For the second time in the last three NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events, two-time world champion Matt Hagan reached the Funny Car final racing his Mopar-powered Dodge SRT Charger HELLCAT Widebody to a runner-up finish at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.
Hagan’s charge to the final marked the fourth consecutive event where a Dodge//SRT machine was racing for the win. Last week’s Dodge Mile-High Nationals winner Tommy Johnson, Jr. reached the semifinals and continues to rank second in the championship standings, leading two other Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car drivers inside the top-five.
The run to Hagan’s 58th career final began with a first-round contest versus reigning Funny Car champion J.R. Todd. Hagan took the holeshot advantage and motored to victory with his run of 3.958 seconds over a tire-smoking Todd. In round two, it was a familiar foe as Hagan faced off with Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammate and fellow Dodge//SRT driver Jack Beckman. In the fastest race of the session, Hagan defeated Beckman and continued his quest for his first victory at Sonoma Raceway.
He made a solo run in the semifinals after John Force was not able to stage his car and Hagan’s lap of 3.995 seconds earned him lane choice in the final versus Robert Hight. In the duo’s eighth career finals meeting and second in 2019, Hagan wasn’t able to overcome a starting-line advantage for Hight and settled for his 27th career runner-up finish.
Johnson continued his career-best season behind the wheel of the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car. After qualifying fifth, he was chasing his third triumph of 2019 and faced fellow Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car racer Cruz Pedregon in the opening round. Pedregon left early and handed Johnson the automatic victory to set up a rematch of last week’s final with Bob Tasca III in round two. Just like last weekend in Denver, Johnson again turned on the win light with a smooth run of 4.031 seconds at 318.47 mph to advance to his ninth semifinal of the season. Johnson’s consecutive round win run was halted at six when he couldn’t drive around Hight, but he heads to Seattle with momentum.
“Fast Jack” Beckman has been tantalizingly close to earning his first Wally of 2019 and the 2015 NHRA Sonoma Nationals winner was hoping to put it all together this weekend. Beckman motored his DSR Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT to an opening-round victory over Jeff Diehl with a pass 3.996 seconds at 320.74 mph in his 700th career round of competition. The win earned Beckman a rematch with DSR teammate and fellow Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car racer Hagan, who he defeated last weekend in the first round of the Dodge Mile-High Nationals. Beckman took the advantage at the starting line, but Hagan powered by as the two drivers posted the two best runs of the session.
Four-time Sonoma Raceway winner Ron Capps looked to continue his run of success close to home and the northern California native started Sunday’s run for a fifth NHRA Sonoma Nationals victory from the ninth position on the ladder. In his first-round race with Blake Alexander, Capps quickly pulled ahead and held the lead through the 330-foot mark before losing traction allowing Alexander race past him and reach the finish line first putting a quick end to the day for Capps.
Jim Campbell was the sixth Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car driver in Sunday’s field but was knocked out in the first round by Tasca.
In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett and her HEMI-powered Okuma Top Fuel Dragster team looked primed for a long day of going rounds on Sunday after a pair of impressive runs during Saturday’s qualifying sessions. Pritchett made her best pass of the weekend (3.774 seconds) in the opening round versus Austin Prock but came up short of advancing by half-a-car-length.
The Western Swing concludes next week with the 32nd Catspot NHRA Northwest Nationals, scheduled for August 2-4 at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash. Capps returns to the Seattle-area as the defending event winner and leads the Dodge//SRT Mopar drivers back into action chasing his third career triumph at the track.
2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Championship – After Round 15 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)
NHRA Funny Car Point Standings:
1. Robert Hight (5) – 1283
2. Tommy Johnson, Jr., Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (2) –1084
3. John Force – 1035
4. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT – 964
5. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (2) – 962
6. Bob Tasca III (1) – 924
7. J.R. Todd (1) – 889
8. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (2) – 888
9. Shawn Langdon (1) – 786
10. Tim Wilkerson – 757
NHRA Top Fuel Point Standings:
1. Steve Torrence (8) – 1486
2. Clay Millican – 914
2. Antron Brown – 914
4. Brittany Force (1) – 894
5. Doug Kalitta (1) – 887
6. Mike Salinas (2) – 802
7. Leah Pritchett, Mopar Okuma – 749
8. Richie Crampton (1) – 719
9. Austin Prock – 641
9. Terry McMillen – 641