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NHRA U.S. Nationals – Pre-Race Report:

Don Schumacher Racing Teams Hungry For A Win To Celebrate 20th Anniversary...

Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) celebrates it’s 20th anniversary going into the U.S. Nationals at Indy and the team is hungry to celebrate with a win.

Last year, Mopar Express Lane Dodge Funny Car driver Matt Hagan reset the track speed and Funny Car E.T. record en route to claiming the 2017 Funny Car pole. He is looking to do that again with his new 2019 Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car body.

Napa Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver Ron Capps, went to the finals in last year’s race at Indy. Capps is currently second in the Funny Car points race.

Leah Pritchett in her Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak. (Mopar)

Leah Pritchett returns to action after a heartbreaking run at Brainerd after being defeated in the first-round of eliminations by Scott Palmer. She is currently fourth in points and will pull double-duty, competing in both Top Fuel and the Factory Stock Showdown in her Dodge Challenger Drag Pak.

“Winning Denver was the pinnacle for me and my team. It would have to be the perfect storm for anything to top that win, but the U.S. Nationals certainly provides us with that backdrop. You look at what we did out there. Let’s say we go out here this weekend and we’re No. 1 qualifier, low E.T. in every single round and I won a couple rounds on holeshots in really close races and without hurting parts. That would be like the perfect weekend, especially being able to do it on the biggest stage. I’m going to be honest, Denver was incredible on so many levels. To go back and seal the deal at a place where I raced a national event as a child, that was a really emotional win. Ironically, the only other national event I raced as a child was here in Indy, and the first time I ever came here, I ate a piece off the ground, because I knew this was where the professionals raced.

“That’s what it would mean to me. To close the book on another career milestone. I won a Wally here as a junior drag racer and that’s the only thing I’ve won here. This is the biggest race of the year. They call it the Big Go for a big reason.” – Leah Pritchett

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

Tony Schumacher will try to expand his record at Indy, going for his 11th victory at the track. Last year he qualified fourth at the track and went to the semifinals before being eliminated. Tony and his U.S. Army/Mopar Top Fuel Dragster team currently sit second in the Top Fuel points with 23 round wins this season.

You know, Indy for me, it means kind of everything. There are a few tracks on the circuit that have extra special meaning and this is one of them. This is the first place that I ever raced a Top Fuel car and so much happened that weekend as a young driver coming into the sport. We lost a world champion. We lost a Top Fuel motorcycle rider. We qualified 16th in a car that I had never made a full pass in my entire life with a team of guys that I met the week before. That was the welcome to Top Fuel racing and NHRA for me. It was right here. I can remember the faces, the smells. And to be in the final round, I remember the talk with Cory Mac before and the talk with Cory Mac after, who beat me in the finals. That was the beginning for me at this place and to have the chance now, so many years later, to come into a race here with ten Indy wins. You know, the first was in 2000 against Gary Clapshaw, who red-lit, but to have that moment with a new sponsor in the U.S. Army, who we were going to show what this team was made of. To go out and win the first one, it was incredible. Now fast forward 19 years later, and knowing that this is our last time together to have a chance to give back to them, the final Indy with the U.S. Army is huge. What they have done for DSR, the team members and me personally as a character-building group of men and women, it’s just been so fantastic. I know I would be proud and my team would be proud to give them one last trophy from Indy.” – Tony Schumacher

Jack Beckman and his Infinite Hero Foundation Team Celebrate Their Win At The Lucas Oil Nationals. (Mopar).

“Fast Jack” Beckman comes to Indy after winning the last event in Brainerd. New for the Infinite Hero team this weekend is the debut of his 2019 Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car body. Jack sits fourth in the current Funny Car standings and went to the semifinals at Indy last year, before being eliminated by his teammate Ron Capps.

“Indy is the convergence of a whole lot of things. It’s obviously the biggest race of the year for us. It’s points and a half, and it’s the last race of the regular season. Our Infinite Hero team will go into the Countdown somewhere between second and fifth in the points, and to me, that’s not nearly as big a deal as trying to win that trophy from Indy. I feel like we have an excellent chance. We’re the most recent winners on tour, we had an excellent outing Sunday at Brainerd and left with the trophy. Then we went to Indy for a two-day test. Bolted the brand-new Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat body on the car and went right down the track all four runs on Wednesday with the two quickest runs of the day, so I feel like we have as good a chance as any car out there.” – Jack Beckman

Ron Capps comes to Indy as the last year’s runner up at the event. Currently second in points, the Napa Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car is looking at gaining some ground in the points against Courtney Force.

“Once again, here we are leading up to the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. While most sports have their biggest events at either the beginning of the season or at the end of the season, our sport of NHRA Drag Racing has the U.S. Nationals at a point in the season that I don’t think could be more perfectly placed. While the U.S. Nationals is the end to our regular season, it brings awareness to your team that you better be ready for the playoffs or what we call the Countdown to the Championship. One of the greatest accomplishments I feel like we have is that our NAPA team is mentioned in the championship talk every season. This year seems to be no different. (Crew chief) Rahn Tobler and our NAPA AutoCare team have been able to try things here and there during the season, knowing full well that when we get to this point of the year, we better be what I call ‘Countdown ready.’

“We had a great Western Swing and came to Indy last week and had a very good test session. It’s very easy for teams to start looking past Indy and to the Countdown to the Championship, but as I know being surrounded by many of my heroes, this is a race that means everything to a drag racer. It’s great to know that our NAPA team will be well-prepared for anything that the U.S. Nationals brings us as we have seen in the past, and I can’t wait to get on the track Friday night.” – Ron Capps

Riley Kids Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, piloted by Tommy Johnson Jr. (DSR Racing).

Tommy Johnson Jr. will be driving a special edition scheme this weekend at Indy. Since 2014, the Doug and Terry Chandler-funded Make-A-Wish Dodge has donned a special Riley livery once a year at the Indy event as a way to bring exposure to the Indianapolis-based Riley Hospital for Children. Coming off a runner up position at the last event in Brainerd, the team is looking for a strong performance at the U.S. Nationals.

“Indy is the biggest drag race of the year, and with the way our car is running right now, I’m going into Indy as confident as ever. We had a great test session last week, ran really well, and with two semifinals and a final the last three races, I think the momentum is starting to swing our way. It would be great to go out there and put the Riley car in the winner’s circle. It’s always fun to run the Riley car living here in the Indianapolis area and that being the local children’s hospital. Going to visit the kids during the week and representing them on the track and raising awareness for what a great hospital we have here in Indy, it would just be great to put that car in the winner’s circle and hopefully have a bunch of Riley Kids right there with us.” – Tommy Johnson Jr.

Matt Hagan piloting the all-new 2019 Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car. (Mopar)

Matt Hagan and is Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT team, have struggled this season. Matt looks to change that coming into Indy. Hagan was the 2016 U.S. Nationals winner, while last year it didn’t fair so well with a first-round elimination. Hagan currently sits fifth in the funny car points, a position he is not used to.

“We changed our motor combination around during Indy test so I feel like we’ll come out with a new game plan; everything stronger. We’ve been off a little bit but after the test session, I feel like we’re headed in the right direction going into the big Indy race and also the Countdown. We’ve got positive vibes rolling into this deal.

“It’s also a big weekend with Riley Kids. It’s a cause near and dear to my heart, obviously, because I have four kids and couldn’t imagine that helpless feeling if one of them was sick. When we go to Riley and visit the kids earlier in the week, it really hits home. I want to put a smile on their face more than I want my race car to go fast.

“We’ve got a lot coming up. Indy is a big race. I’m glad I’ve won it and been able to check it off the list, so no pressure there but i want to win it again. We’re all greedy like that.” – Matt Hagan

Current Points:

Top Fuel:

POSITION DRIVER POINTS POINTS BEHIND LEADER VEHICLE
01 Steve Torrence 1332 0 Capco Racing/Torrence Motorsports
02 Tony Schumacher 1145 -187 U.S. Army Dragster
03 Clay Millican 1144 -188 Parts Plus/ Great Clips/ UNOH dragster
04 Leah Pritchett 1118 -214 Papa John’s Dragster
05 Doug Kalitta 1027 -305 Mac Tools Dragster
06 Antron Brown 1026 -306 Matco Tools Dragster
07 Terry McMillen 791 -541 Amalie Motor Oil Dragster
08 Brittany Force 787 -545 Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
09 Scott Palmer 701 -631 CatSpot/Tommy Thompson Motorsports
10 Mike Salinas 694 -638 Scrappers Racing

Funny Car:

POSITION DRIVER POINTS POINTS BEHIND LEADER VEHICLE
01 Courtney Force 1372 0 Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro SS
02 Ron Capps 1177 -195 NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T
03 Robert Hight 1154 -218 Auto Club Chevy Camaro SS
04 Jack Beckman 1110 -262 Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T
05 Matt Hagan 1102 -270 Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
06 Tommy Johnson Jr 987 -385 Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T
07 J.R. Todd 987 -385 DHL Toyota Camry
08 John Force 855 -517 PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS
09 Shawn Langdon 791 -581 Global Electronic Technology Toyota
10 Tim Wilkerson 747 -625 Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang

Clinched playoff berth 

While not a backed Mopar team, Pro Stock driver Alex Laughlin comes to the U.S. Nationals after looking strong in Brainerd with his second race in his GM-Powered Dodge Dart Pro Stocker.

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Alex Laughlin’s Technet GM-Powered Dodge Dart NHRA Pro Stocker.
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Robert S. Miller

Robert S. Miller is a diehard Mopar enthusiast who lives and breathes all that is Mopar. The Michigander is not only a Co-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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