Mopar Dodge//SRT driver Matt Hagan made his 2019 NHRA championship statement, capturing his second consecutive Funny Car Wally in his Dodge//SRT Charger Hellcat Widebody at the 19th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil.
Hagan, who started the day in the seventh qualifying spot, beat Jonnie Lindberg in the final round with a run of 3.876 seconds at 331.36 and closed to within 56 points of the top position in the Countdown to the Championship. The victory also marked the 10th time in 23 events where a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat came out victorious.
“This was an incredible effort by my Dodge Mopar guys here this weekend,” said Hagan, following his fourth win of 2019. “This is the Dodge NHRA Nationals. The second to last race of the season. And you have everyone from the president of Mopar here to all the people beyond us that are out here for SEMA. It’s one you need to win. We had some lady luck on our side this weekend and it all worked out. I can’t thank everyone that makes this possible enough. It was just a phenomenal job by (crew chief) Dickie Venables and my guys. We just won the Dodge NHRA Nationals and we can’t wait to get to Pomona.”
Hagan’s win capped an exciting weekend by the Mopar and Dodge//SRT teams in Funny Car and Top Fuel fielded by Don Schumacher Racing (DSR). The day began with Leah Pritchett atop the Top Fuel ladder after she set the quickest lap in track history during qualifying on Saturday in her Mopar dragster, and Jack Beckman as the top qualifier in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car, resetting the track records for speed and elapsed time during qualifying.
The weekend’s results put Beckman and Hagan within close striking distance for a Funny Car world championship at the final event of the 2019 NHRA season in Pomona, California, in two weeks.
Hagan stormed to his fourth career final in the Dodge NHRA Nationals, first taking out fellow Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat racer Paul Lee with a run of 3.909 seconds. Next, he snapped a four-race losing streak versus his DSR and Dodge//SRT Mopar teammate Tommy Johnson, Jr., posting his best pass of the weekend, 3.869 seconds. The semifinal against Bob Tasca III was a rematch of the final in Dallas two weeks ago and the results were the same with Hagan turning on the win light to reach his third consecutive final in the fall Las Vegas race and sixth final of the season. The two-time Funny Car world champion flexed his muscle in the final, leaving first and driving away from Lindberg with his fourth consecutive run over 330 mph to secure his 33rd career victory.
Beckman entered the race weekend with his sights on inching closer to the top in the Countdown standings. The 2012 Funny Car champion trailed by 66 points after resetting both ends of the track record during qualifying in the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car. He carried that momentum into the first round and took out Terry Haddock. He had the matchup he hoped for in round two, facing Countdown leader Robert Hight. A holeshot victory advanced him to his 12th semifinal of the season. His bid to reach the third final during the Countdown came up short when he was on the losing end of a holeshot victory by Lindberg.
Beckman moves into the final race of the 2019 season in second place, 46 points out of the lead.
Johnson had one of the fastest Funny Cars all weekend and his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car was stout in Sunday’s opening round, defeating fellow Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car racer Jim Campbell. The victory set up the sixth matchup of 2019 between Johnson and DSR teammate Hagan. Johnson was quicker at the start but couldn’t hold off Hagan.
Ron Capps faced Tasca in the opening round and the race was determined at the starting line after both made identical runs of 3.911 seconds. Capps in the Pennzoil Synthetics NAPA Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car got off the starting line in .080 seconds but lost on a holeshot with Tasca winning by 0.0127 seconds (about 6 feet). Capps, the 2016 Funny Car champion, still has a mathematical shot at a second championship but will need a lot of luck to outpoint the five drivers in front of him.
In Top Fuel, Pritchett won her first-round race, driving her Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster past Cameron Ferre despite having cylinders out throughout her run of 3.869 seconds at 310.55 mph. Her day ended in the second round as Pritchett’s tires smoked early in the run and, despite pedaling it twice, she fell to Doug Kalitta.
Pritchett trails Top Fuel leader Steve Torrence by 135 points heading into the Pomona finale. A driver can get a maximum of 191 points at the season-ending race.
2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Championship Through 23 of 24 Rounds
(Season Wins in Parentheses)
Funny Car Point Standings:
1. Robert Hight (6) –2,494
2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (1) – 2,448
3. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody (4) – 2,438
4. John Force (2) – 2,422
5. Bob Tasca III (2) – 2,390
6. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (3) – 2,334
7. J.R. Todd (1) – 2,312
8. Tommy Johnson, Jr. Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (2) – 2,306
9. Shawn Langdon (2) – 2,274
10. Tim Wilkerson – 2,223
Top Fuel Point Standings:
1. Steve Torrence (9) –2,488
2. Brittany Force (2) – 2,472
3. Doug Kalitta (2) – 2,433
4. Billy Torrence (1) –2,402
5. Leah Pritchett, Mopar HEMI (1) – 2,353
6. Austin Prock (1) – 2,330
7. Mike Salinas (2) – 2,322
8. Antron Brown – 2,279
9. Richie Crampton (2) – 2,261
10. Clay Millican – 2,241
The Countdown to the Championship will conclude in two weeks with the 55th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals November 15th to 17th. Hagan, a three-time winner of the fall event at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, will look to close the Countdown with three consecutive triumphs and claim his third Funny Car world championship.