Army Top Fuel driver Schumacher notched the 301st Nitro event win for DSR. He led all DSR drivers in qualifying, racing to the No. 2 spot and earning two bonus points. “The Sarge” opened up against No. 15 Terry McMillen, and used the second quickest run of the first round to advance, then was quickest of the quarterfinal round with a 4.028 ET that knocked out Pat Dakin in a close race, decided by a margin of about five feet.
In the semifinals, Schumacher was first off the starting line with a .064 reaction time against Steve Torrence, and paired it with a 4.038/297.02 run to advance to his 150th final round and third of the season. With lane choice over Mike Salinas, Schumacher once again left first with a near-identical .065 reaction and never trailed. He wrapped up his Father’s Day with a sub-four second, 3.946/313.58 run to seize the first win of the season for the U.S. Army team.
The victory was a record sixth for Schumacher at Bristol, the most of any driver, and also the 84th of his career.
Jack Beckman, a two-time runner-up at Bristol Dragway, including at last year’s event, was quickest of the four-car DSR Funny Car squad in qualifying, posting his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T seventh. An event winner earlier this year at the NHRA Gatornationals, Beckman opened Sunday with a victory over Shawn Langdon, using a .055 reaction time to jump to a lead he would not relinquish.
Beckman waged a tight race against the higher-qualified No. 2 qualifier Todd in the second round, with both drivers making clean, solid runs down the hot dragstrip. Beckman trailed slightly off the starting line and stayed within striking distance, but the 2012 Funny Car World Champ was unable to reel in Todd.
Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T pilot Tommy Johnson Jr. banked four bonus points during qualifying, earning a berth in the top half of the field in the No. 8 spot. The Ottumwa, Iowa, native entered Sunday gunning for his third win in the last five years at Bristol and was matched up in round one against Matt Hagan in a battle of Mopar-powered DSR Funny Cars. Johnson trailed slightly at the start but sailed solidly down the strip to collect the round win after Hagan smoked the tires.
Hoping for another even-year Bristol victory (his previous wins at the venue came in 2014 and 2016), Johnson lacked lane choice in the quarterfinals against pole-sitter Courtney Force. He put a cylinder out shortly after launch and encountered more trouble before shutting it down, as Force pulled away for the win.
Two-time Funny Car World Champion Hagan started from the No. 9 position in his Shell ROTELLA/Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T, after wrapping up qualifying on Saturday evening with a final 4.188-pass that was quickest of the session, earning the DSR driver three bonus points. The 2015 NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals event champ faced off with teammate Johnson in the first round. Hagan left the starting line first, but lost traction at about the 200-foot mark and was on-and-off the throttle before he was forced to back off, while Johnson’s clean pass moved him on to the next round.
Leah Pritchett’s schedule was a full one at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, as she juggled duties in the seats of both her Papa John’s Pizza/FireAde/Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster and a Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak in the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown class.
Pritchett, the 2017 event runner-up in Top Fuel at Bristol, drew Mike Salinas in round one after qualifying ninth. The two drivers had just one previous meeting, with Pritchett emerging the victor, but on Sunday at Bristol Dragway Salinas was able to even the score against the six-time Top Fuel winner. Both cars dropped cylinders, and both drivers stayed in it, but Pritchett’s machine encountered problems first and she was unable to catch up to her opponent.
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