This weekend marks the final race of the 2020 season for the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Camping World Drag Racing Series. Although most diehard fans will notice that the series is ending prematurely this year in Las Vegas, the Dodge NHRA Finals Presented by Pennzoil will be a fitting grand finale to a rollercoaster season. It will be the first time since 1984, the series will not come to an end in Pomona, California.
All eyes on Don Schumacher Racing’s (DSR) Funny Car contingent as drag racing’s winningest organization is poised to capture its 18th series title this weekend. A fierce three-way battle awaits No. 1 ranked Funny Car driver Matt Hagan, No. 2 ranked Tommy Johnson Jr., and No. 3 ranked Jack Beckman heading into the Dodge NHRA Finals as they battle to earn DSR’s sixth Funny Car world championship. Only 43 points separate the three championship contenders.
Las Vegas features a unique point-and-a-half format where each elimination round is worth 30 points. A total of 183 points are up-for-grabs in each Camping World category.
DSR’s foursome of Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car drivers will be aiming to ‘sweep the season’ as they attempt to pick up DSR’s 14th consecutive Funny Car triumph, an undefeated streak that dates back to October 2019. DSR Funny Car drivers have competed head-to-head in final round competition at six of the first 10 events of 2020.
Leah Pruett will pull double-duty for the final time in 2020, competing in both the Top Fuel and Factory Stock Showdown (FSS) categories. Pruett is currently ranked fourth in the Top Fuel point standings and will be looking to crack back into the ‘top three’ in Vegas to improve upon her career-best season-ending position of fourth (2018, 2019). FSS driver Mark Pawuk will be focused on closing out the season solidly in the No. 2 spot.
MATT HAGAN – Driver of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye:
Hagan returns to action in his familiar red, black, and silver Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye paint scheme this weekend. Leading the Funny Car points, Matt is looking to repeat his success in Vegas from last year when he and his Mopar team took home the “Wally” trophy. Hagan is a two-time event winner (2017 & 2019) and a two-time runner-up (2010 & 2018). If he can finish the season on top this weekend, it would mark his third Funny Car World Championship (2011 & 2018).
“It’s kind of wild that we’re here – starting the season and then stopping, and then not even knowing if we’d even have a season, or what it would even entail. It’s been a weird year, and we’re happy to be racing, and even happier to be in this year’s championship hunt. We’re in the thick of it right now. Our Mopar Dodge Funny Car team has done really well at Vegas in the past. We qualify well there and we actually won that race the last time we were there (October 2019), so we’ve got some great data from that track.
“I have a lot of confidence in our team, and our car, and what we’re doing. We’ve made up a lot of ground in a little bit of time. We’ve done what we needed to do to put ourselves in this position to have the points lead. That was a huge round against Tommy Johnson in the semis (in Houston) that we just didn’t win. If we had won, that would’ve pushed him closer to being out of contention, and given us an extra point cushion over Jack, so those are tough to lose. You can go back through your season and look at all kind of stuff where you’ve lost small points here and there, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be what it will be. I just want to enjoy this ride right now. You never know how many times you’ll have the opportunity to run for a championship, so putting too much pressure on yourself really doesn’t change anything. I just want to go out there this weekend at the Dodge NHRA Finals Presented by Pennzoil and treat it like a regular race. We want to qualify well and take it one round at a time, and if we can do that, we’ll be successful. We’re 43 points ahead, but with the points-and-a-half deal things can really turn quickly, but I’d rather be leading than following, and that’s where we’re at right now. We’ve got to keep digging, stay focused, and go rounds in Vegas, and if all goes according to plan, I’m looking forward to partying hard Sunday night and celebrating with my team.” – Matt Hagan
TOMMY JOHNSON JR. – Driver of the MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat:
Tommy Johnson, Jr. has had a stellar season with 3 wins, 1 runner-up, 3 No. 1 qualifiers, and 21 round wins. Only 43 points from taking the points lead from Hagan, the MD Anderson Cancer Center team are looking to take full advantage of the Vegas points format. Johnson is looking for his first Funny Car World Championship (the closest he has been was in 2016 when he finished 2nd in the points). The team would love nothing more than to close out the seven-year “giving car” program by sending team sponsor Doug Chandler out as a champion.
“It’s been an interesting year for sure and it’s coming to the last race of the season. There’s lots of mixed emotions. Honestly, I’m happy. We’re coming into this last race with a shot at the championship and I’m happy that we even got a season because it looked like maybe after the second race of the year we wouldn’t have a season at all.
“I’m excited to come into Vegas with a shot at this championship and the team has had a great season. It’s a track where I have had some success and do pretty well at. I’m a round-and-a-half behind Matt (Hagan), and Jack (Beckman) is right on our heels. To see the dominance that the Don Schumacher Funny Cars have had all season is really exciting. I think we are all excited to see if we can’t close out the season and sweep all the races with the DSR Funny Cars.
“I’m going to go out there and enjoy it and at the same time, give it all we’ve got and ride the momentum we’ve got coming off the win and the last few races on the tour. I’m happy for the guys. I’m happy for our MD Anderson Dodge Funny Car team. We’ve had a great season and would love nothing more than to be able to cap it off with a win and have a few things go our way and maybe sneak away with the championship as well.” – Tommy Johnson, Jr.
JACK BECKMAN – Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat:
Beckman occupied the No. 1 spot in the Funny Car point standings for six of the first 10 events of the season. He dropped to third after a first-round upset last week, but with 799 points, sits only 1 point out of second and 43 points out of first. Beckman and Johnson are tied for the number of wins during the season. So far this season, Beckman has 3 wins, 2 runner-ups, 1 No. 1 qualifier, and 22 round wins. As the 2012 Funny Car World Champion, he and his Infinite Hero Foundation team have their sights set on closing out the seven-year Chandler family “giving car” run by earning a world championship for team sponsor, Doug Chandler.
“I think just about everybody can’t wait to put 2020 in the rearview mirror, but I think the NHRA fans are in for a huge treat with the points chase, specifically in Funny Car where you’ve got three cars within two rounds of each other. It’s probably going to be one of the most thrilling conclusions ever, and I fully expect the Funny Car championship is probably going to go down to the final round of the final race on the final day of the season. For a fan that’s amazing and from a driver’s perspective that’s the deal you want; to be in it going into the last race of the season. There’s a lot of different things on the line. For us, obviously, the championship, and for our team it’ll likely be the last race with Infinite Hero, and we’re not sure what will happen next year. So, there’s a lot of extra incentive to try to end the year on a positive note. As long as we win the race and Matt (Hagan)’s car is not in the other lane in the final round, I would consider that as perfect a year to a season as I’ve ever had, so I’m very much looking forward to this.” – Jack Beckman
RON CAPPS – Driver of the Pennzoil/NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat:
Ron Capps may be out of the Funny Car Championship race, but he and his NAPA Auto Parts team are still sitting in fourth place in the Funny Car points. But just because they are out of the chase for the championship, don’t count Capps out. He has 2 events wins and 18 round wins this season and will be aiming to close out the year with a third 2020 victory after racing to a runner-up finish in Houston.
“Well, this is it. It’s hard to believe that we’ve actually gotten to the end of the season and it’s so much fun right now. Sometimes you don’t want the season to end, and the way our NAPA AUTO PARTS team has been running these last couple of races, really since the summer started, we feel like we’ve gotten into our groove so we would’ve loved a couple of more races to catch up in points.
“It’s going to be a little strange to end the season in Vegas, but it’s one of my favorite tracks. It’s become sort of a ‘home track’ for me. So many good people there, longtime friend Chris Bond who’s been taking care of our team for years, first at New York New York, then The Mirage, and now The Sahara, and that’s become our ‘home away from home’ for the race team. We’re really excited to carry the colors of The Sahara on our car this weekend. We’ve got 20+ years friendship with the Palmer Electric family. They do a ton of work at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and also The Strip, and they’ve taken us in like family, and we look forward to spending time with them two times a year. Unfortunately, this year we were only able to get out to Vegas once, so we’re going to enjoy this weekend and try and finish out on a good note. We’ve been running so well right now, and to end with a win and have some time to reflect on it would be great. We’re going to carry the Pennzoil colors with NAPA AUTO PARTS and finish the year strong.” – Ron Capps
LEAH PRUETT – Driver of the Mopar Dodge SRT Hellcat Redeye Top Fuel Dragster and Mopar Challenger Drag Pak:
Pruett has enjoyed a ‘top three’ ranking throughout seven of the first 10 events. Pruett fell to fourth in Houston and will be looking to make up ground as she aims for her career-best finish. To date, Pruett’s best finish has been fourth, which she achieved in both 2018 and 2019. She is still looking for her first win of the season, despite having 16 round wins this season.
“Hard to believe the final race of the season is here. The key to the kingdom for us has been more runs to get this car dialed-in and getting back to being the quickest on the property. We are so close, and we know that, given our runs in Houston. We left Houston strong which means we are headed into Vegas with full-steam and a tail wind! Bringing home a little gold man, and not the spray painted one you can find on Fremont Street, is the primary focus here. We are unfortunately out of the hunt for the No. 1 spot in the championship, but earning our way to our best championship-finish yet is what I’m looking forward to. Each season that we as a team have contended together we have accented in points, with our eyes on finishing No. 2 this season.”
“Can’t say it’s been ‘el Bandito’s’ favorite year so far, to be honest. He’s been trying hard to keep up with Mark Pawuk who’s been doing an awesome job carrying the Mopar flag deep into the rounds this season. We’ve been swapping combos on el Bandito for races trying to get him just right, and just when we thought we narrowed down the difference between the two during Dallas, we ordered up some changes to arrive in time for Houston, and well, turns out the shipping giant had other plans. Our parts arrived late Saturday night after qualifying to the hotel, so we rolled the dice, went into first round of eliminations with a brand-new un-dyno’d setup, and it was a little too saucy to turn on the win light. But el Bandito is finally in the direction we’ve been aching for. So, with one last final race to be had in the 2020 Factory Stock Showdown season, and el Bandito’s last ever entry into NHRA competition, you better bet we’re gonna send it in Vegas!” – Leah Pruett
MARK PAWUK – Driver of the Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak:
Pawuk has taken his Empaco Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak to 1 runner-up and 2 semifinal finishes this season. He currently occupies the No. 2 spot in the FSS points standings. With the FSS championship already taken, Mark is looking to defend his ranking heading into the final event of the year.
“Well, as we head west for the third week in a row and close out our season in Las Vegas, I’m looking forward to another strong outing by the Empaco Equipment/Ohio CAT/Mr. Heater Dodge Drag Pak team. The finish in the semis in Houston was good, but we want to do better. The last time I raced at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was in 2005, and actually my last win as a professional NHRA drag racer was during the 2001 Vegas event when I won in Pro Stock. Would love to get back to the Vegas winner’s circle. Kevin Helms, Terry Snyder, and Kyle Pawuk have done a great job on the car this year. We’ve been running very consistently, and when the driver does his job, we have a chance at going rounds and winning races. We’re coming off of two semifinal finishes from the last two races, and we would like to take it a step further this weekend and finish the year out strong.” – Mark Pawuk
NHRA Championship Points Standings:
(Following the Mopar Express Lane SpringNationals Presented by Pennzoil)
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 842 (2)
2. Tommy Johnson Jr. (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 800 (3)
3. Jack Beckman (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 799 (3)
4. Ron Capps (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 679 (2)
5. Bob Tasca III – 595
6. J.R. Todd – 584
7. Tim Wilkerson – 570
8. Alexis DeJoria – 489
9. Cruz Pedregon – 388
10. Paul Lee – 382
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Steve Torrance – 868 (4)
2. Doug Kalitta – 767 (1)
3. Billy Torrence – 675 (1)
4. Leah Pruett (Mopar Dodge//SRT) – 670
5. Shawn Langdon – 544 (1)
6. Antron Brown – 534
7. Justin Ashley – 485 (1)
8. Terry McMillen – 436
9. Tony Schumacher – 415 (1)
10. Clay Millican – 414