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.
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.
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.
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.