The Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teams head to the great State of Texas this weekend for the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the famed Texas Motorplex. With only three races left in the season, the pressure is on more than ever this season. The race marks the final race of the season for the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown Series FSS/X, in which Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett will be pulling double duty for one last time this season.
So what are the teams doing differently this weekend? What is to be expected from the DSR teams? Let’s take a look.
LEAH PRITCHETT – Driver of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster
Like we said earlier, Pritchett will be pulling double duty this weekend between her Top Fuel team that currently sits fourth in the points standings and her FSS/X team. While her chance of winning her second consecutive FSS/X championship out the window, her main focus is gaining some ground on Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrance. At last year’s AAA NHRA Texas FallNationals, Pritchett went to the quarterfinals in her Top Fuel car and won the final race of the FSS/X championship.
“Come Friday, we will test our theory of what clutch wear sorcery has been biting us in this Countdown, and I can’t wait for us to conquer that and continue this chase. Points continue to be tight, and we will continue to keep our heads down to the grindstone with the plan to move up.
Finishing the season strong is what we’re focused on. If that means bringing the clip back empty, then so be it, but we’re not going down without a fight. I look forward to the high intensity of running both cars late into the rounds on Sunday, and Dallas is the last opportunity we have for that this season.
We are in the closest range of parity we have had all season long, which makes me the most excited, and we have the most confidence we’ve had all season. A Wally is most definitely within our Dodge wheelhouse’s reach.” – Leah Pritchett
JACK BECKMAN – Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
After racing to victory at Reading and powering to a runner-up finish in Charlotte, Jack Beckman sits in second place in the Funny Car standings, only sitting 44 points out of first. Beckman and his Infinite Hero Foundation team are craving that championship. The team has seemed to be focused since the Countdown to the Championship has begun. Expect “Fast Jack” to crank up the heat in Texas, as he has been a two-time runner-up (2009, 2015) but has never won there.
“Dallas has always been larger than life for me. I attended the inaugural national event there in 1986. My buddy and I drove a 1,000-mile round trip from the Air Force to be out there for that event. I flew out there in 1997 because that was the one race during the year that my buddy and I attended as spectators. I raced Super Comp and Super Gas there in 1998, and my dad lives closest to that track as a Texas resident. The one thing that track hasn’t done is give me a win, and that’s the No. 1 priority on my drag racing bucket list – win Dallas. After making it to the final round last race and being very much a factor in this hunt, and knowing how good our Infinite Hero Dodge Charger is right now, I think this might be the year.” – Jack Beckman
RON CAPPS – Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Don’t count Ron Capps and his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger team out just yet. Currently sitting fourth in the points, the team knows the pressure is on from this point out. Capps seems to thrive on pressure in past situations. Capps has shown that he can go this distance in Dallas despite winning an event there in 1998 during the discontinued Spring event. Ron is a three-time runner-up (2011, 2016-2017) as well as a two-time No. 1 qualifier (1997, 2005) at the track.
“We have these back-to-back races, and there are times whem that’s good when your car is running well and you have a ton of momentum, and there are times when you need a break. And, right now, this Countdown to the Championship atmosphere doesn’t allow you to take a break. But, the good news is, every season our NAPA AUTO PARTS team seems to be in the hunt and vying for the championship. We’re definitely still in it. In Charlotte, we made up some ground on John Force who is right in front of us in points. Unfortunately, our car dropped a cylinder right at the hit of the throttle in the semis, so that ended our day, but the NAPA AutoCare team is addressing it this week. We’ve got such a great race car heading into Texas Motorplex, which is what I consider one of the original ‘super tracks.’ The Motorplex has an all-concrete surface, and the weather should be good, which can make for tricky conditions when the sun comes out. Once again, we’re ready to dominate this ‘OcTobler’ and see if we can make up some ground on our opponents that are in front of us.” – Ron Capps
MATT HAGAN – Driver of the Western Technical College/MOPAR CAP Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody
Two-time Funny Car champion, Matt Hagan will be sporting a new look this weekend on his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Funny Car. Currently, the team sits in the seventh spot in the points and while it is looking tougher to take home the championship, the team is only 147 points behind leader Robert Hight. With three races left, anything can happen. Hagan has had success in Texas and is a two-time event champion (2010, 2016) as well as had a runner-up finish in 2012. Expect Hagan to be a threat at the FallNationals.
“I’m excited to get back out there. We have a consistent race car, we were just on the back side of a good drag race in Charlotte. The car is driving well, my lights have been good, and I know we have a long way to go but there are still three races left, and I think we still have a shot at the championship if we do well in Dallas. It’s going to be a huge race for us. I’ve won it before, and I’m looking to get my hands on another cowboy hat. We’ve got a short break at home, going to get caught up on the business-side of things, and then I’m ready to turn some win lights on and collect a Wally.” – Matt Hagan
TOMMY JOHNSON JR. – Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Tommy Johnson, Jr, and his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger team are currently 8th in the points standings. The team clinched the Funny Car No. 1 qualifier position during the 2018 event and look to have success this weekend while gaining some traction in the points. He currently has 30 round wins under his belt this season and is no stranger to shaking up the points race in the closing part of the season.
“I’ve been going to Dallas a long time and have been to the final round there, but I’ve never won that race. It’s unfortunate we’ve struggled in the Countdown, but we can still go back out there and finish strong and try to bring home another win and get us a cowboy hat. The Make-A-Wish Dodge is starting to come back around. Things haven’t gone our way lately, and it’s time to turn it around in Dallas.” – Tommy Johnson, Jr.
MARK PAWUK – Driver of the Empaco Equipment MOPAR Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Veteran NHRA driver, Mark Pawuk returns in his Dodge Challenger Drag Pak looking to get his team into victory lane. In 12 races this year, Pawuk has found himself as the runner-up twice and wants the Wally in Texas more so than anyone. While not a threat to the championship this season, Mark has a fast car with his DSR-prepped Dodge Challenger Drag Pak.
“It’s hard to believe we’re already coming into the last race of the season. This year has been somewhat of a struggle for our Don Schumacher Racing Drag Pak Challengers, but the SAMTech.edu series has really stepped up the program to improve the competitiveness of the class. It’s been a little bit of a struggle for the Dodges, but due to the hard work of crew chief Kevin Helms, Terry Snyder, and Kyle Pawuk, we’ve got our program turned back around and headed in the right direction. We’ve qualified No. 1 and No. 2 at the last two races, and we’re focused on carrying that momentum into Dallas.
I’m looking forward to having a great weekend, and I appreciate all of the support of our fans, and all of the employees at Empaco Equipment Corporation as Leah (Pritchett) and I continue to work hard to bring home a Wally for Don Schumacher Racing and Dodge.” – Mark Pawuk
2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Championship: Through 21 of 24 Rounds
(Season Wins in Parentheses)
NHRA Funny Car Points Standings:
1. Robert Hight (6) –2,358
2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (1) – 2,314
3. John Force (2) – 2,279
4. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (3) – 2,268
5. Bob Tasca III (2) – 2,215
6. J.R. Todd (1) – 2,214
7. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Widebody (2) – 2,211
8. Tommy Johnson, Jr. Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (2) – 2,191
9. Shawn Langdon (2) – 2,187
10. Tim Wilkerson – 2,152
NHRA Top Fuel Points Standings:
1. Steve Torrence (9) – 9 2,356
2. Doug Kalitta (2) – 2,326
3. Brittany Force (1) – 2,264
4. Leah Pritchett, Mopar HEMI (1) – 2,231
5. Mike Salinas (2) – 2,227
6. Richie Crampton (2) – 2,196
7. Antron Brown – 2,194
8. Billy Torrence (1) – 2,206
9. Austin Prock (1) – 2,204
10. Clay Millican – 2,178
Source: Don Schumacher Racing