Hagan Scores NHRA Vegas Win in Mopar Dodge Funny Car

On Sunday, Mopar Funny Car driver Matt Hagan finally broke through in the Nevada desert as he won at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the very first time.

Hagan put his HEMI®-powered, Mopar Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) in the winner’s circle at the 17th annual NHRA Nationals to take his fourth victory of the season and 15th for Mopar-powered Funny Cars in 2017. It was also the 20th time at least one Mopar Dodge Funny Car from DSR has appeared in the final round through 23 events to date this year.
With just one event remaining in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, which includes the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs,  Mopar vehicles have now claimed victory a total of 20 times across the Funny Car and Top Fuel categories. Additionally, five Mopar-powered drivers across both categories are still mathematically eligible to win the 2017 championship in two weeks at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

During this weekend’s NHRA Nationals, Hagan, a two-time Funny Car champion, defeated Courtney Force from the right lane in the final round. Hagan turned in a pass of 3.942 seconds at 329.42 mph paired with a .050-second reaction time to better Force’s 4.020 at 320.05. She left the line with a reaction time of .069. The duel at the Vegas track surrounded by desert mountains and lying 15 miles north of the famed Strip was a re-match of both this year’s NHRA Winternationals and New England Nationals. Each of those final rounds were also won by the Mopar driver Hagan.

Hagan, whose team has struggled in the Countdown, opened his day by pushing past Gary Densham in round one on a clean pass as Densham smoked his tires near the 300-foot mark. The round win was the 300th of Hagan’s career. He next bested Del Worsham, who also struck the tires to put Hagan into the semifinal round against his DSR Mopar teammate Jack Beckman. Hagan advanced to the final by turning in his third consecutive clean pass as Beckman instantly went up in smoke.
Hagan’s victory was the 26th of his career.

Beckman also had a very successful weekend in Las Vegas, first re-setting both ends of the track record with a 3.854-second pass at 335.57 mph during qualifying to capture the No. 1 spot in his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T. He first bested fellow Dodge driver Jim Campbell in round one on a very solid pass as Campbell struck the tires. He next took down teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. on another clean pass as Johnson went up in smoke. His day was then ended by Hagan.
Johnson and the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team from DSR defeated Jonnie Lindberg in round one on a clean pass in the center of the groove while Lindberg struck the tires. Johnson then fell to Beckman in round two, meaning he was unable to repeat in Las Vegas after winning the spring event at the track.

Funny Car points leader Ron Capps took a hit in his bid for a second consecutive championship behind the wheel of his Dodge Charger R/T from DSR, losing to John Force in round one. Both cars went up in smoke soon after they left the starting line, but Force made it to the finish line first when Capps suffered an explosion, ending early his bid for a ninth win of 2017. He fell to 15 points behind Robert Hight entering the final event of the season.

In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett drove her Mopar Pennzoil Dodge Top Fuel dragster from DSR past T.J. Zizzo by half a car length in round one, setting up a matchup with her teammate Tony Schumacher. The cars were side-by-side before Schumacher ultimately dropped a cylinder, allowing Pritchett to get away and setting up a showdown with Brittany Force. Pritchett fell to Force after a side-by-side race.

Schumacher also set a track record (3.673/332.67) during qualifying to begin his day from the No. 1 position. He first powered his Mopar-backed U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster past Troy Buff when Buff went red. He was then defeated by Pritchett in round two.

The 17th annual NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway featured large crowds throughout the weekend, including a sellout on Sunday afternoon. Warm temperatures each day of qualifying gave way to cooling desert air in the evening and prime conditions for track records. Sunday’s elimination rounds saw a number of upsets, tightening up the championship points battles going into the special points-and-a-half final race.

Mopar/Dodge Notes & Quotes

Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) FCA – Global
“The success of the Mopar brand in NHRA during the 2017 campaign is something that has made all of us very proud each and every week. Congratulations to Mopar Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T driver Matt Hagan and his entire team on the NHRA Nationals win at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We look forward to the final race of the Countdown to the Championship and hope to see Mopar HEMI power in the winner’s circle one more time this year.”

Matt Hagan, Mopar Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 4 Qualifier – 3.882 seconds at 330.15 mph)

Rd. 1: (.073-second reaction time, 3.915 seconds at 32.78 mph) defeated No.13 Gary Densham (.103/5.853/132.26)
Rd. 2: (.077/3.952/326.79) defeated No. Del Worsham (.141/7.125/101.10)
Semis: (.075/3.967/329.42) defeated No. 1 Jack Beckman (.069/7.223/103.32)
Final: (.050/3.942/329.42) defeated No. 6 Courtney Force (.069/4.020/320.05)

“Obviously these Funny Cars are kind of finicky. Sometimes they love you and sometimes they rip your heart out and step on it. We just kind of got in a little bit of a rut and we just had to work hard and focus and make big, wholesale changes to dig ourselves back out. It’s a real testament to (crew chief) Dickie Venables and my crew what they can do and how far they can come and how fast they can bounce back. We had some pretty bad first-round losses earlier in the Countdown. You just kind of lose hope sometimes, but then you’ve got to get your pom-poms out and keep everybody going. But I just can’t say enough about Dickie. The guy’s one of the smartest crew chiefs out here. I’m just so blessed to have him in our corner. There’s no replacement for the feeling of winning. That’s a fix you can’t get anywhere else, man. Sometimes it takes a little struggle to really put things back into perspective of how special it is. That way you don’t take it for granted.”
Leah Pritchett, Mopar Pennzoil Dodge Top Fuel Dragster 
(No. 8 Qualifier – 3.742 seconds at 313.95 mph)
Rd. 1: (.079-second reaction time, 3.705 seconds at 326.16 mph) defeated No. 9 T.J Zizzo (.055/3.752/329.18)
Rd. 2: (.085/3.754/322.73) defeated No. 1 Tony Schumacher (.082/3.869/292.27)
Semis: (.092/3.754/323.81) lost to No. 6 Brittany Force (.077/3.714/329.34)

“We had our most successful run of the Countdown so far going to the semis, so we are proud of that. We have a solid race car and continue to prove it, which I feel good about. In the semifinals we didn’t think that the track could take a .71 but obviously it could and our .75 wasn’t good enough, not quite the best package. But we are testing here on Monday, and we are not just practicing, we are testing. We’ve got some things we’ve been looking forward to improving about our operation and we are going to take that package and unleash it at Pomona. That’s what I’m looking forward to. Overall for the Mopar Pennzoil car this weekend it was a great showing and we’ve got great fans to back it up.”

Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 1 Qualifier – 3.854 seconds at 335.57 mph)

Rd. 1: (.066-second reaction time,  3.918 seconds at 330.15 mph) defeated No. 16 Jim Campbell (.105/6.399/104.15)
Rd. 2: (.073/3.947/328.54) defeated No. 9 Tommy Johnson Jr. (.067/8.344/93.10)
Semis: (.069/7.223/103.32) lost to No. 4 Matt Hagan (.075/3.967/329.42)

“The frustrating thing is you really have to strike when the iron’s hot. We had a phenomenal car. Except for the first qualifying run we were near the quickest every time down the racetrack after that, and not even close to being in trouble. So when you go out there and the car smokes the tires two feet into the run we’re scratching our heads. We don’t know why it even would’ve thought about doing that. But boy that’s why in drag racing you don’t count your chickens before they hatch. I really thought we had a final-round car and the best overall Funny Car here this weekend. The odd thing is, right behind us in the same lane (right) Robert Hight’s car did exactly the same thing. So we’re scratching our heads. We will stay, we will test tomorrow, we will get some more data and we will go to Pomona with our heads up ready to win that race.”

Tommy Johnson Jr., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 9 Qualifier – 3.922 seconds at 325.77 mph)
Rd. 1: (.064-second reaction time, 3.962 seconds at 320.51 mph) defeated No. 8 Jonnie Lindberg (.074/4.197/254.95)
Rd. 2: (.067/8.344/93.10) lost to No. 1 Jack Beckman (.073/3.947/328.54)

“It’s been a tough year for our team. We’ve had a lot of issues with losing (longtime benefactor) Terry (Chandler), crew members losing family members, it’s just been a rough year but we keep fighting. We’ve had a little a gremlin. We made a little improvement on it this weekend, just a tough weekend. We got a round win but that’s not what we’re used to. So we’ll test tomorrow and try some new things for next season and see if we can’t start working towards that.”

Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 6 Qualifier – 3.896 seconds at 326.08 mph)

Rd. 1: (.078-second reaction time, 5.245 seconds at 142.42 mph) lost to No. 13 John Force (.056/4.469/231.75)

“We weren’t trying anything special, we weren’t trying to rotate the earth, but it spun the tires and then a quick backfire and I saw Force out there. Last night, we finished qualifying, we looked at the ladder and I’m sure Robert Hight and his team were thinking the same thing, but we thought, ‘this is a good opportunity for us to make some ground up.’ It just didn’t happen our way.  But NHRA’s implementation of points and a half in Pomona is going to make it pretty exciting. We haven’t had to come from behind like this, like we’re going to have to at Pomona, but it’s going to be fun. I look forward to getting with my crew guys and trying to battle back on Sunday in Pomona and see if we can’t make it exciting.”

Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 1 Qualifier – 3.673 seconds at 332.67 mph)

Rd. 1: (.190-second reaction time, 3.730 seconds at 329.10 mph) defeated No. 16 Troy Buff (foul – red light)
Rd. 2: (.082/3.869/292.27) lost No. 8 Leah Pritchett (.085/3.754/322.73)

“We started the day feeling like we had a great opportunity to win this race. We had a great race car, but we weren’t able to accomplish what we wanted to today. It’s really tough on this whole U.S. Army Racing team. Everyone works so hard and nobody wants to feel like we do right now. Timing is such a part of this deal. I would have beaten several other cars out there in that round, but I didn’t beat the one I was racing.”

Mopar/Dodge NHRA Sportsman Spotlight
A very deep field of Sportsman competitors took part in the 17th annual NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, including more than 75 cars in both the Stock and Super Stock Eliminator categories.

In Stock Eliminator, Steve Wann, known as “Mr. 413,” advanced his A/SA 1962 Plymouth Fury to the quarterfinal round. The driver from Modesto, California, turned in a pass of 10.276 seconds at 126.70 mph on a 10.28 dial-in, breaking out by .004. He left the starting line with a .036-second reaction time.

In Super Stock Eliminator, Darren Smith from Palmdale, California, turned in the best performance for Mopar. He put his SS/FA 1968 Dodge Dart GTS powered by a 440 cubic-inch engine in the fourth round, where he laid down a lap of 9.838 at 128.80 on a 9.75 dial-in. He bowed out by less than two feet at the finish line after an outstanding .006 reaction time.

Wann and Smith were named the Dodge Top Finisher of the event for their efforts. The program is in place at all 24 national events in 2017 and awards $500 to the Stock Eliminator and Super Stock Eliminator driver who advances the farthest in a Dodge or Plymouth vehicle to supplement Mopar’s deep contingency program.
Both Stock and Super Stock competitors also took part in class eliminations in Las Vegas, with several Mopar-powered drivers taking home Wally trophies.

In Stock Eliminator, Larry Gilley of Hilmar, California, won the E/SA class in a ’69 Dodge Dart, Mike Cotten from Cave Creek, Arizona, took the F/SA win in his ’73 Plymouth Duster, Mike Loge of Antioch, California, drove a ’70 Plymouth GTX to the H/SA victory, and Paul Wong from Las Vegas claimed the Combo-Stick win in a ’65 Plymouth Belvedere.

Four Super Stock drivers also claimed victories, as Cotten won SS/JA in his ’70 Plymouth Barracuda, Chino, California’s Wayne Taylor took the GT/MA win in a ’99 Chrysler Sebring, Kevin Helms from Plant City, Florida, claimed the FSS/E victory in a ’10 Dodge Challenger, and Lloyd Wofford of Jonesboro, Arkansas, won FGT/J in a ’79 Plymouth Volare.

Darcy Clarke of Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada, also collected a Wally trophy when his SS/EA 1964 Plymouth Savoy won the Best Engineered Award.

Up Next: NHRA Finals
In two weeks the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season draws to a close with the 53rd annual NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona on November 9 – 12. This year the event will feature a special points-and-a-half format as it crowns the champions in all NHRA Pro classes. Mopar Funny Car driver Matt Hagan has won at the historic track five times, including during this year’s season-opening event, Ron Capps has three Pomona victories and Tommy Johnson Jr. has visited the winner’s circle twice – including at the event last season. Last year Jack Beckman was No. 1 qualifier for the NHRA Finals in his Mopar-powered Funny Car.

In the Top Fuel ranks, Mopar driver Tony Schumacher has six victories at Pomona, while Leah Pritchett claimed her first win at the Southern California facility earlier in 2017.

The NHRA Finals will include an autograph session with Mopar Pro drivers at 10:45 a.m. local time at the Mopar display trailer on Saturday, November 11. The NHRA Finals will be broadcast throughout the weekend on FOX Sports 1, with LIVE eliminations coverage slated for 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, November 12.

For more information on Mopar and Dodge in NHRA, check out the Mopar brand’s official blog, http://blog.mopar.com.
2017 NHRA Championship – Point Standings After Round 23 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)

NHRA Funny Car
1. Robert Hight (4) – 2,548
2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger R/T (8) – 2,533
3. Courtney Force – 2,423  
4. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger R/T (2) – 2,396
5. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger R/T (4) – 2,387
6. John Force (1) – 2,306
7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger R/T (1) – 2,276
8. Tim Wilkerson – 2,237
9. J.R. Todd (2) – 2,233
10. Cruz Pedregon – 2,163

NHRA Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence (8) – 2,527
2. Brittany Force (3) -2,507
3. Doug Kalitta (1) – 2,443
4. Antron Brown (4) – 2,392 
5. Leah Pritchett, Mopar HEMI (4) – 2,361
6. Tony Schumacher, Mopar HEMI (1) – 2,340
7. Clay Millican (1) – 2,326
8. Shawn Langdon – 2,267
9. Terry McMillen (1) – 2,261
10. Scott Palmer – 2,169
Mopar Motorsports PR
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