NHRA Pre-Race Report – NGK NHRA Carolina Nationals:

Capps Looks To Repeat Last Year's Performance...

This weekend, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina for the second time this year for the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals. The Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teams are ready to put on a fight, as there are only a few races left in the season. Funny Car Ron Capps returns as the defending event champion after powering to his 60th NHRA Funny Car victory during the 2018 race and all DSR drivers remain in championship contention heading to zMAX Dragway.

So let’s take a look at the DSR teams heading into this weekend’s race…

LEAH PRITCHETT – Driver of the Okuma Top Fuel Dragster

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

Pritchett and her Okuma/Mopar Top Fuel team are currently sitting fifth in the championship points. The team has struggled this year and only have one win under their belts this season. Leah is coming off a semi-final finish from St. Louis where she was defeated by Billy Torrance. The team is looking for a strong performance at zMAX and to better last year’s results at this race where they went to the second-round of elimination before getting beat by Steve Torrance.

“Charlotte will be a very pivotal race for us as we reach the halfway mark of the Countdown from the fifth spot. With horsepower-making weather upon us, we are eager to maintain our strategy of consistent qualifying, but we also know we have a combination that we feel confident can go for low E.T. when it’s out there. (Crew chiefs) Todd (Okuhara) and Neal (Strausbaugh) have made some dramatic setup moves in the Countdown, which have garnered good results, and we look forward to perfecting our program this weekend in order to make deeper progress. The points are so tight right now, every motion of what we do becomes increasingly amplified. I am excited for us to lay everything we’ve got on the line in pursuit of chasing the one thing that matters most – a championship.” – Leah Pritchett

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

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

Even though the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger team of “Fast Jack” Beckman has had a lot of ups and downs this season, the team has pulled together in recent weeks giving the team a good shot at winning the championship. Currently, the team sits third in the Funny Car standings with only 24 points separating them and the leader. Look for Beckman this weekend to really turn up the heat and gain some ground in the points, especially since the team got eliminated in the first round of competition in St. Louis since they really want that championship win.

“Even though we’re coming off a first-round loss at St. Louis, the win at Maple Grove, our first race of the Countdown, has kept us very much alive in the hunt. In fact, after going out early, things kind of played in our favor in St. Louis, so we’re still within one round and some qualifying bonus points of taking back the lead. I think that the next two races are pivotal for two reasons – by the time we get done with them, we’ll be two-thirds of the way through the Countdown, and they’re the only pair of back-to-back races in the Countdown. Nobody can stumble from here on out if you want the No. 1 sticker on your car next year.” – Jack Beckman


Ron Capps and his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger team will be sporting a new look for this weekend’s race. Their new NAPA NIGHTVISION LED Lamps scheme is sure to get some attention and team seems to always perform well with special paint schemes on the car.

Capps currently sits fourth in the Funny Car point standings and is, of course, the last year’s race winner in Charlotte. The team looks to gain some ground on the John Force Racing teams as well as their teammate Jack Beckman.

“This is such a fun part of the season, especially when you’ve got a great race car like we have in our NAPA AUTO PARTS hot rod. Last year, we got to run a special NAPA NIGHTVISION paint scheme at this event, and we ended up winning the race, which put ourselves in position to battle for the championship. So, it’s really cool that at this year’s Carolina Nationals, we’ll once again represent NAPA NIGHTVISION Lamps, although the livery will be a little different. Like I’ve said before, it’s always fun when NAPA uses our team to promote something that’s going to help people be safer on the roads like the NIGHTVISION LED Lamps will, and it doesn’t hurt when you park the car in the winner’s circle like we did last year.” – Ron Capps

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

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

Mopar/Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Widebody Funny Car driver Matt Hagan is no stranger to success at zMAX Dragway. The two-time event winner (2011, 2014) and two-time runner-up (2009, 2013), needs to have a successful run this weekend to stay in the chase for the championship. Currently, the Mopar team sits ninth in the championship points race.

“We have to be extremely strong the last four races of the Countdown. We kind of struggled the first two, so we really need to go out and win the Charlotte race in order to have a chance to keep ourselves in the hunt. We’re more than capable; we just need to execute our plan. We’ve been working all year on having this car run strong, and we need to get started off on the right foot. Friday qualifying sets the tone for the whole weekend. It seems like every time we have a good Friday showing, the rest of the weekend falls into place.

“I’m excited about the fact that we’re already at race No. 3 in the Countdown, but hate that the year has blown by so fast. Sometimes you have to stop and take a step back and enjoy the ride. These next few races, I’m focused on taking it all in and enjoying it. Can’t wait to crawl back into that race car and drive my ass off and do the best job I can for my team.” – Matt Hagan

TOMMY JOHNSON JR. – Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT

Tommy Johnson Jr. piloting his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car. (Mopar).

Tommy Johnson Jr., comes into the Charlotte race with a positive attitude as he has had a good showing at zMAX. Johnson, who is a two-time runner-up (2015-2016) and a three-time No. 1 qualifier (2015-2016, 2018) is looking to get his team in the winner circle this weekend. The team is currently sitting in eighth place in the points race. Last year, Johnson qualified No. 1 but was eliminated in the first round of the competition. The team needs to perform well this weekend, to continue to be a threat in the championship chase.

“I’m looking forward to Charlotte. We didn’t get the results we wanted at the last two races, and we’re a little bit behind in the Countdown. It’s time to make a move, and Charlotte has been good to me over the years. I’ve been No. 1 qualifier there, been runner-up during the Countdown, and have done well at the Four-Wide there as well. If we’re going to turn things around and put our team back in the hunt, I think Charlotte is a good place to do it.” – Tommy Johnson, Jr.

NGK NHRA Carolina Nationals TV Schedule:

FRIDAY NIGHT NITRO LIVE Friday, October 11 9:00pm – 10:00pm ET FS1
NHRA SUNDAY LIVE Sunday, October 13 1:00pm – 2:00pm ET FS1
FINALS Sunday, October 13 2:00pm – 5:00pm ET FS1


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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