Jack Beckman led a four-car parade of Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car machines in qualifying to start the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series campaign, taking the No. 2 qualifying position at the season-opening 59th annual NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California.
Beckman closed qualifying with a powerful 3.900-second elapsed time (ET) during the final qualifying session on Saturday at Auto Club Raceway to earn the second spot heading into Sunday eliminations and was joined in the top-five by fellow Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) and Dodge//SRT Mopar drivers Tommy Johnson, Jr. (third), Matt Hagan (fourth) and Ron Capps (fifth).
Following a morning rain shower, cooler temperatures and a cloud-cluttered sky provided competitive conditions and the results showed it for the Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat contingent.
Beckman’s run moved him from the 11th position up to second overall and became even more impressive as the final session proceeded. He will face Phil Burkart in the first round of Sunday’s elimination rounds.
Johnson improved from fourth to second in qualifying session three with his pass of 3.904 ET behind the wheel of the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. He will face Tim Wilkerson in Sunday’s first round.
Two-time NHRA Funny Car champion and two-time defending Winternationals winner Hagan followed Johnson’s lead and posted his best pass of the weekend in Q3. The Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat stopped the clock at 3.909 ET and Hagan will face John Force in round one Sunday.
Capps, the 2016 Winternationals champion, holds down the fifth spot with his Mopar-powered NAPA Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. The 2017 Funny Car champion held the provisional top position after Friday’s first qualifying session and will take on Gary Densham Sunday.
In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett improved her times Saturday but failed to make it cleanly to the finish line. Pritchett looked to be on a stout pass early Saturday afternoon, but couldn’t complete her run under full power and posted a mark of 3.963 ET. She closed qualifying with a lap of 4.011 ET and holds the 12th position on the qualifying ladder. Pritchett will begin her quest for a second Winternationals triumph in the last three seasons by facing her DSR teammate Antron Brown in Sunday’s first round of eliminations.
To follow Dodge//SRT and Mopar during the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, visit Dodge Garage, a digital content hub for muscle car and race enthusiasts.
Mopar Dodge//SRT Notes & Quotes
(best elapsed time in bold)
Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
Qualified No. 2, will face No. 15 Phil Burkart
Friday: (5.014 seconds at 168.58 mph – Q1); (4.044/253.37– Q2)
Saturday: (8.296/82.73 – Q3); (3.900/330.23 – Q4)
“I’m totally satisfied. We went three-for-four, and when you’ve ran as good as we’ve ran, you can afford to take a shot on the hero runs. We probably just put in a little bit too much on that run and that’s fine. We know where the limit is. Each day has gotten cooler and better out here, so bring it on. There’s a whole lot of bad Funny Cars ready to run tomorrow.”
Tommy Johnson Jr., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
Qualified No. 3, will face No. 14 Tim Wilkerson.
Friday: (8.010 seconds at 79.35 mph – Q1); (3.929/314.61 – Q2)
Saturday: (3.904/327.03 – Q3); (8.695/80.93 – Q4)
“We started the 2018 NHRA World Finals from No. 3 and made it to the final round. It’s basically the same race car that we brought back out this weekend here at the Winternationals and it’s running just as good. I’ve got all of the confidence in the world that we’ll go out there and lay down some good runs tomorrow, but it’s going to be tough as cold as it’s going to be so we’ll have to learn from that first session.”
Matt Hagan, Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
Qualified No. 4, will face No. 13 John Force
Friday: (3.971 seconds at 323.19 mph – Q1); (3.981/321.81 – Q2)
Saturday: (3.909/326.79– Q3); (7.679/86.58– Q4)
“We had three good laps in qualifying. It’ll be a good race (in round one against John Force). I’m looking forward to it. Any time you race John, you always have to come for it.”
Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
Qualified No. 5, will face No. 12 Gary Densham
Friday: (3.915 seconds at 304.87 mph – Q1); (7.198/89.83 – Q2)
Saturday: (7.717/86.88– Q3); (8.497/82.85 – Q4)
“We came in here without any pre-season testing and with a brand-new Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat body. A lot of new things. It was kind of interesting and fun because that first session, (crew chief Rahn) Tobler wanted to make sure everything was okay and told me to run it down there and shut it off at the 800-foot mark. I shut it off at about 840 feet and it ran 3.91 and put us No. 1 qualifier at that point, so that made it fun. It doesn’t matter who you run on race day. Gary Densham is one of the guys I fear the most out here because he’s cagey, he knows how to get down the track. I’ve raced him a lot. I think tomorrow will bring completely different conditions than what we’ve seen already.”
Leah Pritchett, Mopar Dodge/Sparkling Ice Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified No. 12, will face No. 3 Antron Brown
Friday: (7.912 seconds at 85.25 mph – Q1); (6.406/96.46 – Q2)
Saturday: (3.963/214.59 – Q3); (4.011/212.86 – Q4)
“The silver lining in our qualifying results is that we feel really confident in our tune-up window. There is definitely a difference between a mechanical malfunction and tune-ups. Today, we were right there to be in line with the low qualifiers before two totally different isolated incidents caused some pretty colorful damage. Fortunately, this Mopar team is built to succeed and we’ll be ready to go into race day with a solid car.
“Right out of the gate, 2019 isn’t starting with smooth sailing, but we knew the competition was going to make it tougher than ever. You never want to face your teammate unless it’s the final and we have Antron Brown in round one. It’s like they say in NHRA racing, you can’t tip toe into anything. You have to come out swinging. We know that’s what Antron and his guys are going to do and we’ve got confidence in our car to come out and do the same.”
FOX Sports 1 will broadcast three hours of eliminations coverage of the 59th annual NHRA Winternationals starting at 5:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 10.
Mopar Media PR