NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals – Pre-Race Report:

Pritchett Returns As Defending Race Winner...

This weekend’s NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minnesota is the 17th event of the 24 event schedule of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Leah Pritchett returns as the defending race winner at Brainerd in Top Fuel. Last year, not only did she set the track E.T. record at 3.640 seconds, but it also made her the fastest woman in NHRA history. She also qualified first at the event last year and it looking to move up in the points. She currently sets fourth in the Top Fuel points.

“Last year was a perfect scenario of conditions, of rising to the occasion on every level from the tuners to the crew, to making sure everything was perfect. We were able to make that all come together and execute it. That’s what is so exciting. It was a sense of satisfaction, gratitude and justification when everything came together. We know what that feels like. We know what it takes to do that. You practice that every single race, trying to have that perfect execution, and we were able to do that. That feeling and momentum are still with us and I feel it will be with us when we go into Brainerd because it will be those conditions you look forward to. Our focus is moving up in the points. On one hand, it’s extremely key to get momentum coming out of Brainerd, but then, on the other hand, you look at it as just another race. I’d like to think of this race as a practice crunch-time for hopefully what will be at the end of the season. The importance is there.” – Leah Pritchett

Tony Schumacher Piloting His U.S. Army Top Dragster. (Mopar).

Her Mopar Top Fuel teammate Tony Schumacher is three-time event winner at Brainerd (2000, 2004 and 2008). Last year he qualified fourth and was defeated by Clay Millican in the second round of eliminations. Currently Tony sits second in Top Fuel point with 22 round wins.

“It’s Brainerd – the fans are going to see some outstanding racing. This U.S. Army team keeps plugging away, trying to be as machine-like as we can. We’re in a good spot in the standings. There’s not really a chance to catch the leader with just two races left in the regular season, but we need to work really hard to keep those folks behind us right where they are. We just have to do what we know how to do and try and head into the Countdown on a high note.

“The biggest reason for our U.S. Army team’s success is because of its commitment to be the best and that starts with (crew chief) Mike (Neff) and (assistant crew chief) Phil (Shuler). Those guys are phenomenal, and the rest of the guys follow their lead. Every one of them is vital to us being successful. They all have their role and have to be great at their jobs. We compete against great drivers and teams and, if we aren’t at our best, then we will get beat. Experience plays a big factor. They’ve been through the battles. When it comes time for those quick turnarounds and making sure everything is perfect, that’s when their talents come out even more. It’s a privilege for me to get in that U.S. Army car and look out and see my nine guys. I know I’ve always got a great chance just because of the work those guys do.” – Tony Schumacher

“Fast Jack” Beckman piloting his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T. (Mopar).

Jack Beckman is looking for a win in Brainerd this weekend for his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team. Last year at Brainerd, Beckman qualified sixth and went to the quarterfinals before getting beat by John Force. Currently, Beckman sits fifth in points with 20 round wins this season.

“After only our third first-round loss of the year, the Infinite Hero team spent what should’ve been an off-weekend at the annual Norwalk match race using it as a test day to zero-in on a better clutch combination. Hopefully, that will translate into better results.

“Brainerd will not be a ‘make or break’ for us, and it should be where we clinch a spot in the Countdown. Brainerd really kind of represents a turning point because the next race after that is Indy, which is points-and-a-half, and then we get into the Countdown. At Brainerd, you either have your tune-up together or you’re going to be an also-ran for the championship.” – Jack Beckman

Ron Capps’ NAPA/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car. (NHRA)

Ron Capps comes off the last event with a win in Seattle. Capps and his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team qualified eighth last year at Brainerd. The team then went to the quarterfinal before being defeated by Robert Hight. Ron is second in points current with 27 round wins going into this weekend’s event.

“We talk every year about the Brainerd race being that point in the season when the teams get what we call ‘Countdown-ready.’ That can mean a lot of different things for different teams, but for our NAPA team, it’s always meant that we want to make sure that we have our team, our tune-up, and everything lined up for us to be able to start the Countdown and run for the NHRA Mello Yello Championship once again. Brainerd always plays a crucial part of the Countdown, whether you’re fighting to stay in the top 10, or like us, fighting to gain the number one spot going into it.

“(Crew chief) Rahn Tobler and our NAPA team work really hard away from the track to make sure that we are ready for these next two races to end the regular season on a high note. But I have to say, Brainerd really brings a smile to my face because of not only the success that we’ve had in the past there with all of the wins and final rounds, but the fact that I’m able to make sure that our guys have a great time while we’re in town. Our NAPA group from that area has always taken our team out for a fishing expedition on Thursday prior to the race, as well as a great big dinner at the Power Lodge across the street from the track on Friday night. On top of that, my wife’s family is from that area, so every year it’s like a family reunion, and there’s nothing better than having family by your side when you can get in the winner’s circle. But the biggest thing about the Brainerd race is of course ‘the Zoo,’ and the fans that created ‘Capps’ Corner.’ I’m not sure I’ve had a better compliment than having something named after me in the legendary Brainerd Zoo.” – Ron Capps

Matt Hagan piloting the all-new 2019 Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car. (Mopar)

Matt Hagan is looking at taking his new Mopar/Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car to a win at Brainerd after qualifying first at the last event in Seattle. Hagan has been a two-time runner up at Brainerd, but has never won the event. He currently is ranked fourth in the points with 24 round wins this season.

“Looking forward to Brainerd. We’ve kind of struggled the last couple of races while on the Western Swing, so now that’s behind us I feel a little bit better about things. Brainerd has been a fast track in the past. We’ve been able to lay down some good numbers there. I don’t think we’ll see any records this year, but you never know. We’re going to try and get this new Hellcat body in the winner’s circle for the first time, and I think based off of what we’ve learned the past few races with clutch wear and wearing the primary, I think we can do well this weekend. We’re ready to race, we’re focused; let all of the crazy people be crazy in ‘the Zoo’ and hopefully we can turn on four win lights on Sunday.” – Matt Hagan

Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, Tommy Johnson Jr. is the 2017 Brainerd runner-up. He qualified fifth last year and is looking for his second win at the track (2006). Johnson is currently seventh in the points for Funny Car with 17 round wins this season.

“Looking forward to Brainerd, especially with the way our car has been running lately, with two semifinals over the last few races and being runner-up at Brainerd last season. I think we’re at a time right now where our Make-A-Wish Dodge has really turned the corner. We’re due for a win and we’d love nothing more than to build some momentum right before Indy.” – Tommy Johnson, Jr.

Current Points:

Top Fuel: (Wally Statue Indicates Driver/Team In Championship Countdown):

01 Steve Torrence 1251 0 Capco Racing/Torrence Motorsports
02 Tony Schumacher 1090 -161 U.S. Army Dragster
03 Clay Millican 1084 -167 Parts Plus/ Great Clips/ UNOH dragster
04 Leah Pritchett 1083 -168 Papa John’s Dragster
05 Doug Kalitta 995 -256 Mac Tools Dragster
06 Antron Brown 927 -324 Matco Tools Dragster
07 Terry McMillen 759 -492 Amalie Motor Oil Dragster
08 Brittany Force 731 -520 Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
09 Richie Crampton 660 -591 Kalitta Air/DHL dragster
10 Scott Palmer 649 -602 CatSpot/Tommy Thompson Motorsports

Funny Car:

01 Courtney Force 1300 0 Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro SS
02 Ron Capps 1146 -154 NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T
03 Robert Hight 1085 -215 Auto Club Chevy Camaro SS
04 Matt Hagan 1064 -236 Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
05 Jack Beckman 999 -301 Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T
06 J R Todd 914 -386 DHL Toyota Camry
07 Tommy Johnson Jr 892 -408 Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T
08 John Force 824 -476 PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS
09 Shawn Langdon 736 -564 Global Electronic Technology Toyota
10 Bob Tasca III 691 -609 AutoAlert Shelby Mustang

TV Schedule:

FRIDAY NITRO LIVE Friday, August 17, 2018 6:00pm – 7:00pm ET FS1 LIVE
SUNDAY LIVE Sunday, August 19, 2018 Noon – 1:00pm ET FS1 ORIGINAL
NHRA FINALS Sunday, August 19, 2018 2:00pm – 5:00pm ET FS1 LIVE
NHRA FINALS Sunday, August 19, 2018 10:00pm – 1:00am ET FS1 RE-AIR
FRIDAY NITRO LIVE Monday, August 20, 2018 9:00pm – 10:00pm ET FS2 RE-AIR
SUNDAY LIVE Monday, August 20, 2018 10:00pm -11:00pm ET FS2 RE-AIR
NHRA FINALS Monday, August 20, 2018 11:00pm – 2:00am ET FS2 RE-AIR
NHRA IN 30 Thursday, August 23, 2018 9:00pm – 9:30pm ET FS2 ORIGINAL
NHRA FINALS Thursday, August 23, 2018 10:00pm – 1:00am ET FS2 RE-AIR
NHRA IN 30 Sunday, August 26, 2018 11:30am – Noon ET FS1 RE-AIR
NHRA IN 30 Monday, August 27, 2018 5:30am – 6:00am ET FS1 RE-AIR

Robert S. Miller

Robert S. Miller is a diehard Mopar enthusiast who lives and breathes all that is Mopar. The Michigander is not only the Editor for MoparInsiders.com, 5thGenRams.com, and HDRams.com but an automotive photographer. He is an avid fan of offshore powerboat racing, which he travels the country to take part in.

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