The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series heads west to begin the three-race Western Swing with the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Powered by Pennzoil at Bandimere Speedway, this weekend. Leah Pritchett leads the HEMI-powered drivers and teams back into action in the Rocky Mountains, looking for a second consecutive victory aboard her Mopar Dodge 1320 “Angry Bee” Top Fuel dragster. So let’s take a look at the Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teams, as they head into the 14th race of the season.
LEAH PRITCHETT – Driver of the MOPAR Dodge 1320 Top Fuel Dragster:
Leah Pritchett returns as the defending Top Fuel event champion at the Mile-High NHRA Nationals. While she is looking to repeat her success last year including breaking the Bandimere Speedway speed record (327.59 mph), her team is returning with their “Angry Bee” paint scheme. Pritchett has been to the final round at Denver the past two years, winning in 2018 and recording a runner-up finish in 2017.
“I don’t think there is another human that can parallel how I feel about getting back in the car at Denver right now, or getting the team back on the track. I’m beyond motivated. It doesn’t take missing a race, or Denver being the mother flagship event to get my motor running, but it most definitely has kicked it into overdrive. It will have been 25 days since being behind the wheel of a nitro car, or since my team has been in race pace, but I can promise, everyone is as prepared as ever to defend what I consider a U.S. Nationals-caliber event.
“The energy (at Denver) is off the charts. The incredible experience Dodge and MOPAR provide for the fans the entire week is unparalleled and undoubtedly contributes to the upbeat atmosphere. But, the fuel comes from the fans; they are the ones bringing the energy that will ultimately give our team that extra something special.” – Leah Pritchett
JACK BECKMAN – Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT:
Three-time event champion (2007, 2012, 2015) “Fast Jack” Beckman, is looking for success at Bandimere Speedway this weekend after getting eliminated in the 1st round of competition in the last race in Epping by teammate Matt Hagan. Last year, Beckman and his Infinite Hero Foundation team qualified second before losing in the second round to teammate Ron Capps. Currently, the team sits fifth in the points standings.
“After an excellent four-race swing, we stumbled in Epping and had a first-round loss, however, the run we made would’ve won all but two of the races that first round. So, we still have a great car; we just didn’t qualify as well as we needed to. I’ve been saying this for six races now, but we have to get our first win of the year under our belt. It’s going to set the tone for our championship run and, the clock is ticking. We need to get it done in Denver, and I’m confident that we can.
“Denver requires completely unique tune-up parameters. The guys are going to have special racks of rods and pistons, different overdrive on the supercharger, smaller rear tires on the car. Literally, it’s a one-race-only deal. The crew chiefs hate going there, but the drivers love it, and I can’t wait to get back there. I’ve had great success in the past in Denver. It’s maybe my favorite track on the tour because it’s so beautiful and so unique.” – Jack Beckman
RON CAPPS – Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT:
Ron Capps and his NAPA Auto Parts team are looking to best their runner-up finish at last year’s Mile-High NHRA Nationals. Capps has won at Bandimere before in 2009 and won the pole that year as well. The team has 19 round wins and is currently ranked fourth in points.
“I love going to Denver. You’ll hear some teams that dread going to the Mile-High Nationals because of all the challenges it presents, but when you have a crew chief like Rahn Tobler and a team like we have, I always look forward to it. Last year we had a great race in Denver. We just came up a little bit short in the final round and lost to John Force on a holeshot, unfortunately, so we were close to winning there, and we’ve won there in the past. Tobler always seems to get a little excited about going up to Bandimere Speedway and showing off because it’s a one-off race; it’s the only time you run the combinations we run. Not to mention, we get to show off to all of our great engineers and everyone at MOPAR and Dodge. They provided us with the Dodge HELLCATs this year, and it’s been such a fun car to drive and we want to show them how much we appreciate their support, and that we’re a championship-caliber team.
“The Denver race is a great atmosphere, it’s a great party, but there’s nothing better than holding that trophy up and showing everyone that you conquered the mountain. We’re looking forward to going one step further than we did last year.” – Ron Capps
MATT HAGAN – Driver of the MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Widebody:
Coming off his win in Epping, The Mopar team is looking to repeat their results at the Mile-High NHRA Nationals. While the team struggled during last year’s event by qualifying twelfth and getting eliminated in the 1st round, Hagan is looking for good results to push him up the point standings where he currently is tied for seventh in the points. Hagan will drive a special paint scheme this weekend, that was unveiled at the Mopar Press Conference yesterday.
“Going to Denver, it can humble you, so you have to have a pretty good gameplan. You go in there knowing anything can happen. It’s a huge race for us because it’s a Dodge/MOPAR race. We’ve had a runner-up there, but we never could seal the deal, so hopefully we can do that. It’s all about trying to win championships and trying to make that goal happen. I feel good about our chances. We’ve got a good car, my lights have been good, and confidence breeds confidence.
“Last year, I had the honor of debuting the MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car body at Denver, and it’s cool to be able to follow that up this year by revealing another new look at the NHRA press conference on Thursday. I’ve raced in a Dodge Funny Car for my entire 10-year-plus career. It’s great having a sponsor like Dodge//SRT, a brand that is really committed to using NHRA to outreach to the performance enthusiasts who fuel our sport.” – Matt Hagan
TOMMY JOHNSON JR. – Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT:
Tommy Johnson Jr. heads to the Mile-High Nationals, third in the points standings and the highest-ranked Dodge team. Johnson is a two-time runner-up (1991, 2017) of this event and is trying to taking gain some traction in the points to catch the two John Force Racing cars sitting first and second in the points. Last year, the team qualified sixth and went to the quarterfinals before being eliminated by Robert Hight.
“I’ve been going to Denver for so long, and it’s such a cool place. It’s so unique, so different and the one thing I think is really cool is to see the performance gains we’ve made there. You used to go there, and everybody would slow way down and blow up a bunch of parts and not run really well, and now you go there and we don’t run much slower. That’s been amazing to see. Everybody knows how hard it is to race up there, so I think the fans appreciate the strides everyone has made there. It’s cool we’re going out there and running so well.
“Normally, the start of the Western Swing is where we start to hit our stride. To already be in our stride, your focus turns to making sure we can keep this going. The way the team has performed, if we can carry that momentum and put together the back half with this year’s front half, we’ll be in good shape the rest of the year.” – Tommy Johnson, Jr.
The Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil is scheduled for July 19-21 at Bandimere Speedway, with qualifying Friday and Saturday, and elimination rounds on Sunday. Qualifying coverage will air live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET and during a special one-hour qualifying recap show on Saturday, July 20 from 10 – 11 p.m. Three hours of eliminations coverage will air live on the national FOX Network starting at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 21.
2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing SeriesChampionship — After Round 13 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)
NHRA Funny Car Points Standings:
1. Robert Hight (4) – 1,079
2. John Force – 903
3. Tommy Johnson, Jr., Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (1) – 891
4. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (2) – 870
5. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT – 851
6. J.R. Todd (1) – 825
7. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (2) – 770
7. Bob Tasca III (1) – 770
9. Tim Wilkerson – 691
10. Shawn Langdon (1) – 675
NHRA Top Fuel Points Standings:
1. Steve Torrence (7) – 1278
2. Doug Kalitta (1) – 799
3. Antron Brown – 781
4. Brittany Force (1) –777
5. Mike Salinas (2) – 732
6. Clay Millican – 730
7. Leah Pritchett, MOPAR Dodge 1320 – 651
8. Richie Crampton (1) – 612
9. Terry McMillen – 576
10. Scott Palmer 563