This weekend marks a huge milestone for U.S. Army driver Tony Schumacher. Schumacher will be starting his 500th event this weekend at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park. It is also the second of six events that make up the Countdown for the Championship. NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver Ron Capps, who currently sits fourth in the points as the last year’s winner at this event. He leads all active funny car drivers with four wins at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Leah Pritchett – Driver of the Papa John’s Pizza Top Fuel Dragster & Dodge//SRT sponsored Dodge Challenger Drag Pak:
Leah Pritchett will be back in her Papa Johns paint scheme this weekend, after a disheartening race last week. She currently sits fourth in the Top Fuel points, and will be pulling double duty again this weekend with both her Top Fuel team and her Dodge Challenger Drag Pak in the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown Series.
My thoughts on St. Louis are concise and simple. Steady and ready. Racing two cars at an event having such pendulum championship percussions will be the epitome of focus and attention to detail. I talk about the strive for perfection, and these are the times it matters most; the times I look forward to most.
We continue to slightly tweak our strategy to find that extra edge, and this weekend is no different. The overall game plan is always the same – grab as many qualifying points as possible, and race one round at a time. We had some extensive carnage from our second round in Reading that brought on an extra workload for the crew this week. A St. Louis win right now is really what they deserve, and what we plan to deliver in the Papa John’s Pizza Top Fuel dragster this weekend.”
Regarding the Factory Stock Showdown Series:
“I am not a fan of the 25-pound weight gain mandated to the Mopar’s as well as the 25-pound weight minimum reduction to the COPOs and Cobra Jets, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. I’m working on being even faster, and the team is working on laying down more power.” – Leah Pritchett
Tony Schumacher – Driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:
As we said before, this will be Tony’s 500th event in NHRA competition. Schumacher has had success twice before (2006, 2010) at Gateway. He has also been the runner up three times (1999, 2008, 2016). With 26 round wins this season, Tony is current tied for second in the Top Fuel points.
“It’s been proven that wins in the Countdown go a long way toward winning the championship. When we first won in St. Louis back in 2006, things were a lot different. It was in June, we were coming off consecutive championships and had not won a race yet and were struggling through a tough start to the year. We get that first win and what happened later that year was a historical run that probably had something to do with a Countdown being created. We fell behind Doug Kalitta by 346 points during that season and ended the year having to win the final race and set a new world record to be champions, and we did it. Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs and we absolutely had to come up big and we did. That mentality and ability to come through when the pressure was at its highest is something we’ve carried on with this U.S. Army team ever since. This weekend, we are taking the same approach in St. Louis. We have to go out and get qualifying points each round. And like last week, we must put ourselves in a position to win Sunday. You have to string together wins. Round by round. Race by race.” – Tony Schumacher
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In Q3, we towed up, fired up the car and it spit an O-ring out in the fuel line; we had a leak and had to shut it off. I cannot remember ever not making a qualifying run except for in New Hampshire in 2016 when we blew the car up so bad it made every highlight reel. We just don’t skip qualifying sessions. And then you get not only one run behind, but you can’t try stuff, so it really kind of painted us into the corner. The guys did a phenomenal job getting our @infiniteherofoundation Dodge back on track. Not only did we move all the way up to fourth, we were second quickest of the session, we got two more bonus points and we’ve got a car that can win the race tomorrow. We will line up against Cruz Pedregon when eliminations begin tomorrow at Maple Grove Raceway. #NHRA #PoweredbyPennzoil #ReadingNats #NHRACountdown
Jack Beckman – Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT:
Beckman has struggled the past two events, with two first round eliminations. However, he is looking to repeat his success he has had at Gateway in the past. Beckman, has won the event twice (2012, 2016), as well as being runner-up twice as well (2010, 2013). “Fast Jack” currently sits eighth in points for the countdown.
“With consecutive first-round losses at Indy and Maple Grove, our backs are up against the wall. Nobody is panicking on the Infinite Hero team because we know we have the people and the resources to be competitive. That being said, if we’re going to be a factor in the championship, St. Louis is a race where we almost certainly have to make the final round to stay up near the top and within reach of the points lead. I’ve had success there before; it propelled me to my 2012 championship, and I think if our Charger HELLCAT with Pennzoil is going to be the one crowned the season champions this year, our path starts in St. Louis.” – Jack Beckman
Ron Capps – Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T:
We told you that Capps was the defending event champion. He continues to run his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car body, instead of the new Charger SRT HELLCAT body at Gateway. Ron is looking to push forward in the points with a good finish at Gateway.
“You can certainly tell it’s the playoffs, NHRA Countdown time, by looking around the pit area last weekend at the opening race in Pennsylvania. We had said that while you can’t win the championship the first couple of races of the Countdown, you can certainly put yourself in a position to lose a chance at the championship. Our NAPA team did a great job of getting off on the right foot; a semifinal finish gave us a good start.
Now we head to St Louis and Gateway Motorsports Park, which for me, holds a lot of great memories as well as always seems to give us great momentum every year we race there. Not only are we going in as defending event champions, but Gateway Motorsports Park is also where I got my very first NHRA professional win in the Funny Car division. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the winner’s circle at that track several times.
We talk about how important momentum is in the Countdown. (Crew chief Rahn) Tobler and our NAPA AutoCare team has worked very hard to make sure that we are ready for anything thrown at us in the six-race playoffs. I’m looking forward to getting on the track and continuing the momentum that we started in Pennsylvania last weekend and trying to repeat our win from last year at Gateway Motorsports Park.” – Ron Capps
Matt Hagan – Driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT:
Matt Hagan, comes off last week’s race with a disappointing start in the Countdown to Championship. Currently fifth in points, the Mopar Express Lane team is looking to rebound this weekend at Gateway. Hagan, has never won at Gateway, but has been the runner-up three times (2012, 2014, 2015).
“Coming off of a really tough race in Reading. Didn’t qualify that great, didn’t have lane choice and went out first round. Not the way we wanted to start the Countdown but to be at the top, you have to feel what it’s like to be at the bottom. It’s all about adversity and bouncing back and working hard. We really need a good race in St. Louis. It needs to be kind to us to make sure we stay in this hunt and that we have an opportunity to win this championship for Mopar, Pennzoil, Sandvik with this new HELLCAT body. I know from the outside looking in things probably don’t look that good right now, but we’re making some changes that I think will point us in the right direction for these last five races. I have confidence in (crew chief) Dickie (Venables) and my team. It’s just a matter of making sure it comes together for the next couple of races. The pressure is always there; we’re just going to focus and do what we know how to do.” – Matt Hagan
Tommy Johnson, Jr. – Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T:
Like Beckman, Johnson and his team continue with the Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car body at Gateway. Currently seventh in the points, Johnson is looking to have some success at Gateway. He has been the runner-up twice (2001, 2016) at the track.
“Always love racing in St. Louis. It’s kind of where I grew up. My dad got his only national event win there so one of these days, I’d like to get a win there as well. We’ve got a great car right now. Unfortunately, we lost a close race second round (at Reading), but we’re still in the hunt. Funny Car points are about as tight as they could be right now. With the momentum, and the way we’ve been running lately, I think it’s just a matter of time. Hopefully this is the year we get that St. Louis win.” – Tommy Johnson, Jr.
Current Top Fuel Points Standings:
|POSITION||DRIVER||POINTS||POINTS BEHIND LEADER||VEHICLE|
|01||Steve Torrence||2219||0||Capco Racing/Torrence Motorsports|
|02||Tony Schumacher||2169||-50||U.S. Army Dragster|
|03||Clay Millican||2169||-50||Parts Plus/ Great Clips/ UNOH dragster|
|04||Leah Pritchett||2118||-101||Papa John’s Dragster|
|05||Antron Brown||2116||-103||Matco Tools Dragster|
|06||Doug Kalitta||2103||-116||Mac Tools Dragster|
|07||Mike Salinas||2067||-152||Scrappers Racing|
|08||Terry McMillen||2062||-157||Amalie Motor Oil Dragster|
|09||Scott Palmer||2053||-166||CatSpot/Tommy Thompson Motorsports|
|10||Brittany Force||2052||-167||Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster|
Current Funny Car Points Standings:
|POSITION||DRIVER||POINTS||POINTS BEHIND LEADER||VEHICLE|
|01||J.R. Todd||2166||0||DHL Toyota Camry|
|02||Robert Hight||2143||-23||Auto Club Chevy Camaro SS|
|03||Courtney Force||2141||-25||Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro SS|
|04||Ron Capps||2137||-29||NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T|
|05||Matt Hagan||2112||-54||Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT|
|06||Tim Wilkerson||2101||-65||Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang|
|07||Tommy Johnson Jr||2090||-76||Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T|
|08||Jack Beckman||2080||-86||Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT|
|09||John Force||2064||-102||PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS|
|10||Shawn Langdon||2054||-112||Global Electronic Technology Toyota|
|FRIDAY NITRO LIVE||Friday, September 21, 2018||7:00pm – 9:00pm ET||FS1||LIVE|
|FRIDAY NITRO LIVE||Saturday, September 22, 2018||7:00am – 9:00am ET||FS1||RE-AIR|
|SUNDAY LIVE||Sunday, September 23, 2018||8:00am – 9:00am ET||FS1||ORIGINAL|
|FRIDAY NITRO LIVE||Sunday, September 23, 2018||10:00am – Noon ET||FS2||RE-AIR|
|NHRA SUNDAY LIVE||Sunday, September 23, 2018||Noon – 1:00pm ET||FS2||RE-AIR|
|FINALS||Sunday, September 23, 2018||2:00pm – 5:00pm ET||FS1||LIVE|
|FINALS||Sunday, September 23, 2018||3:00am – 6:00am ET||FS1||RE-AIR|
|FINALS||Monday, September 24, 2018||9:00pm – Midnight ET||FS2||RE-AIR|
|FINALS||Thursday, September 27, 2018||7:00pm – 10:00pm ET||FS1||RE-AIR|
|NHRA IN 30||Thursday, September 27, 2018||11:30pm – Midnight ET||FS2||ORIGINAL|
|FINALS||Thursday, September 27, 2018||Midnight – 3:00pm ET||FS2||RE-AIR|
|FINALS||Sunday, September 30, 2018||3:00am – 6:00am ET||FS1||RE-AIR|
|NHRA IN 30||Sunday, September 30, 2018||11:30pm – Midnight ET||FS2||RE-AIR|
|FINALS||Monday, October 1, 2018||9:00pm – Midnight ET||FS2||RE-AIR|
|FINALS||Thursday, October 4, 2018||10:00pm – 1:00am ET||FS2||RE-AIR|
Source: NHRA and Don Schumacher Racing