Ron Capps became the first 2019 repeat winner in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car competition Sunday, taking his Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car to victory in the second annual Virginia NHRA Nationals near Richmond.
Capps followed his Atlanta triumph two weeks ago with a run through the Funny Car field on an extremely warm day in Virginia to score his 63rd career victory, his 30th win with crew chief Rahn Tobler and his first Wally at Virginia Motorsports Park. The victory was also the third this season for a DSR Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car pilot.
En route to the historic win Capps knocked out fellow DSR and Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson, Jr. in the semifinals while Jack Beckman, Matt Hagan, Cruz Pedregon, and Jim Campbell also competed Sunday in Mopar-powered Funny Cars. Leah Pritchett qualified her DSR HEMI-powered Mopar Top Fuel dragster sixth but wasn’t able to advance past the first round.
The march to victory for Capps in his NAPA Dodge began with a stout run in the opening round of 3.997 seconds at 313.58 mph to dispatch Jim Campbell, who smoked the tires approximately 300 feet into his run. Up next for Capps was a battle with current point leader Robert Hight in round two. This one was all about reaching the finish line first and the former champions staged a classic pedalfest with both cars losing traction multiple times, but it was Capps that was able to reach 1000 feet first. His lap of 6.173 was enough to advance for another semifinal match-up with Tommy Johnson, Jr. where Capps took the starting line advantage and pulled away for the victory despite losing a cylinder as Johnson went up in smoke just after the hit and never recovered.
In his 121 st career final, Capps was not to be denied as he left first on reigning Funny Car champion J.R. Todd and posted his second-best run of the day at 4.097 to capture the win. The victory moves Capps up to eighth all-time in wins with 63 and allowed him to jump from seventh to third in the championship standings.
Tommy Johnson, Jr. continued his success in a hot climate this weekend aboard the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT. After a runner-up finish earlier this season in Las Vegas and a semifinal appearance two weeks ago in Atlanta, Johnson and the Make-A-Wish team have proven their Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car can handle the heat. He qualified second with his second run on Friday and took care of business seamlessly in his opening round match-up against Terry Haddock with his pass of 4.027 seconds at 316.52 mph. With track temperatures reaching over 140°F, Johnson and fellow Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car racer Jack Beckman were on the spot right away in round two when their machines quickly lost traction. Johnson was able to recover almost immediately and cruised to a victory over Beckman with his pass of 5.356. The victory set up a second consecutive semifinal matchup with Capps. Johnson lost traction early again, but this time he wasn’t able to recover and Capps knocked him out for the second consecutive event.
Beckman’s bid for a second Virginia NHRA Nationals triumph was a bumpy one as his Infinite Hero squad was faced with the hottest conditions of the season. They struggled to get their footing during qualifying, eventually settling in the No. 10 starting position to secure a first-round draw with teammate Matt Hagan where both cars lost traction early and the two world champions were quick to get back on the throttle. Beckman was able to rein-in his HELLCAT first and take the win. Beckman’s luck ran out when he lost traction again during his second round race with Johnson and couldn’t get his machine to recover in time to advance.
Two-time NHRA Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan was looking for his second triumph of 2019 this weekend in his home state of Virginia. After qualifying the DSR Shelor Motor Mile Mopar Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT seventh in the field, he matched up with teammate Jack Beckman and took the starting line advantage, but lost traction in a big way near the 800-foot mark. Beckman lost traction in his run as well, but Hagan wasn’t able to gather his machine back in time to capture the win. The two are now tied with 22 victories versus one another in their 44 career races.
In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett and her Mopar Dodge team led by Neil Strausbaugh and Todd Okuhara ventured to Virginia with high hopes. After losing in the second round two weeks’ prior in Atlanta, Pritchett was looking to utilize some valuable high heat data to make a deep run Sunday. She qualified sixth and that put her opposite of her DSR teammate Antron Brown to start the day. Unfortunately for Pritchett, her day was over almost as soon as it started. The tandem was the first pair to make a pass Sunday and Pritchett’s machine lost traction almost immediately after her launch. Brown drove away with the victory posting a lap of 3.872 seconds at 312.42 mph compared to Pritchett’s run of 5.388 seconds at 139.06 mph.
The weekend was Pritchett’s third of 2019 where she pulled double duty as the reigning Factory Stock Showdown champion. She qualified her Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pack 12th before losing in the first round.
2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Point Standings After Round 8 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)
NHRA Funny Car Points Standings:
1. Robert Hight (3) – 701
2. J.R. Todd (1) – 556
3. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (2) – 548
4. Tommy Johnson, Jr., Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT – 527
5. John Force – 524
6. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT (1) – 506
7. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT – 477
8. Tim Wilkerson – 463
9. Shawn Langdon (1) – 404
10. Bob Tasca III – 369
NHRA Top Fuel Points Standings:
1. Steve Torrence (3) – 717
2. Brittany Force (1) –541
3. Doug Kalitta (1) – 498
4. Clay Millican – 489
5. Leah Pritchett, Mopar Dodge – 469
6. Antron Brown – 467
7. Mike Salinas (1) – 466
8. Richie Crampton (1) – 363
9. Terry McMillen – 352
10. Austin Prock – 341