NHRA Pre-Race Report – Toyota Nationals:

NHRA Mello Yello Series Returns To Las Vegas...

After Ron Capps win in Charlotte two weeks ago, the Mopar teams are back with high hopes heading out to the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Toyota Nationals. This marks the fifth of six events that make up the Countdown to the Championship.

Leah Pritchett – Driver of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster:

Mopar Dodge Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett. (Mopar).

Leah goes into Vegas still sitting fourth in the Top Fuel points (295 points behind the leader Steve Torrence). This week she will be driving a special edition Pennzoil paint scheme. Last year at this event, Pritchett qualified eighth and went to the semifinals before getting beat by Brittany Force. She looks to push her way forward in the points this weekend.

“Vegas! For most, it’s the land of luck and bright lights, but for us heading back to the high desert with just two races left means betting it all. All the chips on the table, playing our best cards and taking chances, all with a new Pennzoil livery. We’re going hard, so much so that we have some new internals and externals for this race. TF4 and the DSR fab shop men went hard to work after Charlotte with yet another front-half pipe on our dragster. Not a move most teams make during the Countdown, but it was necessary.

“The fans will have something to look forward to as we reveal a never-before-seen Pennzoil livery that matches the current national campaign. We’ve never had anything like this. I look forward to revealing our new look, but most importantly, putting our eye-catching digger in the winner’s circle. The focus at this point continues to be getting a solid first qualifying hit so we can put it down in Q2 and build on that to go for low (E.T.) every time. We need to gain qualifying points, and ultimately, go four rounds deep into eliminations on Sunday.

“It’s been almost two weeks since our last race, and I know for me it’s felt like a month, with ten airport stops and non-stop travel. I am so incredibly ready to be back racing with my guys and putting on our own Vegas win lights.” – Leah Pritchett


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

Tony Schumacher prior to running his U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster. (Mopar).

“The Sarge” comes into Vegas, sitting in third place in the Top Fuel points (210 points behind the leader). Last year at this event, Schumacher qualified first and went to the quarterfinals before getting beat by his teammate Leah Pritchett. Tony looked strong in Charlotte and even had a chance to gain a lot of points against the point leader Steve Torrence. Unfortunately, Schumacher lost to Torrence in the third round of eliminations. The U.S. Army team is aiming for a solid run this weekend and hoping Torrence’s reign of good luck will run out.

“As slim of a chance as it might be at the moment, the reality is that we still have a shot at the championship and that’s been the goal from day one. It would take two perfect weekends on our part, which we know this U.S. Army team is certainly capable of pulling off, especially with the gains we’ve made the last couple of race weekends with our outright speed, but we would also need a whole lot of help and I’m not sure if that would even be enough. It’s a huge longshot, for sure, but all we can do is control our part of it and hope for some help this weekend. There is no quit in this U.S. Army team and I’ve always said we perform our best when we absolutely have to – backs against the wall in the bottom of the ninth. I’ve been part of some incredible moments with the U.S. Army team and we’re just hoping to keep the dream alive. The first part of doing that is being fast right off the trailer. I know Mike (Neff, crew chief) and Phil (Shuler, assistant crew chief) and the guys have been working hard to make sure that happens. We’ve had so many good weekends racing at The Strip and, despite not having the success we were aiming for so far in the Countdown, we still have the chance to do something special here at the end of the season.”  – Tony Schumacher


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

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

Jack Beckman has struggled ever since he switched over to the new Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car body. In Charlotte, the team qualified tenth before being eliminated in the first round. Lady luck might have an ace up her sleeve in Vegas though. Beckman, has had strong performances in Vegas in the past. He qualified on the pole for this event the past two years. “Fast Jack”, currently sits ninth in the Funny Car points.

“Realistically, the hopes for the Infinite Hero team aren’t pointed towards a world championship this year. We’re too far back in the points and too many things would have to happen. With two races left, our goal is pretty simple: turn an otherwise good year into a very successful year. We’ve already won twice; there’s two more trophies available, and we would very much like to get back into the ‘top five’ in the final point standings.” – Jack Beckman


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

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

Coming off their win in Charlotte, the NAPA team is sitting third in the Funny Car points (109 points behind points leader, Robert Hight). Ron will be driving his Pennzoil colors still weekend, in which the team won with earlier this year. Capps, has to collect as many points as he can during qualifying this weekend to be able to get a good run on Hight and J.R Todd who currently sits second.

“This is the time of year when everything you’ve worked for all season comes to this. Thankfully for me, our NAPA team is always in the hunt for a championship, and nothing is better than to go into the Las Vegas race and be in that conversation. A lot of great stories have been written in the past at this Fall Las Vegas event. It’s where championships have been won and lost. We go to Vegas this year with some great momentum after winning the Carolina Nationals two weeks ago. While we’re not as close as we would like to be, that win put us into third and in a position to have a run at the championship.

“One of the coolest things about this coming weekend in Las Vegas is that we get to run our Pennzoil/NAPA Funny Car paint scheme that we won the Seattle race with back in August. As soon as we brought that car out, our fans loved it, and we would love nothing better than to put it right back in the winner’s circle in Vegas.

“We’re also doing a lot of fun things around and leading up to the race. I have a special appearance on Thursday where I will change somebody’s oil for free with our Pennzoil brand and NAPA AutoCare Centers. We have the NHRA Fan Fest down on Fremont Street on Thursday night, which is always a great event to hang with our NHRA fans. Looking at the weather forecast, it looks like it’s going to be a great weekend for drag racing. You combine good weather with a great track like we have in Vegas, and that means great side by side racing.” – Ron Capps


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

Matt Hagan will be piloting a special paint scheme for his sponsor Pennzoil this weekend. The car will be finished in a chrome wrap. Hagan and his Mopar team have struggled like his teammate Jack Beckman trying to get the new Charger SRT HELLCAT body setup dialed in to be competitive like the old Charger R/T body that they had so much success with. Matt currently sits eighth in points (216 points behind the points leader). Hagan is looking for just a solid run and is the defending event winner.

“Going to be in Vegas for eight days. I’m coming in early and staying after for the SEMA show. A lot going on but, it’s exciting. We’re running a new Pennzoil scheme this weekend. It’s going to be bright, it’s going to be shiny, and we’re looking forward to fans catching their first glimpse of it.

“We’re pretty far out of the championship hunt at this point, but Capps is in it and we really want to take out some of our competitors to help our teammate and put him in a better position to win the championship. But, it’s drag racing, it’s fuel Funny Car. You never know what’s going to happen. That’s why we race on Sunday. Nothing is a sure thing out here. It’ll be a fight to the end, and our goal is to win these next two races. We want to pull down a trophy or two before it’s all said and done. That’s what we’re here to do.” – Matt Hagan


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

Tommy Johnson Jr. clinched his second consecutive pole at the NHRA Carolina Nationals. (Mopar).

Johnson comes off a very disappointing appearance in Charlotte, after taking the pole and getting eliminated in the first round. Tommy and his Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T team are currently fifth in the Funny Car points (149 points behind the leader). Johnson, is looking for redemption for his performance two weekends ago and put his team back into the winner circle.

“Vegas is one of my favorite tracks, we always seem to have success there. I’m especially looking forward to getting back there after the four-wide event earlier in the season. We felt like we let one get away from us because we should’ve won that race, so we definitely want redemption.

“Now that we’re pretty much out of the championship hunt, the pressure is off. I think we have a car that’s capable of winning races, and we’re going to go out there and try and screw it up for another team by winning the last two.” – Tommy Johnson, Jr.


Current Top Fuel Point Standings:

01 Steve Torrence 2592 0 Capco Racing/Torrence Motorsports
02 Clay Millican 2423 -169 Parts Plus/ Great Clips/ UNOH dragster
03 Tony Schumacher 2382 -210 U.S. Army Dragster
04 Leah Pritchett 2297 -295 Papa John’s Dragster
05 Antron Brown 2253 -339 Matco Tools Dragster
06 Brittany Force 2243 -349 Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
07 Mike Salinas 2228 -364 Scrappers Racing
08 Doug Kalitta 2225 -367 Mac Tools Dragster
09 Terry McMillen 2221 -371 Amalie Motor Oil Dragster
10 Scott Palmer 2149 -443 CatSpot/Tommy Thompson Motorsports

Current Funny Car Point Standings:

01 Robert Hight 2445 0 Auto Club Chevy Camaro SS
02 J.R. Todd 2434 -11 DHL Toyota Camry
03 Ron Capps 2336 -109 NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T
04 Tim Wilkerson 2334 -111 Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang
05 Tommy Johnson Jr 2296 -149 Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T
06 Courtney Force 2264 -181 Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro SS
07 John Force 2241 -204 PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS
08 Matt Hagan 2229 -216 Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT
09 Jack Beckman 2204 -241 Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT
10 Shawn Langdon 2152 -293 Global Electronic Technology Toyota

TV Schedule:

FRIDAY NITRO LIVE Friday, October 26, 2018 6:00pm – 7:00pm ET FS1 LIVE
FRIDAY NITRO LIVE Saturday, October 27, 2018 8:00am – 9:00am ET FS1 RE-AIR
SATURDAY NITRO LIVE Saturday, October 27, 2018 5:00pm – 6:30pm ET FS2 LIVE
FRIDAY NITRO LIVE Sunday, October 28, 2018 1:00pm – 2:00pm ET FS2 RE-AIR
SATURDAY NITRO LIVE Sunday, October 28, 2018 2:00pm – 3:30pm ET FS2 RE-AIR
SUNDAY LIVE Sunday, October 28, 2018 3:30pm – 4:30pm ET FS1 RE-AIR
NHRA FINALS Sunday, October 28, 2018 7:00pm – 10:00pm ET FS1 DELAYED
NHRA FINALS Monday, October 29, 2018 8:00pm – 11:00pm ET FS2 RE-AIR
NHRA FINALS Tuesday, October 30, 2018 3:00am – 6:00am ET FS1 RE-AIR
NHRA FINALS Thursday, November 1, 2018 10:00pm – 1:00am ET FS2 RE-AIR
NHRA IN 30 Thursday, November 1, 2018 9:30pm – 10:00pm ET FS2 DELAYED

Sources: Don Schumacher Racing 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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