Tony Schumacher advanced to his fifth final round of the season and 152nd of his career, finishing runner-up in his Mopar-powered U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster at the Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pennsylvania.
Schumacher handled Dan Mercier in round one, then knocked out Scott Palmer in a close quarterfinals battle, using a 3.827-second elapsed time at 323.19 mph to beat Palmer’s 3.833/324.59 to the finish stripe. In the semifinals, “The Sarge” left first with a .047 reaction time and battled through dropped cylinders to post a winning 3.939/292.96 against Antron Brown, who smoked the tires early.
Schumacher’s eighth career final round at Maple Grove Raceway featured a marquee matchup with points leader Steve Torrence, but the eight-time Top Fuel champion lit up the tires early and watched as Torrence pulled away for the event win. Schumacher now has three runner-ups to go along with his five career wins at the Dodge NHRA Nationals, and with his performance jumped up into a tie for second in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Ron Capps recorded four consistent runs in the three-second range during qualifying to post his Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car fifth in qualifying, and continued to do the same in eliminations with a 3.972/324.26 pass to send home Jonnie Lindberg. In the quarterfinals, Capps quickly made up a slight starting line deficit to outgun Cruz Pedregon with a 3.972/319.07 run that was second quickest of the round.
The defending Dodge NHRA Nationals event winner matched up against J.R. Todd in the semifinals. Capps’ string of three-second runs came to an end, and his 4.014/315.12 paired with a solid .051 reaction time fell short of Todd’s winning 3.975/320.28 mark. Capps stayed fourth in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs with his semifinals showing, less than 30 points out of first as he pursues his second career Funny Car championship crown.
Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver Leah Pritchett started No. 3 and opened eliminations against Audrey Worm with a strong 3.786/323.50 pass in her Mopar Dodge 1320 “Angry Bee’ Top Fuel dragster, earning the two-time 2018 race winner lane choice over Antron Brown in the quarterfinals. Pritchett’s quick .034-second reaction time boosted her “Angry Bee” to the lead off the line, but a loss of traction followed by a fiery engine bang ended her quest for a first career win at Maple Grove Raceway. Pritchett remains fourth in the NHRA playoff chase.
Tommy Johnson Jr. kicked off eliminations from the No. 3 spot after blasting to the quickest run of the final qualifying session. Behind the wheel of his John Collins-led Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge, Johnson claimed victory over first-round opponent and fellow Mopar Dodge driver Jim Campbell. Round two found the two-time Reading champion matched up against reigning world champion Robert Hight. The two drivers were nearly even until just past the 330-ft cone, when Hight pulled ahead for the round win. Johnson leaves Maple Grove Raceway sitting in the seventh spot in the NHRA Countdown rankings.
Two-time NHRA Funny Car World Champion Matt Hagan’s campaign for a third title got off to a rocky start at the first race of the NHRA playoff series. Hagan entered race weekend fresh off of a runner-up finish in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT and ranked second in the Funny Car standings. The 2014 Reading champion qualified 10th for race day and was locked in a close first-round race with John Force until just past halftrack, when Hagan’s machine slowed to a 4.164 E.T., with Force taking the win with a 4.007 second pass. Hagan is now fifth in the Countdown standings.
Infinite Hero Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car driver Jack Beckman started race day in the No. 4 spot with the goal of adding to his two career wins at Maple Grove Raceway. Beckman had the edge off the starting line against Cruz Pedregon in round one, but smoked the tires near the 330-ft. mark and slowed to a losing 5.135/152.07 effort. “Fast” Jack, the 2012 NHRA Funny Car World Champion, leaves Reading in the eighth position in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs.