Matt Hagan raced to the No. 1 spot in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car during qualifying for the Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Illinois, leading a sweep of the top three positions by Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Mopar Dodge//SRT drivers.
The pole was the second of the season for Hagan, his second at Joliet and the 32nd of his career. It was also the sixth No. 1 spot of the season for a Mopar-powered NHRA Funny Car or Top Fuel driver. His DSR teammates Ron Capps and Jack Beckman claimed the second and third qualifying positions, respectively, part of a group of seven Mopar Dodge Funny Car drivers that will race in the elimination rounds on Sunday.
Hagan led the way as he and his DSR teammates blasted to the front of the pack in their Mopar-powered Dodge machines during Friday’s second qualifying session. Hagan used a 3.917-second elapsed time (ET) at 326.79 mph in the cooler conditions of the nighttime session to collect the preliminary pole and three bonus points on Friday, after opening qualifying with a 4.027 mark that ranked him fifth.
The two-time NHRA champion and three-time Route 66 NHRA Nationals event winner held the top spot through the final two qualifying sessions on Saturday, ending with a solid 3.991 run. Hagan will start Sunday eliminations against Jonnie Lindberg.
Ron Capps, a two-time winner at Joliet, began qualifying with a boom under the hood, requiring the Mopar-powered NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team to turn to a second body. Capps and crew responded to the adversity by laying down a 3.921/325.92 in the evening session, claiming the No. 2 spot and two bonus markers behind his teammate Hagan.
Capps maintained his spot on Saturday and was able to add another bonus point in his final qualifying pass, crossing the finish stripe at 3.989, third quickest of the session. Capps will line up with another Dodge Charger driver, Justin Schriefer to begin his day on Sunday.
As with his stablemate Capps, Beckman struggled in round one of qualifying and smoked the tires, but then rebounded in his next attempt. The Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T driver’s 3.944/322.81 in Q2 moved him up to No. 3 on Friday, where “Fast Jack” would stay for the remainder of qualifying. Once again like Capps, Beckman will battle with a Dodge driver, Dale Creasy, to open eliminations.
Tony Schumacher, owner of five career wins at Joliet, jumped his Mopar-powered U.S. Army dragster from No. 14 all the way to a brief perch in the No.1 spot with a 3.749 mark in the second qualifying session on Friday. First to run in the round, Schumacher was shuffled down just a bit on the charts to end the first day of qualifying in third.
“The Sarge” also nabbed an always-precious bonus point on Friday, and then added two more on Saturday with his final attempt, an impressive 3.771 that was second best of the round. The eight-time NHRA Top Fuel champ will start No. 3 in eliminations on Sunday against Billy Torrence.
Leah Pritchett kicked off qualifying with a powerful 3.797/328.30 run that earned the Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Dodge Top Fuel driver a bonus point and the No. 3 spot heading into the second session on Friday. Pritchett and crew chief Todd Okuhara gave it their best shot but were unable to take advantage of the cool track conditions in Q2 after smoking the tires shortly following launch, ending the day in the eighth spot and in the top half of the field.
Pritchett was solid in her two final qualifying passes, a 3.970 followed by a final 3.832 effort, but the DSR star ultimately wrapped up qualifying at Joliet tenth, earning a date with DSR teammate Antron Brown in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Pritchett will seek her second win of 2018 and first of her career at Route 66 Raceway.
Between qualifying rounds on Saturday, Pritchett also participated in the Charity Challenge race against her sponsor, “Papa John” Schnatter. Pritchett scored the win in her Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak after Schnatter left the starting line too early.
Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T pilot Tommy Johnson Jr. steadily improved over the course of qualifying at Route 66 Raceway. The 2015 event champ at Joliet posted a best run on Friday of 4.409, improved to a 4.111 run in Q3 on Saturday and saved his best for last, a 4.011 mark that moved the DSR driver to No. 10. Johnson will go head-to-head with Shawn Langdon in round one eliminations.
Mopar Dodge//SRT Notes & Quotes
(best elapsed time in bold)
Matt Hagan, Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
Qualified No. 1, will face No. 16 Jonnie Lindberg
Friday: (4.027 seconds at 317.49 mph – Q1); (3.917/326.79 – Q2)
Saturday: (4.861/161.59 – Q3); (3.991/317.12 – Q4)
“We’ve changed everything. To start the year off we had a whole different track prep than we do now, so we had to regroup and make big changes to this Mopar Funny Car. Obviously, it’s taken a few runs, and taken a few races to get there, but I feel like we’ve closed the gap on (points leader) Courtney (Force) now.
“Our Mopar Express Lane Dodge is running strong. We can go down there and throw down a good number. The confidence has definitely grown. We have all of the power that we need.
“Very confident going into tomorrow, but it’s race day and you just never know what’s going to happen. Blessed to have that No. 1 spot right now. Everyone thinks these Chevys are running up front, but we’ve got these Mopars going again. Just give (crew chief) Dickie (Venables) enough time and he’ll figure it out. I like him being in our corner and knowing that we’re going to get there, it’s just a matter of runs.”
Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
Qualified No. 2, will face No. 15 Justin Schriefer
Friday: (4.229 seconds at 225.00 mph – Q1); (3.921/325.92 – Q2)
Saturday: (4.656/177.51 – Q3); (3.989/315.78 – Q4)
“(Crew chief Rahn)Tobler decided to go back to the five-disc (clutch), which is what we won the championship with two years ago, and almost won it again last year, and more than anything just the consistency he knows how to get out of these nitro Funny Cars with the five-disc. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I already feel like we already have our old NAPA car back. I feel like we have that car back that has consistency and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do in the heat and in the cool conditions. It’s going to be fun tomorrow.”
Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
Qualified No. 3, will face No. 14 Dale Creasy
Friday: (8.023 seconds at 85.98 mph – Q1); (3.944/322.81 – Q2)
Saturday: (5.711/128.53 – Q3); (7.019/96.51 – Q4)
“I know if you look at the sheets, we missed it three times and we smoked the tires. It looks like we have an inconsistent car. We made the first two runs and for whatever reason the car wasn’t 60-footing like it could have been. We found an issue with the clutch. The last two runs it was a banshee to 60-ft. Now we have to figure out how to tame that down but I think we found something that’s going to win races for us.”
Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified No. 3, will face No. 14 Billy Torrence
Friday: (4.532 seconds at 166.23 mph – Q1); (3.749/329.99 – Q2)
Saturday: (3.820/326.00 – Q3); (3.771/325.61 – Q4)
“We made two good runs here today and we know we have to step it up tomorrow. We are a championship caliber team and we are ready for this moment. I’m really proud of the U.S. Army team. Led by Mike (Neff) and Phil (Shuler) we’ve made three consistent runs and now it’s time to be at our best on Sunday. We really need a win. This is my home town track. I’ve won here a lot and I want to win tomorrow with this U.S. Army team. I know Billy (Torrence) is going to be a good test and I like racing cars that go down the track really good. I can’t wait to get back out here tomorrow.”
Leah Pritchett, Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified No. 10, will face No. 7 Antron Brown
Friday: (3.797 seconds at 328.30 mph – Q1); (12.084/76.43 – Q2)
Saturday: (3.970/307.93 – Q3); (3.832/324.51 – Q4)
“Lane choice is key here, but we have been back and forth between clutch changes and engine changes and ultimately we didn’t have the quick runs in qualifying that we desired. Facing Antron is definitely not the matchup we wanted. Racing our teammate and one of the fiercest competitors in the class is going to be tough, but we feel like the gold car will shine through tomorrow like it knows how to do.”
Tommy Johnson Jr., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
Qualified No. 10, will face No. 7 Shawn Langdon
Friday: (4.409 seconds at 201.73 mph – Q1); (7.114/88.60 – Q2)
Saturday: (4.111/308.78 – Q3); (4.011/323.35 – Q4)
“Shawn (Langdon) is running good. He’s made some good runs this weekend. We struggled at the start of qualifying and finally got things figured out in the last session. We finally found what was wrong with our car and what was plaguing us. Going into tomorrow I’m a little more confident than I was after Friday. It’ll be a great race. It just shows how tough Funny Car is right now. There’s no easy round, there’s no gimmes. Going into first round against Langdon could very easily be a final round so we’ll have to be on our game.”
Dodge Garage: New Digital Hub for Drag Racing News
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Fans can view daily updates and get access to an online racing HQ, news, events, galleries, available downloads and merchandise. Dodge Garage features include exclusive content, such as a three-part video series “Chasing the Title,” that offers fans a unique, behind-the-scenes glimpse at Pritchett and her DSR team in action.
For information on Mopar on and off the track, check out the Mopar brand’s official blog, http://blog.mopar.com.
Three hours of eliminations coverage of the NHRA Route 66 Nationals will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1 starting at 5:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 3.
Mopar Media PR/Photo Credit NHRA Media