NHRA Pre-Race Report – AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals:

Mopar Teams Look To Improve After Struggling In St. Louis...

This weekend, the Mopar/Dodge NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series teams march into Texas for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals. This will be the third event of six for the Countdown to the Championship. As we told you yesterday, driver Leah Pritchett is doing another race weekend of double-duty. With the final race of the NHRA Sam Tech Factory Stock Showdown Series also at the Texas Motorplex this weekend, Leah is one point from the top-spot. Remember, she has won the last two consecutive races in the series and good finish could win her the championship.

Leah’s run for the SAM Tech F/SS championship isn’t the only story this weekend. After the Mopar teams struggled at Gateway, they have to pull together and make up a lot of points in this halfway point to the championship.

Leah Pritchett – Driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster:

Leah, qualified fifth at Gateway and went to the semifinals before being eliminated by Steve Torrence. Last year at Texas, Pritchett qualified six and went to the quarterfinals. She currently sits fourth in the Top Fuel points and has 28 round wins this season.

“More than anything, not only am I pumped for this race, but proud of the journey of both these teams (Top Fuel and Factory Stock Showdown) to get to the position we are in going into Ennis. Unique barely describes the upcoming weekend. Everything we’ve been working towards comes to this weekend, in both categories.

“Obviously for Factory Stock, we have an extremely solid shot at winning a championship being only one point out of first place. Our strategy is to continue doing what we’ve done, not play ladder games, just run as fast as we can every time, and ultimately the game plan is to win the race, which would win us the championship.

“Still in strong contention in Top Fuel. Ennis is huge because it holds a very strong potential to be a turning point in the Countdown. Same mindset, win the race. We’re coming into Ennis with a new front-half after noticing issues in St. Louis from an incident. I think this excites me more than the magnitude of the race because I know with new pipe, our crew chiefs will have their cooperative hot rod back. That brings a new level of confidence that I can’t wait to energize with in the car. At this point for both classes, we still cannot worry about what the competition is doing, and we will remain focused on our own path to being the quickest in every way.” – Leah Pritchett

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

Tony Schumacher – Driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster:

“The Sarge” goes into the Fall Nationals sitting third in the Top Fuel points this season with 27 round wins. Schumacher is a six-time Fall Nationals champion (1999, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2014). Last year, he qualified second at the event before being eliminated in the first round.

“The mindset of our U.S. Army team is the same as it’s been since we started doing this 18 years ago and that is to go out and be the best that we can be each and every time we hit the track, whether it’s testing, qualifying, or racing on Sundays. If there are races left on the schedule, and we’re still within striking distance, then anything is possible. This team has proven that time and again over the years. The competitiveness from top to bottom is better than it’s ever been. There are a lot of quality teams we have to do battle against week in and week out, and that’s absolutely great for the fans, for our sport. No one is safe on any given weekend, although after the first two Countdown events, a couple of teams have created a little separation from the rest of us, for now. Dallas is our next stop and the game plan remains the same as it ever was. We need to develop some consistency and be machine-like and take matters into our own hands.” – Tony Schumacher

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

Jack Beckman – Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT:

“Fast Jack” Beckman comes into Texas looking for redemption after losing to John Force in the first round in St. Louis. Beckman, currently sits ninth in the Funny Car points. Last year in Texas, Beckman qualified third and ended up going to the semifinals before being eliminated by his teammate Ron Capps.

“In most other forms of sports, a comeback is possible within the same event. Boxing, baseball, football, you can be down and get back up and get back in the game. In drag racing, it’s totally different. If you go down early, you’re done for the event, and we’ve done that three races in a row. It has to stop. If we want to have any shot at the championship, Dallas is our race. I thought St. Louis we needed to make it to the final round to get back into contention, and we didn’t win a single round, so that’s negative three rounds by my count. We’ve got to figure it out in Dallas. We stayed in St. Louis on Monday to test and made four runs. We did well, but that was St. Louis. Dallas is a different weekend, different weather, different race track. We have to be perfect.” – Jack Beckman

Ron Capps piloting his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car at the NHRA Dodge Nationals. (Mopar).

Ron Capps – Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T:

Ron Capps and his NAPA Auto Parts team come to Texas, still running their successful Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car body. After having a terrible first round elimination in St. Louis, Capps is looking to improve on his finish last year in Texas when he took his NAPA Dodge Charger R/T to the final round before losing to Robert Hight. Capps, currently sits fifth in the Funny Car points.

“One thing we know for sure when October comes around is that we’re going to be coming up on our race at the Texas Motorplex. We always look forward to going to what was purposely built as the first ‘super track’ by former Funny Car racer Billy Meyer.

“Every season it seems like the race at the Texas Motorplex plays a huge role in the championship for Funny Car and the NHRA. In 2016, we left the Motorplex with what was considered for our team a gut-wrenching race day and we battled through a lot of things to get as many points in the Mello Yello standings as we did. That helped us win the 2016 world championship title. Last year, the Motorplex once again played a huge role for our team as we battled Robert Hight and (Hight’s crew chief) Jimmy Prock. We met up with them in the final round, and once again we left there as the points leaders, just as we did the year before. This season we lost a little bit of ground at the previous race in St Louis, but our NAPA AutoCare team is looking to have another great result at the Motorplex and put ourselves back in the championship points hunt.

“As an NHRA Drag Racer, you don’t find very many tracks that are built like the Texas Motorplex. It’s still considered one of the best race tracks we attend and race at. (NAPA crew chief) Rahn Tobler and our team have shown we still have one of the most consistent race cars in the Funny Car division, and I’m looking forward to getting back on the race track and continuing our success.” – Ron Capps

Matt Hagan piloting his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car at the 2018 NHRA Dodge Nationals. (Mopar).

Matt Hagan – Driver of the Pennzoil Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT:

Since debuting the Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car body in Denver, Hagan and his team have struggled to get the car to be as competitive as the old Charger R/T body they used to run. In St. Louis, Hagan qualified eleventh and was eliminated in the first round by Tim Wilkerson. Last year in Texas, Hagan also was eliminated in the first round. The Pennzoil/Mopar team look to get back in the groove this weekend and try to improve on their current seventh place position in the Funny Car points.

“Looking forward to the Dallas race. We’ve done well there, we’ve won that race before and we’d sure like to get another winner’s cowboy hat.

“We stayed behind in St. Louis to test and it was really productive, and brought some good, positive energy. Moving forward, things should improve. We just didn’t have the greatest track record with the combo we were running, so obviously we needed to change that up and we did in testing in St. Louis. With points and a half at (the season-closer) Pomona, there’s still almost five races left if you think about it. There’s still a lot of racing left. We’re not out of the hunt and we have a great opportunity to battle back and look like heroes, but we have to have a good race in Dallas to do that; it can’t just be a first or second round sort of Sunday.” – Matt Hagan

Tommy Johnson Jr. piloting his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car. (MoparInsiders).

Tommy Johnson Jr. – Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T:

Like his teammate Ron Capps, Johnson and his Make-A-Wish team are continuing to use the successful Charger R/T body. Johnson, was the most successful Mopar funny car driver at St. Louis going to the semifinals. Johnson, currently sits sixth in the Funny Car points with 25 round wins.

“Looking forward to Dallas. I’ve been racing there for so long, since it opened, basically. So many memories from over the years there. It’s going to be a critical race for the Countdown. We made good progress, we’ve had a really good race car and we feel we’re very competitive and capable of winning at any time. If we can just pick it up a notch and continue to put ourselves in the hunt, I think a championship is possible but Dallas will be a very key race. We haven’t had much success there the past few years in the Countdown so it’s important that we turn it around this year.” – Tommy Johnson Jr.

Current Top Fuel Standings:

01 Steve Torrence 2346 0 Capco Racing/Torrence Motorsports
02 Clay Millican 2276 -70 Parts Plus/ Great Clips/ UNOH dragster
03 Tony Schumacher 2225 -121 U.S. Army Dragster
04 Leah Pritchett 2192 -154 Papa John’s Dragster
05 Antron Brown 2169 -177 Matco Tools Dragster
06 Doug Kalitta 2135 -211 Mac Tools Dragster
07 Mike Salinas 2119 -227 Scrappers Racing
08 Terry McMillen 2093 -253 Amalie Motor Oil Dragster
09 Brittany Force 2085 -261 Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
10 Scott Palmer 2085 -261 CatSpot/Tommy Thompson Motorsports
01 Robert Hight 2270 0 Auto Club Chevy Camaro SS
02 J.R. Todd 2240 -30 DHL Toyota Camry
03 Courtney Force 2200 -70 Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro SS
04 Tim Wilkerson 2196 -74 Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang
05 Ron Capps 2182 -88 NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T
06 Tommy Johnson Jr 2166 -104 Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T
07 Matt Hagan 2144 -126 Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT
08 John Force 2116 -154 PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS
09 Jack Beckman 2113 -157 Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT
10 Shawn Langdon 2086 -184 Global Electronic Technology Toyota

TV Schedule:

Friday, Oct. 5, 2018 (early sat am)
1:30am – 2:30am ET FS1 ORIGINAL
NHRA FRIDAY NITRO LIVE Saturday, October 6, 2018 9:00am – 10:00am ET FS1 RE-AIR
NHRA SATURDAY NITRO LIVE Saturday, October 6, 2018 5:30pm – 7:00pm ET FS2 LIVE
NHRA SATURDAY NITRO LIVE Sunday, October 7, 2018 1:00am – 2:00am ET FS1 ORIGINAL
NHRA FRIDAY NITRO LIVE Sunday, October 7, 2018 8:30am – 9:30am ET FS2 RE-AIR
NHRA SATURDAY NITRO LIVE Sunday, October 7, 2018 11:00am – Noon ET FS2 RE-AIR
NHRA SUNDAY NITRO Sunday, October 7, 2018 1:00pm – 2:00pm ET FS1 ORIGINAL
NHRA Sunday, October 7, 2018 2:00pm – 5:00pm ET FS1 LIVE
NHRA Monday, October 8, 2018 3:00am – 6:00am ET FS1 RE-AIR
NHRA Monday, October 8, 2018 10:00pm – 1:00am ET FS2 RE-AIR
NHRA Tuesday, October 9, 2018 7:00pm – 10:00pm ET FS1 RE-AIR
NHRA IN 30 Thursday, October 11, 2018 10:00pm – 10:30pm ET FS2 ORIGINAL


Sources: DSR and NHRA

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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