Dodge//SRT Mopar drivers swept the No. 1 qualifying positions in the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes in the 19th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil. It sets the stage for Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel) and Jack Beckman (Funny Car) to close on the leaders in the NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series’ Countdown to the Championship before the final event of the 2019 season.
The other Mopar-powered Funny Car members of the Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) team – Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, and Tommy Johnson, Jr. – can improve their standings with winning performances in the eliminations rounds on Sunday, Nov. 3.
Pritchett entered the weekend knowing she had to make a big move to have a shot at the championship. The first step came Saturday afternoon as she drove her Mopar Top Fuel Dragster from DSR quicker than any other driver with a pass of 3.654 seconds to claim her first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 12th of her career. She faces Cameron Ferre in the opening round
“To be No. 1 at the Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil is phenomenal,” said Pritchett, the 2018 Dodge NHRA Nationals runner-up. “We have all of the support here. Our pit is full and we have all of the energy. We just got our first No. 1 of the season with a phenomenal pass. I knew when I hit 330 feet that we were going to be on a run. We were trying to be the quickest of every round and we made three consistent runs out of four. We knew what this Mopar car was capable of and we put everything on the line to get those bonus points.”
Beckman put down his top qualifying run in the final session Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas, driving the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car of DSR to the quickest lap ever at the track with a run of 3.835 seconds. Beckman also reset the track record for speed at 335.90 mph during Friday night’s qualifying.
“I just want the trophy tomorrow and that will make it a perfect weekend,” said Beckman, who entered the weekend 70 points out of first in the championship standings. “We really like these FCA-sponsored events and hope to have the same outcome we did in Reading. Being No. 1 helps everyone’s attitude. When the crew chiefs tell the car to do something and it does exactly that, they’re way more confident and I’m more confident as a driver. The better predictor of going deep rounds is to have a good car and we saw that the last two times we qualified No. 1, we had a good car that was doing what we wanted it to do.”
Beckman was the fastest of seven Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Cars that qualified for Sunday’s 16-car field, edging out Tommy Johnson, Jr. for his fourth career No. 1 spot at The Strip and 27th of his career. The 2012 Funny Car champion has been the top qualifier in three of the previous six events. Beckman faces Terry Haddock in the first round on Sunday.
Johnson begins his quest for a third victory of 2019 with a first-round matchup with Jim Campbell. Two-time Funny Car champion Matt Hagan, winner of this event in 2017, qualified his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Funny Car seventh and takes on fellow Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car pilot Paul Lee in the first round.
Ron Capps is chasing his fifth victory in this event after qualifying the Pennzoil Synthetics/Napa Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car in the 11th position. The 2016 Funny Car champion squares off with Bob Tasca III in the opening round.