Dodge//SRT Mopar driver Matt Hagan continues to make his presence known loud and clear as the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series 2019 season nears a conclusion. The two-time Funny Car champion earned his second No. 1 qualifying position driving the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody of Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) for the 55th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, California and closed the points gap on the championship leaders heading into Sunday’s elimination rounds.
Hagan surged his way to Pomona coming off consecutive Funny Car wins in Dallas and Las Vegas. The 2011 and 2014 champion continued his late-season push topping qualifying in both sessions Friday behind the wheel of the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody, with quickest pass of 3.872 seconds that held up through Saturday qualifying. He collected a total of 10 qualifying points and an additional two points for final position to close the gap from 56 points behind the leader to trailing by only 44 when eliminations commence Sunday. The three-time Auto Club NHRA Finals winner will face Jonnie Lindberg in the opening round.
“There’s a lot of confidence in our team,” said Hagan, after earning his 36th career No.1 position. “Starting from the No. 1 spot is huge, it sets the tone for the whole day. We’ve got a great race car, and I feel really confident about all of the decisions they’re making in the lounge and how it’s performing on the race track. I’m hungry for it; all of us out here live to be in this position where you have the opportunity to win a world championship.”
Fellow Mopar-powered Funny Car driver Jack Beckman is also within striking distance of earning his second NHRA Funny Car championship. Beckman opened and closed qualifying with stout runs aboard the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car of DSR. He earned three qualifying points in Q1 and topped the field to close qualifying Saturday afternoon putting him into the second qualifier position and earning four additional bonus points. Entering Sunday, he trails the leader by 38 points and begins his quest for his second world title facing off with John Hale in round one.
Tommy Johnson, Jr., the 2016 and 2017 Auto Club NHRA Finals champion, qualified the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car of DSR seventh. Ron Capps, the pilot of the NAPA Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car, claimed the eighth position on the ladder and will begin his quest for his first season-ending victory with a round one matchup versus fellow Dodge//SRT driver Cruz Pedregon.
DSR Top Fuel star Leah Pritchett captured the No. 2 qualifying position driving the HEMI®-powered Dodge//SRT dragster. Pritchett left the last race in Las Vegas mathematically still alive for the Top Fuel championship. The southern California native is looking to close out the 2019 season with her second victory of the campaign and is in good position following qualifying. She drove to quicker E.Ts than any other driver during the opening three rounds of qualifying with a pass of 3.654 seconds. Despite being bumped from earning her second straight No. 1 qualifier on Saturday, she is confident her Mopar team will be ready for their first-round matchup with Scott Palmer.