Tommy Johnson Jr. and Tony Schumacher raced Mopar Dodge//SRT to runner-up finishes in Funny Car and Top Fuel, respectively, at the season-ending 54th Annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, California, on November 11, 2018.
Mopar Dodge//SRT Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) drivers finished the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season with 11 total wins in the NHRA Nitro classes — eight in Funny Car and three in Top Fuel.
Johnson, coming off three consecutive No. 1 spots, started third after holding the provisional pole and earning 14 bonus points during qualifying. The two-time defending event champion at the season-ending Pomona race posted a 3.905-second elapsed time (ET) at 327.59 mph in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, second quickest of the first round, to beat Cruz Pedregon. Johnson survived a scare in the second round against Courtney Force when his engine initially would not fire up, but once his Mopar HEMI® engine turned over, it lit up the board with a winning 3.913-second ET that was quickest of the round.
Next up was an all-DSR Mopar Dodge semifinals battle with Jack Beckman. Johnson matched his quarterfinals ET of 3.913, paired with a speed of 325.06 mph, to outrun his teammate and advance to his fourth straight final round at the NHRA Finals, third of the year and 48th of his career. Johnson left nothing on the table against newly-crowned Funny Car champion J.R. Todd, posting his quickest run of race day with a 3.889 @ 327.51 mph, but it couldn’t match Todd’s winning 3.872 @ 329.10 pass. With his runner-up finish, Johnson moved to third in the final standings to lead all Mopar Dodge//SRT Funny Car drivers.
Tony Schumacher made the most of his final race in the iconic U.S. Army livery, marching all the way to the final round. “The Sarge” surged to a red-hot start in his Mopar-powered Top Fuel machine, clocking a 3.694 ET that was quickest of the first round to defeat Scott Palmer and earn a spot in round three when his quarterfinal opponent Bill Litton had mechanical issues on the starting line.
In the semifinals against the higher-qualified Blake Alexander, Schumacher led from start to finish to set up a final-round battle against 2018 Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence. Schumacher just missed out on stopping Torrence’s sweep of all six Countdown races. His 3.700 @ 331.61 run was quicker and faster than his opponent’s numbers, but Torrence scored the holeshot win thanks to a .029 reaction time. Schumacher wrapped up the season with one win, six final-round appearances and took second in the Top Fuel final points.
Mopar-powered NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver Ron Capps earned the NHRA Finals pole and had the advantage of a bye when No. 16 qualifier Ray Martin encountered mechanical issues and was unable to make the run. In the quarterfinals, Capps powered his Dodge down the track in 3.921-seconds to take the win against Shawn Langdon’s 3.967 E.T.
The 2016 Funny Car world champion faced Todd in the semifinals. Capps gave it a solid effort, maneuvering his 11,000-horsepower machine down the Pomona track in under four seconds for the sixth consecutive time, but was unable to defeat Todd’s 3.889-second run. Capps closed out the 2018 season ranked fourth in the Funny Car standings, having collected three Wally trophies.
In his 300th professional race, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car driver Jack Beckman advanced to the semifinals. Beckman dodged a bullet in the first round, reeling in his car after it veered toward the center line shortly after launch and then eased it down the strip to defeat Jeff Arend, who also encountered on-track issues. Beckman entered the quarterfinals 30-15 in career matchups against opponent John Force, and added another mark in the win column against the 16-time champ. Force deep-staged for a sizeable lead off the start, but Beckman caught up quickly and pulled away for the round win with a 3.936 @ 318.99 run.
Beckman squared off with DSR teammate Johnson in a match-up of the “giving” cars sponsored by the late Terry Chandler, but fell short in a tight race. The 2012 Funny Car champion racked up two event victories in 2018, good for seventh in the final Funny Car standings.
No. 1 qualifier and Mopar Dodge Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett seemed primed for a deep run on Sunday after clocking the second-quickest pass in Top Fuel history en route to capturing her fourth pole of the season, but unfortunately the DSR racer’s day ended much sooner than desired.
Pritchett left the starting line first against first-round opponent Bill Litton, but she smoked the tires near the 330-ft. mark and then pedaled her dragster several times in a fierce fight to right her Mopar Dodge and get it pointed down the track. Pritchett shut it down after crossing the center line, ending her day. She wrapped up the 2018 season with two event wins and the fourth spot in the Top Fuel standings, to go along with her three event Wally trophies and overall championship in the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown class.
After claiming the win at the 2018 season-opener, Matt Hagan was looking to bookend his season with another Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Wally trophy. Hagan launched his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT off the starting line ahead of his first-round opponent Shawn Langdon and held on to the lead until the 330-foot mark, but began to slow near half-track as Langdon sped down track to claim the round win. Hagan finished his 2018 campaign with three event wins, earning the two-time NHRA Funny Car champ an eighth-place finish in the points.
2018 NHRA Championship — FINAL Point Standings After Round 24 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)
NHRA Funny Car
1. J.R. Todd — 2726
2. Robert Hight — 2532
3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger R/T — 2519
4. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger R/T (3) — 2510
5. Tim Wilkerson — 2418
6. Courtney Force — 2409
7. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (2) — 2405
8. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (3) — 2371
9. John Force — 2356
10. Shawn Langdon — 2285
NHRA Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence – 2900
2. Tony Schumacher, Mopar Dodge HEMI (1) — 2596
3. Clay Millican — 2573
4. Leah Pritchett, Mopar Dodge HEMI (2) — 2461
5. Brittany Force — 2417
6. Antron Brown — 2378
7t. Mike Salinas — 2308
7t. Doug Kalitta — 2308
9. Terry McMillen — 2301
10. Scott Palmer — 2231