Tommy Johnson, Jr. Goes To The No. 1 Spot As NHRA Returns To Action:

Johnson Looks To Move To The Top Of The Points Standings This Weekend...

Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver Tommy Johnson Jr. wasted no time getting his MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat back up to speed at Lucas Oil Raceway by qualifying in the top spot for Sunday’s elimination rounds of the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals after a four-month pause in the 2020 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Picking up from where he left off as Funny Car title winner at the Arizona Nationals in February, Johnson set the quickest elapsed time on his first qualifying run with a 3.983-second run at 317.72 mph to kick off the two-day race event; the first of a pair of back-to-back race weekends at the Indianapolis drag strip to restart the 2020 NHRA season and the first major-league auto racing event in the state of Indiana to allow fans back in the stands.

“It’s just a great start after such a long layoff and all the uncertainty,” said Johnson of his first No. 1 qualifier position of the season and the 19th of his career. “It’s going to be a tough day tomorrow because the conditions are going to be so much different. Today was really irrelevant for tomorrow, but it’s good to know that we have a good baseline and can go from there.”

Johnson will have Ron Capps as a first-round opponent in the next lane after his DSR teammate qualified 16th for the first time since 2009 (Chicago) based on his first run of 4.555 seconds at 184.70 mph and a problem on the start line that never saw him take a second pass.

Jack Beckman piloting his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car. (Mopar).

Funny Car points leader Jack Beckman drove his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to the third spot on the eliminations ladder with his second run of the day by posting a 4.050 second /298.47 mph effort.

“Now that we’ve lost the first two qualifying runs (due to shortened race event), and the fact that 18 cars showed up, we knew qualifying was going to be a nail biter; we just didn’t think it would be for us,” said Beckman after first run issues sent the team back to the pits looking to work out the gremlins and improve the car for a final shot at improving their ladder position. “I always think we have a car good enough to win the race. Qualifying third kind of underscores that for me.”
Matt Hagan piloting his Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car. (Mopar).

Matt Hagan also saw improvements made to his Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car between qualifying runs to help him post the sixth quickest run of the day. 

“All in all, it was a great qualifying day,” said Hagan, who will face off against Daniel Wilkerson in the first round and is looking forward to racing in front of fans again. “Really glad to be a part of NHRA and I want to thank the sanctioning body for bringing the fans back out. We’re one of the first motorsports series to do that.”
“Our Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is running well and it’ll be fun to get back into competition mode tomorrow,” added Hagan, who is looking to move up from his fifth-place position in the points battle. “Our car is running strong, we had two good laps today. It was hot today which makes it a little trickier to be able to navigate the car, but the conditions will be different tomorrow. I’m excited. It’s going to be an early morning tomorrow. We warm-up at 6:45 a.m., so I’m going to eat a good steak dinner tonight, get some rest and get ready to do this tomorrow.”
Leah Pruett piloting her Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster. (Mopar).

In Top Fuel competition, Leah Pruett and her DSR Mopar Dodge//SRT Dragster will be joined by two additional DSR entries for the doubleheader race events in Indianapolis. Veteran racer Tony Schumacher, the winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA history, returns to competition for the first time since November 2018, while Cory McClenathan, who retired in 2019, had five of his 34 career wins while racing for DSR from 2008-2010.

Pruett qualified 10th with a quick time of 3.934 seconds at 306.33 mph to find herself paired up for a first-round match-up against her seventh-seeded teammate, Schumacher.
“We have Tony Schumacher with a long list of success here at Indy but this is not the U.S. Nationals,” said Pruett who sits second in the Top Fuel championship point standings. “This is the Indy Nationals and this Mopar team is definitely ready to fight this fight and looking forward to competition tomorrow. We have a long night ahead of us as we triple check everything and be on my practice game and race face for tomorrow even under the mask.”
McClenathan qualified 12th and will meet T.J. Zizzo as his first-round opponent.
Elimination rounds at the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals begin at 9 a.m. on Sunday, July 12, while television coverage includes live action on the FOX national broadcast network beginning at 12 p.m. Eastern. 
NHRA Championship Points Standings (After two of 18 National events):
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1.      Jack Beckman (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 258 (1)
2.      Tommy Johnson Jr. (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 216(1)
3.      John Force – 173
4.      Ron Capps (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 159
5.      Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 158
6.      Tim Wilkerson – 139
7.      Alexis DeJoria – 134
8.      J.R. Todd – 101
9.      Robert Hight – 100
10.   Cruz Pedregon – 96
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1.     Doug Kalitta – 250 (1)
2.     Leah Pruett (Mopar Dodge//SRT) – 169 
3.     Steve Torrance – 159 (1) 
4.     Brittany Force – 153 
5.     Justin Ashley – 140
6.     Antron Brown – 134
7.     Austin Prock – 131  
8.     Shawn Langdon – 124
9.     Clay Millican – 122
10.   Billy Torrence – 110
Source: Mopar

Robert S. Miller

Robert S. Miller is a diehard Mopar enthusiast who lives and breathes all that is Mopar. The Michigander is not only the Editor for MoparInsiders.com, 5thGenRams.com, and HDRams.com but an automotive photographer. He is an avid fan of offshore powerboat racing, which he travels the country to take part in.

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