Coming off a hugely successful trip at Brainerd, the Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teams are looking to continue their success at this weekend’s U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana. With the news that all of the DSR teams securing a spot in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship race, there is more pressure than ever for the teams to put their car in victory lane this weekend.
Let’s take a look at the teams as they head into Indy…
LEAH PRITCHETT – Driver of the MOPAR Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
Pritchett comes hot off her first win of the season in Brainerd and is pulling double duty this weekend competing in Top Fuel while defending her 2018 Factory Stock Showdown series event title. Currently seventh in the Top Fuel point standings, Leah is looking to grab another win with her Mopar Dodge//SRT dragster this weekend. Last year, Leah was eliminated in the first round of competition at Indy.
“Feeling good with our Top Fuel MOPAR-momentum. (Crew chief) Todd (Okuhara), Neal (Strausbaugh), and the crew have got a confident handle on our hot rod entering the longest, most prestigious, points-heavy race of the regular season. Also, racing el Bandito in Factory Stock Showdown competition again has me back on double-duty, and I’m more focused than ever to bring out the highest potential and results with both of these MOPAR teams. Indy, we are ready.” – Leah Pritchett
JACK BECKMAN – Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT
The 2015 U.S. National champion has struggled this year going winless throughout this season. While Beckman and his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger team currently sit fifth in the Funny Car point standings, they would love more than anything to come home from Indy with a Wally. In last year’s event, Beckman was ousted in the first round by Courtney Force.
“I really thought we’d have a win or two under our belts going into the 18th race of the season, so that aspect has been disappointing. What hasn’t been disappointing is overall performance. We’re a top-five car, we’ve been to three final rounds, and at our last race in Brainerd we set top E.T. and speed of the meet, so we know we have a car that is capable of running quick. We also have a consistent car. What we need to have is a consistently quick car, and I think we’re always one race away from that. Every time we unload the trailer, it could be our weekend. There’s no reason not to be optimistic with the Infinite Hero team. Frankly, I’ll take six runner-up’s in the Countdown if that’s what’s needed to get the championship, but at some point, we want to have a trophy sitting on the shelf to show that this year has been successful, and if we can Indy, that literally fixes everything.” – Jack Beckman
RON CAPPS – Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT
Ron Capps has been on a lot streak lately, making the final round in the last two events. He took home the Wally at the last event in Brainerd, and Capps who is celebrating his 25th season driving a nitro car is laser-focused on his first U.S. Nationals victory. In last year’s event, Capps was defeated by teammate Tommy Johnson, Jr in the first round of eliminations.
“You can always judge how a season is going by seeing where you’re at come Indy. For our NAPA team, it’s been a great season so far, but coming into what we consider to be our ‘Super bowl’ event, everything is heightened. Indy is points-and-a-half, and we’re trying to move up in the Mello Yello standings. Second place is the goal going into the Countdown to the Championship. Besides that, this is a race I’ve never gotten to win. We’ve come very close in the past, had great race cars where I thought we had the best chance ever to be able to hold a U.S. Nationals Wally, but for whatever reason, it just hasn’t happened. Indy is a long, grueling race weekend but I definitely like our chances at finally getting that win this year.
“Our team is in a good spot, and it’s hard to not look ahead to the playoffs and think about what it will take to win a championship, but right now, (crew chief) Rahn Tobler, and our NAPA AutoCare team, and myself are focused on qualifying well Friday night and holding the Wally on Monday evening.” – Ron Capps
MATT HAGAN – Driver of the MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Widebody
Matt Hagan and his Mopar Dodge Charger team, come to Indy with an upbeat outlook. Hagan who won the U.S. Nationals in 2016, was the runner-up last year and was the No. 1 qualifier five-times (2010, 2013-2014, 2016-2017), shows he has what it takes to get it done. Hagan also started his career here in 2008, as well as recorded his career-best E.T. and speed during the 2017 event, which was the Lucas Oil Raceway track record. Currently sixth in the Funny Car points, Hagan wants Indy to be his third win of the season.
“Indy is our biggest race of the year. I won it a few years back, and we’ve come close a time or two since. It’s going to be a long week. We start with our annual Riley Children’s Hospital visit on Wednesday, and then we have our Open House at DSR all day on Friday and then start making runs later that evening. Our car has been running strong, we’ve had some wins, a couple of semifinals, finals and I think that we’re in a good spot. Capps just won, T.J. and Jack have been running well, so all in all, DSR cars are coming around when they need to. It’s time for us to put some more W’s on the board and have a good Indy race and then get ready for the Countdown.” – Matt Hagan
TOMMY JOHNSON JR. – Driver of the Riley Kids Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT
Tommy Johnson, Jr. comes to Indy every year with a special paint scheme for the Riley Hospital for Children. Since 2014, the Doug Chandler-funded Make-A-Wish Dodge has donned a special Riley Kids livery during the annual Indy event as a way to bring exposure to the locally-based Riley Hospital for Children. Johnson, who was the runner-up in the Brainerd event, sits second in the points and is looking for his first-ever win at Indy. Last year, Johnson went to the semifinals before getting eliminated by J.R. Todd.
“Really looking forward to Indy; it’s the biggest drag race of them all and the one you want to win. Right now, the way our car is running, coming off that runner-up in Brainerd and seeing the way our new chassis is performing, I’d say this year we have our best shot at taking home the Indy crown.
“I’m especially looking forward to Friday night; we’ll be the last pair to run, and we’re going for that No. 1 spot. We’ll see if we can’t put together a strong weekend and finish off our regular season on a really good note. We have a competitive car that’s capable of winning the race.” – Tommy Johnson, Jr.
NHRA U.S. Nationals TV Schedule:
|NHRA QUALIFYING||Sunday, September 1||2:00pm – 4:00pm ET||FS1|
|NHRA SUNDAY LIVE||Sunday, September 1||4:00pm – 6:00pm ET||FS1|
|FINALS||Monday, September 2||11:00am – 1:00pm ET||FS1|
|FINALS||Monday, September 2||1:00pm – 4:00pm ET||FOX|
2019 NHRA Mello Yello Championship Point Standings After 17 of 24 Rounds:
(Season Wins in Parentheses)
NHRA Funny Car
1.Robert Hight (5) – 1397
2. Tommy Johnson, Jr. Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (2) – 1218
3. John Force (1) – 1199
4. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (3) –1171
5. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT – 1098
6. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Widebody (2) – 1047
7. 6. Bob Tasca III (2) – 1038
8. J.R. Todd (1) -981
9. Shawn Langdon (1) – 914
10. Tim Wilkerson – 824
NHRA Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence (8) – 1650
2. Brittany Force (1) – 1015
3. Doug Kalitta (1) – 1013
4. Clay Millican – 1009
5. Antron Brown – 998
6. Mike Salinas (2) – 986
7. Leah Pritchett, Mopar Dodge SRT (1) – 903
8. Austin Prock (1) – 826
9. Richie Crampton (1) – 785
10. Terry McMillen – 708