NHRA Pre-Race Report – Auto Club Finals:

Mopar Teams Look To End Season With A Win!

This weekend marks the last race of the season for the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. The series returns to Pomona, California for the 2018 Auto Club Finals. While the Top Fuel point championship has already been grabbed by driver Steve Torrence last weekend, the Funny Car title is still up for grabs. All of the top NHRA teams are looking to close the season out with a win this weekend.

LEAH PRITCHETT – Driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster:

Leah Pritchett piloting her Dodge//SRT Top Fuel Dragster. (Mopar).

Leah comes off a runner-up finish in Las Vegas two weeks ago. While the Top Fuel championship has already been won, her and her Mopar Dodge Top Fuel team have 33 rounds under their belt this season and are ranked fourth in points and look on improving those thats this weekend. Going up in Redlands, California, Leah considers Auto Club Raceway (Pomona) her home track.

“The season may be coming to a close, but there is still so much on the line for our Mopar team with the potential to finish second in the world. Coming off of a very consistent performance in Vegas, we know the chances and confidence are high as we look forward to soaring our momentum at my official home track. Qualifying will be key as it always is.

“We began the season with the incredible opportunity to represent the men and women of the U.S. Army and their recruiting efforts with an emphasis on STEM. We have grown in this short time as a team from the values they represent and resilience to be the best in everything they do. As this chapter closes on the official partnership, we will forever continue to be proud of our service men and women and pursue wins on the track in their honor. There are no words to describe how humbled and proud I am to have carried the star all season long, and I look forward to being one of the final panelists at the last YES program, especially in my hometown community.” – Leah Pritchett

TONY SCHUMACHER – Driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster

This weekend marks the last time that “The Sarge” will be racing the colors of the U.S. Army. It was announced earlier this year that the U.S. Army would not return as a sponsor on the car for 2019. It marks an end to a partnership that dates back to the 2000 NHRA U.S. Nationals. Tony looks to make a great showing for them and getting his U.S. Army team back in the winner’s circle. Schumacher still sits third in the point standings.

“The championship is out of reach but, believe it or not, we’re really looking forward to Pomona, which is pretty much the case every race weekend with this U.S. Army team. We want to say hats off to Steve Torrence for the incredible year he and his team have had. We always say it’s nice to once in a while enjoy someone else’s good fortune. Life’s too short to feel otherwise. We’re an awesome race team with an incredible winning record, a championship heritage. Having won championships, we can really enjoy someone else’s championship efforts because we know every little thing that goes into winning them, just what it takes to earn it.

“As for what we expect this weekend, it’ll be business as usual. We are going to try and win the race. We’re well aware of the points situation and the fact we can finish as high as second in the points if we have the kind of weekend we’re capable of. That would be all well and good, but we’ve first got to go in with the mindset of trying to win this race. The points will take care of themselves, as they always do. If you’re not No. 1 at the end of the season, it really doesn’t matter where you end up, does it? It’s all about winning. This is the best time to win because, if you don’t, you really have a long wait until you get your next chance.”  – Tony Schumacher

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

JACK BECKMAN – Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT

This weekend marks a milestone in Beckman’s career. “Fast Jack” will start his 300th event this weekend in Pomona. Currently eighth in points, the Infinite Hero Foundation team is looking to make some noise this weekend and making Beckman’s milestone one to remember.

“There’s going to be two happy Funny Car drivers after Pomona – whoever is going to win the championship, and whoever wins the race. For us, we know we’re not going to win the championship, but man, the winter is a lot more palatable if you have that last trophy of the year.

“Our Infinite Hero team ran good enough in Vegas that we could’ve won the race, we just came out on the wrong end of another close side-by-sider. We have every reason to be optimistic going into Pomona. The guys have had a week to go over notes and I think that we have zeroed-in on all of our tuneup stuff. This is going to be a race where there are no excuses. It’s going to be about performance, it’s going to be about beating four people, and that’s a big, big trophy. It’s the same size as the other 23 they give out, but it’s going to mean a lot more to anyone that wins it, and I hope it’s us.” – Jack Beckman

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

RON CAPPS – Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T

Ron Capps comes to Pomona, third in the Funny Car points. While he still sits back 165 points from the leader, there is still a chance it could win the championship. Capps, will still be running his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car body which will retired after this season. His NAPA Auto Parts team have 33 round wins this year and look to add some more this weekend.

Matt Hagan piloting his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car. (Mopar).

MATT HAGAN – Driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT

It’s been a season of ups and downs for Matt Hagan and his Mopar Express Lane team. Hagan comes into Pomona with high hopes. He has won this event three times in his career (2011, 2013 and 2014), and his looking at adding another one to his impressive resume. With 31 round wins this season, he currently sits seventh in points and has no chance of winning the championship. So the team has made their goal to end the season by winning this weekend.

“Wow, where did the year go? We don’t have a shot to win the title, but there’s still a race to win. We want to finish strong, and we’d like to set the tone for next year. It’s a quick off-season and then we’re right back at it for testing; it’ll go by quick. We’ve had some struggles this year adjusting to new combinations and track prep, but it’s still been a good year overall; we’ve won a few races. We want nothing more than to put this new Mopar HELLCAT Funny Car body in the winner’s circle, and to be the first ones to do that.”  – Matt Hagan

Tommy Johnson Jr. piloting his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car. (Mopar).

TOMMY JOHNSON JR. – Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T 

Johnson, returns to Pomona like his teammate Ron Capps driving a Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car. Tommy Johnson and his Make-A-Wish team have been dominant lately, be qualifying in the top spot for the past three races consecutively. Tommy is the defending winner of this event, beating Robert Hight last year. Currently fifth in points, the team is laying everything down this weekend.

“Looking forward to Pomona. Going to the final the past three years in a row, and winning it the last two years, it gives you a lot of confidence and it’s a great way to finish the season strong. We’re excited about our chances there. Unfortunately, 2018 wasn’t the championship year we were looking for, but we’re still looking to go out, finish strong and see if we can’t keep things going with a fourth No. 1 qualifier in a row, and a third consecutive NHRA Finals event win.” – Tommy Johnson, Jr.

2018 NHRA Championship — Point Standings After Round 23 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)

NHRA Funny Car
1.  J.R. Todd — 2553
2. Robert Hight — 2479
3.  Ron Capps, Dodge Charger R/T (3) — 2388
4.  Tim Wilkerson — 2367
5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger R/T — 2362
6.  Courtney Force — 2324
7.  Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (3) — 2321
8.  Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (2) — 2283

9.  John Force — 2277
10. Shawn Langdon — 2204

NHRA Top Fuel
1.  Steve Torrence – 2718
2.  Clay Millican — 2487
3.  Tony Schumacher, Mopar Dodge HEMI (1) — 2454
4.   Leah Pritchett, Mopar Dodge HEMI (2) — 2394

5.   Brittany Force — 2302
6.   Antron Brown — 2291
7t.  Mike Salinas — 2259
7t.  Doug Kalitta — 2259
9.   Terry McMillen — 2253
10.  Scott Palmer — 2182

NHRA TV Schedule For Auto Club Finals…

FRIDAY NITRO LIVE Friday, November 9, 2018 10:30pm – 11:30pm ET FS1 DELAYED
FRIDAY NITRO LIVE Saturday, November 10, 2018 7:00am – 8:00am ET FS1 RE-AIR
SUNDAY LIVE Sunday, November 11, 2018 11:30am – 12:30pm ET FS1 DELAYED
NHRA FINALS Sunday, November 11, 2018 4:00pm – 7:00pm ET FS1 LIVE
POST RACE SHOW Sunday, November 11, 2018 7:00pm – 7:30pm ET FS1 LIVE
FRIDAY NITRO LIVE Sunday, November 11, 2018 8:00pm – 9:00pm ET FS2 RE-AIR
SUNDAY LIVE Sunday, November 11, 2018 9:00pm – 10:00pm ET FS2 RE-AIR
NHRA FINALS Sunday, November 11, 2018 10:00pm – 1:00am ET FS2 RE-AIR
NHRA FINALS Tuesday, November 13, 2018 3:00am – 6:00am ET FS1 RE-AIR
NHRA IN 30 Thursday, November 15, 2018 8:30pm – 9:00pm ET FS2 ORIGINAL
NHRA FINALS Thursday, November 15, 2018 10:00pm – 1:00am ET FS2 RE-AIR



Sources: ShoeRacing.com and NHRA.com

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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