Dodge and Mopar look to begin the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) 2019 season at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California, February 7-10, with a fifth consecutive Funny Car victory with one of Don Schumacher Racing’s (DSR) stable of Mopar/Dodge drivers and a second triumph in three years of Top Fuel competition in the Mopar-powered 330-plus mph machine of Leah Pritchett.
Matt Hagan, two-time NHRA Funny Car World Champion and driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car, begins his second decade of carrying the Mopar brand seeking to join three other drivers that have won three consecutive Winternationals. He’ll also be seeking to make history and score the first NHRA National event win utilizing the HELLCAT body, which debuted in July of last year.
“We are so excited to make that first hit of the year and knowing that we are starting in Pomona is something special,” said Hagan, winner of the 2015 and 2017-18 Winternationals. “The odds of winning any race out here are extremely high with the competition we have, but it feels good knowing we are the only ones heading there with a chance to win three straight. I hope I didn’t jinx myself (laughs) talking about winning three in a row. Seriously though, we are gunning for it. We want to be the first one to turn on four win lights with the HELLCAT. I feel like we are going to come out strong and have a real opportunity to do it.”
Pritchett is coming off a career-best 2018 campaign, which included her domination of the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Presented By Pennzoil and winning the 2018 Factory Stock Showdown championship. She’ll have primary placement of the Mopar and Dodge brands on the DSR Top Fuel Dragster in nine of the 24 events on the 2019 schedule. The impact of representing the iconic brands following an incredible season continues to resonate with the Redlands, California, native.
“The foundation has been laid over the last 15-plus years between Mopar/Dodge and DSR,” said Pritchett, winner of two 2018 Top Fuel national events and a career-best fourth place ranking in the final championship standings. “It’s difficult for me to put actual words out there to describe my place in it all. The groundwork for the success we’ve had is done and I can just tell you that being part of the Dodge/Mopar/DSR legacy is amazing. I am so stoked. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to start a season than I am right now.
“We are coming off an incredible season. One with such high emotions and career pinnacle achievements. Winning the Factory Stock Showdown was pure joy and the result of hard work, determination and being able to deliver. That followed the biggest win of my career last year at the Dodge Mile-High Nationals. It was a weekend filled with gratitude and miracles for me. Like I said, we have raised the bar and we’re ready to come back in 2019 and achieve even more.”
Hagan, who scored three wins and the eighth position in the 2018 standings, is focused on a better performance behind the wheel of a Mopar-powered DSR Dodge Funny Car in 2019 as he seeks his third career NHRA Funny Car title.
“Teamwork is everything,” said Hagan, who will have Dodge/Mopar as primary sponsor in 12 events in 2019. “I’ve won two World Championships. Finished runner-up twice. Won a bunch of races and it’s because of the people I’ve surrounded myself with. I’ve been around good people and we are all motivated and driven. That starts at the top with Don (Schumacher) and the last decade with Mopar. We are all goal oriented and driven. It’s a new season ahead of us and we’re all ready to get after it.”
Hagan’s DSR teammates, Ron Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr., will also battle for the crown in Mopar HEMI®-engine-fueled Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car machines. Capps, winner of the 2016 Winternationals and 2017 Funny Car champ, won three times last season and finished fourth in the standings. Beckman, the 2012 Funny Car champ, raced to two victories and finished seventh in points, while Johnson finished 2018 strong reaching the final in the season-ending NHRA Finals and finishing third in points.