While intermittent rain interrupted and then eventually shortened National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions at the Mopar Express Lane SpringNationals Presented by Pennzoil on Saturday, it didn’t put a damper on expectations for the Mopar Dodge//SRT contingent heading into the elimination rounds at Houston Raceway Park.
Due to forecasted rain, Friday sessions were canceled and the NHRA moved up the Saturday schedule to begin earlier in the day in the hopes of getting in both qualifying sessions for all categories. While there were pauses in action due to sporadic sprinkles, they were able to complete the first qualifying sessions. Then the first few pairs of Funny Cars locked in times during the second session before the skies darkened and unrelenting rain eliminated the possibility of any more runs. The remaining Funny Car entries had their seeded positions determined by Q1 times, while Top Fuel and Factory Stock Showdown elimination ladders were set by their sole session.
That ended up being good news for the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat entries of Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon who were among the handful that were able to get in a second Funny Car pass; Both had issues with their initial outings, but each put in solid second runs to position themselves in the top half of the eliminations ladder.
Capps kept his streak of top-five qualifying positions alive this season with a 3.941-second pass at 315.42 mph aboard his Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Funny Car to move up into the No. 3 spots on the eliminations ladder after hazing the tires in the first session. The four-time winner (2006, 2007, 2015, and 2017) and two-time runner-up (2012, 2020) at Houston will be looking to go rounds on Sunday by starting with lane choice over No. 14 Paul Lee.
The Pedregon Racing Snap-on® Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat was looking strong in its first run of the day as it crossed the finish line in 4.003-seconds @ 319.98 mph, a time that was subsequently disqualified due to a brush with the wall just prior to crossing the stripe. Pedregon came back quickly with a solid second pass at 3.943-seconds @ 323.12 mph to put himself in the No. 4 positions on the ladder for race day. A three-time winner at Houston Raceway Park, including his very first career Funny Car event win in 1992, Pedregon is hoping to turn on win lights as he begins his day against No. 13 Terry Haddock.
DSR driver Matt Hagan, who also took home his first-ever Funny Car Wally trophy from this event in 2010, earned his spot in the top half of the eliminations ladder with his only qualifying run at 3.961 sec. @ 324.12 mph. That pass was the third quickest of the Q1 session and rewarded him a bonus point. Hagan’s Pennzoil Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye ended up at No. 6 overall and paired with No. 11 Chad Green for the opening round.
While the Top Fuel class only got one session, DSR’s Leah Pruett made sure that was all she needed. She drove her Pennzoil Top Fuel dragster to the No. 2 position with a 3.733-second elapsed time to run @ 312.86 mph to collect two bonus points for the second-quickest run of the session. She’ll face off against No. 13 Justin Ashley in the first round of eliminations as she looks to repeat her 2017 winning performance.
Pruett will have two chances to drive to the winner’s circle this weekend as she returns behind the wheel of her 2021 Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak for the Factory Stock Showdown (FSS) in the Sportsman category for the first time since the 2021 season opener. This is the first time FSS will run a full event at Houston as last year’s runs were a carryover from the St. Louis finals that had been rained out.
Pruett took her DSR- prepared Mopar Drag Pak for a 7.959-second pass @ 174.73 mph, putting her tenth on the timing sheets and in the lane next to No. 7 Arthur Kohn.
Teammate Mark Pawuk qualified No. 13 with an 8.050-second pass @ 172.21 mph aboard his Empaco Equipment Mopar Drag Pak to set up his first-round match-up against No. 4 seed David Barton.
The Mopar Express Lane SpringNationals Presented by Pennzoil will be streamed online via NHRA.TV and television coverage will be broadcast on FS1 on Sunday, May 22nd with a qualifying show from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. ET and eliminations from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. ET.