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Mopar to Shine Spotlight on Sportsman Racers During 63rd Annual NHRA U.S. Nationals

63rd annual NHRA U.S. Nationals scheduled for August 30 – September 4 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Indiana
17th annual Mopar HEMI® Challenge pits SS/AH racers head-to-head in original Mopar package cars: 1968 Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracudas on August 31 – September 1
Mopar Sportsman Appreciation Night on Thursday, August 31 will recognize loyal Mopar-powered Sportsman competitors
Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak vehicles to compete in Factory Stock Showdown class
Yearlong contingency programs include Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Drag Pak Rewards Program, Mopar Contingency, Tom Hoover points and Dodge Top Finisher
Mopar and Dodge displays on Manufacturers Midway to feature fan-friendly activities

August 22, 2017 , Auburn Hills, Mich.



Each year, the prestigious U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis bring together not only the best Pro drag racers in the world, but also the top Sportsman competitors from all categories. Mopar’s Sportsman racers have reached national and divisional winner’s circles across the country this season, and during Labor Day weekend they will be a major part of “The Big Go.”

The Mopar HEMI® Challenge Returns for 17th Consecutive Year
2017 marks the 17th edition of the Mopar HEMI Challenge, a unique event in which Super Stock/Automatic HEMI (SS/AH) drivers battle for bragging rights in 1968 HEMI-powered Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracudas: the original Mopar package cars. The vehicles were purpose-built for the drag strip and served as the precursor to today’s Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak vehicles.

The winner claims $15,000 and a HEMI Challenge trophy, while the event also provides a cash payout to the top 16 finishers. All competitors receive special HEMI Challenge decals, hats and limited-edition posters.


“We take pride in how our classic Mopar package cars have remained so popular close to 50 years after they were introduced,” said Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA - Global. “As we celebrate our brand’s 80th anniversary in 2017, we continue to support the passion and commitment of our Sportsman racers not only through the Mopar HEMI Challenge, but also with contingency programs and our modern-day package car, the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak.”

Mopar Sportsman Appreciation Night Fetes Racers
The night before the HEMI Challenge winner is crowned, the Mopar brand’s annual Sportsman Appreciation Night will take place at Lucas Oil Raceway from 7 – 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 31. Food and drinks, special guest speakers, demonstrations by SRT engineers, Mopar raffle giveaways, trivia and more are on the docket to reward the multitude of loyal Mopar Sportsman racers. In addition, the prestigious Presidents’ Award will be handed out to one particularly deserving individual who is synonymous with the Mopar brand.

Pritchett to Compete in Charity Challenge Match Race

Mopar Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett will also make headlines in a Dodge Challenger during the U.S. Nationals, thanks to her participation in the fourth “Charity Challenge” match race of 2017. In each event, Pritchett drives a Challenger specially configured for drag racing and featuring a supercharged Mopar Gen III HEMI engine against Papa John’s Pizza founder and CEO John Schnatter. Each race raises money for the Infinite Hero Foundation.

Pritchett to Battle in Factory Stock Showdown
The U.S. Nationals will serve as the site of the 2017 season’s fourth Factory Stock Showdown as well. The program is a five-event showcase in which modern American factory muscle competing in Stock Eliminator goes head to-head on the strip for points, cash and trophies. Pritchett will make her Factory Stock Showdown debut in a supercharged Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak at the event, and Mopar Drag Pak drivers Geoff Turk and David Collette are also expected to participate.

Drivers Battle for Mopar Contingency Program Rewards
All Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak drivers are eligible for the Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Drag Pak Rewards Program. The initiative, new for this year, recognizes the top 20 Drag Pak racers under the program’s points system. Points are awarded based on performance in all national events, including the Factory Stock Showdown. All Mopar Sportsman racers competing in any category are also eligible for the Mopar Contingency Program, which provides monetary awards for drivers who win or finish runner-up while running a Mopar contingency decal and utilizing the brand’s valve covers, intake manifolds and cylinder heads.

Additionally, the Mopar Sportsman driver who accumulates the most points over the year in Stock Eliminator or Super Stock will receive the Tom Hoover award, which features a cash prize and a special trophy. The race for the Hoover award is currently led by Kevin Helms, who also sits atop the overall NHRA Stock Eliminator point standings in a 2013 Dodge Challenger.

Also new in 2017 is the Dodge Top Finisher award, which provides $500 to the Stock and Super Stock competitors who advance the furthest at all 24 national events behind the wheel of a Dodge or Plymouth vehicle.

Mopar and Dodge Displays Feature Fan-friendly Activities

On top of watching the on-track action during the U.S. Nationals, fans will be able to visit both the Mopar and Dodge display trailers on Lucas Oil Raceway’s Manufacturers Midway. Enthusiasts can test their mettle in Dodge Challenger SRT Demon simulators, and compete for prizes throughout the weekend while learning more about all of the Mopar and Dodge offerings. The Mopar and Dodge display trailers are present at 15 NHRA national events throughout the 2017 season.

About Mopar Motorsports
The Mopar brand’s commitment to professional motorsports competition was established in the 1950s when a partnership ignited with drag racing pioneer Don Garlits, resulting in the breaking of numerous speed and performance barriers in HEMI-powered vehicles over the next several decades. In 2016, thanks to Don Schumacher Racing driver Ron Capps, Mopar captured its fourth NHRA Funny Car World Championship in the last six years. As Mopar celebrates 80 years as a brand in 2017, it will focus its NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series efforts on NHRA Funny Car and, with rising star Leah Pritchett, NHRA Top Fuel Dragster. Mopar will also bolster its commitment to NHRA Sportsman racing with new contingency rewards, factory support and at-track technical advice and guidance.
 

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Daniels Wins Mopar HEMI® Challenge

Daniels Wins Mopar HEMI® Challenge, Hagan and Pritchett are Provisional No. 1 Qualifiers at NHRA U.S. Nationals


Jimmy Daniels wins Mopar HEMI® Challenge at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis for second consecutive year
Wendell Howes finishes as runner-up
Matt Hagan is provisional No. 1 qualifier for NHRA U.S. Nationals in Mopar HEMI-powered Funny Car, Mopar driver Leah Pritchett is current No. 1 in Top Fuel


September 1, 2017 , Brownsburg, Ind. -





Jimmy Daniels is two-for-two in the Mopar HEMI® Challenge. The 21-year-old driver from Yardley, Pennsylvania, made his second start in the prestigious annual event on Friday during the NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, and drove his 1968 Dodge Dart to the winner’s circle for the second consecutive year.

With the win, Daniels further added to the family legacy in the event started by his father, Jim, who claimed victory in 2010.

“Sportsman racing has been a part of Mopar’s DNA for decades, and we’re so happy to see the success these passionate Mopar-powered racers are achieving as we celebrate our 80th anniversary,” said Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) FCA. “Congratulations to Jimmy Daniels on wining the Mopar HEMI Challenge in his ’68 Dart.”

The $15,000-to-win Sportsman event showcases 1968 Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracudas—the original Mopar package cars—competing in the SS/AH category. This year’s 17th annual event drew competitors from around North America.

Daniels matched up with Wendell Howes’ ’68 Barracuda in the final round. After a staging battle, Daniels bested Howes with a pass of 8.404 seconds at 155.96 mph. The lap was his quickest of the weekend. Howes meanwhile turned in a 9.923 at 103.21. Daniels got off the line with a.013-second reaction time while Howes left after .099.

“There were some tough cars out here and we weren’t the fastest by a lot,” Daniels said. “I had to be on my game. You couldn’t take anybody lightly here; it was a tough field this year.”

Daniels qualified No. 2 and defeated Bucky Hess’ Barracuda in round one after Hess, the winner of the first-ever Mopar HEMI Challenge in 2001, turned on the red light. Daniels next took down the Barracuda of Gus Mantas, and then bested Steve Comella’s Barracuda with an electrifying holeshot victory to reach the final round.

Daniels was driving the same car his father used to win in 2010, which features HEMI power from Ray Barton Race Engines. The young driver is enrolled at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and leaves for school next Wednesday.

“It’s an unbelievable experience,” Daniels said of winning the Mopar HEMI Challenge for the second consecutive year. “I can’t describe it.”

Although Wendell Howes didn’t claim the top prize at the end of the day, he was still was pleased with a runner-up finish in the premier Sportsman race for the Mopar brand.

“The event was great, I think everybody had a good time,” said Howes, who hails from Rothesbay, New Brunswick. “He (Daniels) went down, I didn’t. As far as the staging goes, it was just a matter of who wanted to blink first.”

Along with his $15,000 payday, Daniels also received a unique trophy weighing 42.6 pounds. The top sixteen finishers in the event received a cash payout, while all competitors were provided with special decals, hats and limited-edition posters.

Bucky Hess’ Kandy ‘Kuda received the Best Appearing Award.

Hagan and Pritchett Each Sit No. 1 after First Round of U.S. Nationals Qualifying
The first of five qualifying sessions for the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series portion of the U.S. Nationals kicked off on Friday evening as well, with Mopar HEMI power from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) taking the provisional top spots in both the Funny Car and Top Fuel categories in unseasonably cool conditions.



Matt Hagan drove to the No. 1 spot in Funny Car in his Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T with a 3.799-second blast at 338.77 mph. Both the elapsed time (E.T.) and speed were new track records at Lucas Oil Raceway. Leah Pritchett meanwhile put her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel dragster No. 1 with a pass of 3.667 at 329.50. Her E.T. was also good enough for a Top Fuel track record.

Mopar/Dodge Notes & Quotes

Matt Hagan, Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
“It’s fun to just be able to do something like that. We missed the .70s just barely to Robert (Hight). We were first in the .90s, first in the .80s, and second in the .70s. But that’s just how it goes, I’m just glad to be there and be able to do something like that. These cars are just awesome to drive.”

Leah Pritchett, Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster


“That was not a cruise down the highway. I’ve been on the track for two days and knew it tends to pull to the left in both lanes. When you get past the grandstands there was a side wind that started to push me and I fought to keep it square to the lane. I was out of breath at the end but when you have a race car as good as this one you do whatever it takes to get to the finish line.”
 

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Hagan Remains No. 1

Mopar Funny Car Driver Hagan Remains No. 1 in NHRA U.S. Nationals Qualifying

Tony Schumacher Finishes in Final Round of Traxxas Top Fuel Nitro Shootout

Mopar HEMI®-powered Matt Hagan maintains No. 1 qualifying position in Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
Leah Pritchett is currently qualified No. 2 in Mopar Top Fuel dragster
Tony Schumacher puts Mopar in final round of Traxxas Top Fuel Nitro Shootout
Factory Stock Showdown eliminations begin Sunday morning; two Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Paks are qualified in top five

September 2, 2017 , Brownsburg, Ind. -

Everything is bigger during the U.S. Nationals, hence the nickname “The Big Go.” That includes qualifying for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, as the unique qualifying format is spread across three days and five sessions each year at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. With two sessions remaining before elimination rounds for the 63rd edition of the annual event kick off on Monday, all teams in the Funny Car category are chasing Mopar HEMI® power from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR).



DSR driver Matt Hagan re-set both ends of the Funny Car track record during the first qualifying session on Friday evening, and then held onto the time throughout both Saturday sessions. The defending U.S. Nationals No. 1 qualifier and event winner is currently in the top spot on the strength of a 3.799-second pass at 338.77 mph in his Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T. The team made two more solid pulls on Saturday.

Leah Pritchett also entered Saturday in the No. 1 position, thanks to a lap of 3.667 at 329.50 in her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel dragster from DSR. However, she was relegated to the No. 2 spot on Saturday evening when Clay Millican posted a 3.663-second pass.

There also was some significant movement by Mopar HEMI-powered teams from DSR farther down the preliminary elimination ladder.

Jack Beckman sits in the No. 5 position in his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T, while Ron Capps improved from the 16th and final qualifying position at the end of Friday up to ninth in his Mopar Dodge on Saturday evening. Tommy Johnson Jr.'s Riley Hospital for Children Dodge Charger R/T is not yet qualified with 18 cars on-site this weekend.

Mopar-powered Tony Schumacher is still sixth in the Top Fuel category in the U.S. Army dragster on the strength of his lap from Friday.

Schumacher Drives to Traxxas Top Fuel Nitro Shootout Final
An additional highlight of each year’s U.S. Nationals is the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, an eight-car, $100,000-to-win all-star event for both Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars. The Top Fuel portion took place on Saturday afternoon and evening, where Tony Schumacher advanced to the final round. He first defeated Brittany Force on a holeshot, then bested Terry McMillen to set up a showdown with Steve Torrence in the final. Schumacher, a two-time winner of the event, came home as runner-up this year after being defeated by Torrence on a clean, side-by-side pass.

Leah Pritchett was defeated by Doug Kalitta in round one of the special race after Pritchett suffered an explosion near the finish line.

The Funny Car edition is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Factory Stock Showdown Eliminations Begin Sunday Morning
The fourth Factory Stock Showdown of 2017 is also being contested this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway. Geoff Turk is qualified No. 3 in his “Blackbird” Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, while Mopar Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett turned in a No. 5 qualifying effort in a Challenger Drag Pak in her Factory Stock Showdown debut. The first round of eliminations is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. ET on Sunday, with a total of two rounds slated for the day. The popular five-race series spotlights modern factory muscle.

Mopar/Dodge Notes & Quotes

Matt Hagan, Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
“We’ve got a great race car right now, it’s running, it’s digging, you count Brainerd and we’ve made ten amazing runs. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and trying to win boss man (Don Schumacher) $100,000 (in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout) We were really trying to press up there. Last night was really killer and tonight was pretty killer. We’ve got us a hot rod.”



Leah Pritchett, Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster
“Today was a practice session so to speak for Monday, and I mean that from an elimination standpoint as a driver, for the team, for the tuners, pretty much straight out of the box going into elimination mode (in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout) trying to get that 100 grand. We’re having to fine tune our baseline, we’ve got our cold weather tune-up down. Earlier today was similar to what we’re going to have Monday. We didn’t catch it and that Kalitta team’s strong, they beat us fair and square in every way.”



Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
“That (the Traxxas Nitro Shootout final) was a great run, a great race. (It was) just a good race and we are trying to figure out how to win. I could’ve rolled it in a little bit, it helps your light and hurts your E.T., but I chose to go shallow. We made a great run; (Steve Torrence) just made a little better run. He did what it took to win $100,000. We have a great car. Honestly it’s going to be hotter on Monday and we are hard to beat when it’s hot out.”

Tune-in Info
Coverage of the 63rd annual NHRA U.S. Nationals continues on Sunday, September 3, with two LIVE shows on FOX Sports 1. The first is slated for 12 – 2 p.m. ET, with the second airing from 5 – 7 p.m. ET.
 

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Hagan Qualifies Mopar Dodge Funny Car No. 1

Hagan Qualifies Mopar Dodge Funny Car No. 1 at NHRA U.S. Nationals, Beckman Wins Traxxas Nitro Shootout


Matt Hagan qualifies Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car No. 1 for 63rd annual NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis
Hagan’s pass of 3.799 seconds at 338.77 mph resets both ends of track record
No. 1 qualifying effort is Hagan’s second in a row at U.S. Nationals, fourth of season and 30th of career
Mopar teams from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) have set low E.T. in qualifying 14 times overall this year (five in Funny Car, nine in Top Fuel)
Leah Pritchett is No. 2 to lead Mopar HEMI®-powered Top Fuel dragsters
Mopar driver Jack Beckman wins $100,000 Traxxas Funny Car Nitro Shootout for third time

September 3, 2017 , Brownsburg, Ind. -



For the second consecutive year, Matt Hagan and the Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team qualified No. 1 for the prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals. They will look to end their Labor Day Weekend in the Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis winner’s circle on Monday—just as they did last season.

Hagan used Mopar HEMI® power to reset both ends of the track record on Friday evening, laying down a lap of 3.799 seconds at 338.77 mph in his Funny Car from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR).The time held throughout the four following qualifying sessions to give Hagan his fourth top qualifying spot of 2017 and the 30th of his career. It was the fifth low elapsed-time (E.T.) qualifying effort of the year for Mopar Funny Cars from DSR, and the 14th this season for Mopar across both Nitro categories overall.


DSR’s Jack Beckman will start from the fifth position on Monday in his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T, while teammate Ron Capps will begin from the eighth spot in his Dodge. Tommy Johnson Jr. will occupy the 12th position on the elimination ladder in his Riley Hospital for Children Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car from DSR.

Six Mopar Dodge Funny Cars in all qualified for the 16-car field.



Leah Pritchett landed in the second spot in the Top Fuel category to lead Mopar in the DSR-fielded Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil dragster, while her teammate, 10-time U.S. Nationals winner Tony Schumacher, qualified his U.S. Army dragster featuring Mopar HEMI power in the fourth position. Schumacher ended Top Fuel qualifying with a spectacular explosion in the fifth and final session. He was unhurt.

A total of 18 cars attempted to make the 63rd U.S. Nationals in bot the Funny Car and Top Fuel categories.



Beckman Wins Traxxas Nitro Funny Car Shootout
The Funny Car half of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout all-star event took place on Sunday afternoon after Top Fuel cars took center stage on Saturday. Jack Beckman claimed the victory in the $100,000-to-win Funny Car program for the third time in the Traxxas era utilizing Mopar HEMI power. He has four wins in Shootout events overall. “Fast Jack” defeated Robert Hight with a 3.952-second pass at 324.67 mph in the final round of the eight-car event. Hight smoked his tires near half-track and turned in a lap of 4.360 at 207.11. Beckman utilized a .067-second reaction time, while Hight’s was a nearly identical .070.

Beckman first took down DSR Mopar teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. in round one, then defeated another teammate in the form of Ron Capps after a masterful driving job in the semifinals. Both cars got in trouble early, with Capps’ car ultimately suffering an explosion, while Beckman pedaled to the finish line to reach the final round against Hight.

DSR’s Matt Hagan meanwhile was defeated by John Force on a holeshot in round one, with Force’s margin of victory clocked at just .001. All four Mopar HEMI-powered Funny Cars from DSR appeared in the eight-car event, as all have won races in 2017.

Mopar/Dodge Notes & Quotes
(best elapsed time in bold)

Matt Hagan, Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
Qualified No. 1, will face No. 16 Jim Campbell
Friday: (3.799 seconds at 338.77 mph – Q1)
Saturday: (3.897/330.72 – Q2); (3.821/337.83 – Q3)
Sunday: (3.918/331.45 – Q4); (3.905/329.83 – Q5)

“Obviously it was a pretty warm day and the car’s going down the racetrack. We’ve had real success as far as in the cool and also in the heat so I’m pretty excited about it. The U.S. Nationals is a huge race. I won it last year and I guess no one has ever won and been No. 1 two years in a row. Maybe we can make some history tomorrow and do that.

“Our car ran well today and kind of repeated itself both laps. It was all we could ask for so I’m pretty excited about it.”

Leah Pritchett, Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified No. 2, will face No. 15 Wayne Newby

Friday: (3.667 seconds at 329.50 mph – Q1)
Saturday: (3.782/312.13 – Q2); (8.881/80.87 – Q3)
Sunday: (3.771/316.45 – Q4); (3.764/322.11 – Q5)

“The Big Go is the longest week, the longest race there ever could be and we’re hoping to make it the longest Monday possible. We’re going to try to go low for the round every single time tomorrow.”

Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
Qualified No. 5, will face No. 12 Tommy Johnson Jr.

Friday: (3.900 seconds at 330.88 mph – Q1)
Saturday: (4.869/157.98 – Q2); (3.859/333.16 – Q3)
Sunday: (3.872/331.77 – Q4); (3.952/324.67 – Q5)

“Just getting into the (Traxxas Nitro Shootout) is incredibly difficult. There are a litany of ways you can get into the Shootout but only one way to get the trophy: You have to beat three of the baddest Fuel cars on the planet in one day. There were no gimmes.”

(On remembering late benefactor Terry Chandler)
“Norwalk was the last race one of her two cars took a trophy and she was still alive. This is a good way to bookend her physical time with us. I’m still having trouble accepting we won’t see her at the track, but she will always be with us.”

Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
Qualified No. 8, will face No. 9 Alexis DeJoria

Friday: (10.938 seconds at 71.07 mph – Q1)
Saturday: (3.883/329.67 – Q2); (3.906/308.57 – Q3)
Sunday: (3.871/330.55 – Q4); (4.053/262.13 – Q5)

Tommy Johnson Jr., Riley Hospital for Children Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
Qualified No. 12, will face No. 5 Jack Beckman

Friday: (9.922 seconds at 76.00 mph – Q1)
Saturday: (10.777/79.36 – Q2); (11.027/84.08 – Q3)
Sunday: (4.000/324.98 – Q4); (3.988/324.20 – Q5)

Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified No. 4, will face No. 13 Terry McMillen

Friday: (3.735 seconds at 327.82 mph – Q1)
Saturday: (3.747/324.51 – Q2); (3.680/330.31 – Q3)
Sunday: (4.754/152.74 – Q4); (4.111/206.10 – Q5)

Turk, Pritchett Compete in Factory Stock Showdown
Geoff Turk and Leah Pritchett qualified No. 3 and No. 5, respectively, in Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Paks for the Factory Stock Showdown event highlighting modern American muscle at the U.S. Nationals. However, during round one on Sunday, Turk was bested on a holeshot, while Pritchett bowed out after spinning her tires on a hot track. A total of 22 cars attempted to qualify for the 16-car field. The fifth and final Factory Stock Showdown of 2017 is scheduled for the NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis.

Tune-in Info
FOX Sports 1 will broadcast the early elimination rounds from the 63rd annual U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway LIVE at 11 a.m. ET on Monday, September 4. The FOX Network will then pick up coverage at 1 p.m. ET and carry the event through the finals.
 

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Capps Drives Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to NHRA U.S. Nationals Runner-up Finis

Capps Drives Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to NHRA U.S. Nationals Runner-up Finish

Larry Gilley wins Stock Eliminator, Kevin Helms triumphs in Super Stock

Ron Capps puts Mopar HEMI®-powered Dodge Charger R/T in final round of 63rd annual NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis
Larry Gilley wins all-Mopar Stock Eliminator final round in 1969 Dodge Dart, Kevin Helms drives 2010 Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak to Super Stock victory
Mopar Dodge Funny Cars from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) have appeared in 16 of 18 final rounds this season, winning 12 times
Two Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars from DSR appear in U.S. Nationals semifinals
Tony Schumacher and Leah Pritchett drive Mopar-powered Top Fuel cars from DSR into semis
Mopar occupies four of top five points positions in Funny Car, third and fourth in Top Fuel standings as Countdown to the Championship begins
Mopar Sportsman drivers collect 14 class wins
Gilley is Dodge Top Finisher in Stock, Helms wins award in Super Stock


September 4, 2017 , Brownsburg, Ind. -



Ron Capps came as close as he ever had to winning the NHRA U.S. Nationals on Monday afternoon. Capps put his Mopar HEMI®-powered Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car in the final round for the first time in the ultra-prestigious event at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, but in the end he finished just shy of checking off the biggest item remaining on the to-do-list in his storied career.

Mopar still had a very successful U.S. Nationals, however, with Larry Gilley winning the Stock Eliminator category in his 1969 Dodge Dart, while Kevin Helms took home the Wally trophy in Super Stock with a victory in his 2010 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak.

Although Capps was bested by J.R. Todd in the final round of the 63rd annual event known as “The Big Go,” his appearance represented the 16th final for Mopar Dodge Funny Car drivers from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule in 2017. They have won 12 times. Additionally, Capps will enter the Countdown to the Championship playoffs as the No. 1 seed on the strength of six victories and a staggering 39-12 won-loss record. The point standings re-set for the top ten after the Indianapolis event, putting Capps in prime position to defend his series title from 2016.

In Monday’s final, Capps turned in a very solid 3.949-second pass at 325.53 mph, but still was defeated by Todd’s 3.923 at 325.61. Capps left the starting line with a .057-second reaction time, while Todd left after .054.

Capps first drove his Dodge Charger R/T from DSR past Alexis DeJoria, then powered past fellow Dodge competitor Jim Campbell in the second round as Campbell smoked his tires. Capps next took down Mopar DSR teammate Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T team in a clean, side-by-side race to reach the final round.

Beckman had narrowly bested teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Mopar-powered Riley Hospital for Children team in the first round, ending Johnson’s bid to go to his third straight final. He then defeated a smoking Del Worsham to match up with teammate Capps, where his day came to an end. Beckman and team didn’t walk away from the U.S. Nationals empty-handed though, as they took the $100,000 victory in the Traxxas Funny Car Nitro Shootout all-star event on Sunday.

Matt Hagan meanwhile qualified his Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T from DSR No. 1 with both ends of the track record, but was upset by Campbell in round one. Hagan’s car shook as he struggled off the line and could never rebound, ending his bid to go back-to-back in the event.

In the Top Fuel ranks, Leah Pritchett opened her day by driving her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil dragster past Wayne Newby on a clean run while Newby smoked the tires and backfired as he left the starting line. Pritchett then defeated Pat Dakin on another strong pass while Dakin’s car went up in flames. Pritchett finally was bested in the semis by eventual winner Steve Torrence as Pritchett smoked the tires at the initial hit of the throttle.

Ten-time and defending event winner Tony Schumacher and the Mopar-powered U.S. Army team knocked out Terry McMillen in the first round on a clean pass as McMillen dropped cylinders. Schumacher next took out Doug Kalitta in a heavyweight battle to take on No. 16 qualifier Kebin Kinsley, who upset Schumacher to advance to the final round.

The 63rd annual NHRA U.S. Nationals featured thousands of passes across all classes over six days of competition. Several track records fell during prime conditions for qualifying on Friday and Saturday evening, while Sunday’s qualifying sessions and Monday eliminations saw warm temperatures and a hot track. “The Big Go” also set the field for the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs, where each champion will be decided on their performance in the season’s final six races.

Mopar/Dodge Notes & Quotes

Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) FCA – Global
“Every racer dreams of winning the NHRA U.S. Nationals, and it is thrilling to see Mopar power in the winner’s circle at such an incredible event. Congratulations to Larry Gilley in Stock Eliminator, Kevin Helms in Super Stock, and their entire teams on these historic victories.”

Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 8 Qualifier – 3.871 seconds at 330.55 mph)


Rd. 1: (.074-second reaction time, 3.880 seconds at 328.54 mph) defeated No. 9 Alexis DeJoria (.092/3.901/331.94)
Rd. 2: (.065/3.939/300.60) defeated No. 16 Jim Campbell (.156/6.609/100.03)
Semis: (.057/3.949/325.53) lost to No. 6 J.R. Todd (.054/3.923/325.61)

“This race is such a big deal. Leaving here as the regular season points leader going into the Countdown to the Championship in Charlotte is the silver lining on a cloud right now. We’re just a little disappointed. We had a shot at winning Indy and it comes once a year. You get so involved in this historic race and to get up that far and lose a close race like we did hurts a little more than most races. But I’ve never been so happy so quickly after a loss like that because I know going into the Countdown we’ve got our race car back. We really sort of struggled through the West Coast Swing, but then found a few things that I think are going to help us in the championship run.”

Leah Pritchett, Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 2 Qualifier – 3.667 seconds at 329.50 mph)


Rd. 1: (.069-second reaction time, 3.711 seconds at 323.97 mph) defeated No. 15 Wayne Newby (no time – mechanical)
Rd. 2: (.056/3.732/320.97) defeated No. 10 Pat Dakin (.070/4.071/221.45)
Semis: (.117/9.779/81.04) lost to No. 3 Steve Torrence (.047/3.765/324.05)

“We had a lot of momentum coming into this race and we kept it going as long as possible. We experienced some rather unusual circumstances in the semifinal and it slowed our momentum, but it definitely didn’t stop it. This race is actually a turning point for us. It’s something that we really needed. We hadn’t been able to get a grip on the warner track tune-up from a fuel and clutch standpoint and this race made us dig deep and figure it out.

“Our heads are not hung low. To go to the semifinals at the U.S. Nationals is farther than I’ve ever been at this race in any category. It’s something to be proud of.”

Matt Hagan, Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 1 Qualifier – 3.799 seconds at 338.77 mph)

Rd. 1: (.091-second reaction time, 10.951 seconds at 77.59 mph) lost to No. 16 Jim Campbell (.104/5.008/164.63)

“Little gremlins are eating us alive right now. We’ll probably take a hit in the points because of it, going out first round two races in a row. The car’s qualified great, it runs great. The last two races we’ve qualified one and two. It’s just hard to take these kinds of hits and not be upset about it. We all care, we all get frustrated, but we’ve got to get ready to run for a championship. That means getting these little bugs and things out of the way and making things happen for these next six races. There are no do-overs.”

Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 5 Qualifier – 3.859 seconds at 333.16 mph)


Rd. 1: (.073-second reaction time, 3.890 seconds at 327.03 mph) defeated No. 12 Tommy Johnson Jr. (.057/3.925/329.34)
Rd. 2: (.080/3.878/327.35) defeated No. 13 Del Worsham (.081/4.132/252.90)
Semis: (.062/3.948/322.81) lost to No. 8 Ron Capps (.049/3.940/324.75)

“We came within two win lights of having the most perfect drag racing weekend you can have. It’s always frustrating to not close the deal, we just barely lost to our teammate out there and that’s a tough loss coming off a day like we had and a car like we have. But that is our silver lining. This car has been fantastic, we’re making good tune-up calls; I feel comfortable in the cockpit. Now when they re-set the points we are right on (Ron Capps’) rear bumper and I like our odds of winning the championship.”

Tommy Johnson Jr., Riley Hospital for Children Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 12 Qualifier – 3.988 seconds at 324.20 mph)


Rd. 1: (.057-second reaction time, 3.925 seconds at 329.34 mph) lost to No. 5 Jack Beckman (.073/3.890/327.03)

“Indy was really frustrating, very disappointing. We came in here on a really hot streak, tested well and felt confident in our chances for this weekend. We had a problem the first three runs of qualifying that set us back and put us in a hole. We did our best to climb out of it, but it was just too big of a task.

“It’s the biggest drag race of the year and one of our biggest disappointments of the year. Hopefully it builds a fire under us and we come out swinging at Charlotte.”

Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 4 Qualifier – 3.680 seconds at 330.31 mph)


Rd. 1: (066.-second reaction time, 3.735 seconds at 319.98 mph) defeated No. 13 Terry McMillen (.101/3.797/318.84)
Rd. 2: (.075/3.734/328.78) defeated No. 5 Doug Kalitta (.072/3.757/325.30)
Semis: (.071/3.801/324.59) lost to No. 16 Kebin Kinsley (.070/3.772/316.30)

“We had a really good car, and that was just a rough way to end our Indy. I sometimes dislike racing against cars that on paper you should beat. You line up against the Kalitta team our any of our DSR teams and we rarely have any issues. When you have to rise the occasion, it just seems like we do better. It’s crazy to think that we get beat more often by teams that we probably shouldn’t. I’m not making any excuses. We just got beat. I don’t want to take anything away from Kebin (Kinsley).They are all good people over there with that team.”

Mopar/Dodge NHRA Sportsman Spotlight
Over 750 cars were entered across all categories in the 63rd annual NHRA U.S. Nationals, each with dreams of hoisting a Wally trophy during “The World’s Biggest Drag Race.”

Incredibly, the two finalists and three of the four semifinal participants in Stock Eliminator featured Mopar power, a noteworthy accomplishment as the field was pared down from 128 qualifiers and 162 entrants who made qualifying runs. Larry Gilley and Darrell Steiger matched up in the final, with Hilmar, California’s Gilley taking the win on a holeshot.


Gilley and his E/SA 1969 Dodge Dart Swinger powered by a 340 cubic-inch, four-barrel engine defeated the E/SA 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A 340 Six-Pack driven by Steiger from Clayton, Indiana. In the heads-up race, Gilley turned in a pass of 10.622 seconds at 123.07 mph, while Steiger made a lap of 10.619 at 123.54. However, Gilley left the starting line with a .022-second reaction time, while Steiger’s reaction time was .032.





In Super Stock, legendary Mopar Sportsman racer Kevin Helms of Plant City, Florida, took down yet another win, driving his FSS/E 2010 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak to the Lucas Oil Raceway winner’s circle. Helms won with an E.T. of 9.122 on a 9.10 dial-in, reaching a speed of 137.86. His reaction time was .028. His opponent, Marion Stephenson, turned in a 9.737 on a 9.71 dial-in, with a speed of 129.98 after a .051 reaction time. The win, which Helms called “a dream come true,” was his 27th national event win, his third in the U.S. Nationals, and first in Super Stock at the event.

For their efforts, Gilley and Helms were each named the Dodge Top Finisher. The award provides $500 to the Stock Eliminator and Super Stock competitors who advance the farthest driving a Dodge or Plymouth vehicle. The program is in place at all 24 national events in 2017 and is part of Mopar’s deep contingency program for Sportsman racers.

Class eliminations also took place during the event, with more than a dozen Mopar-powered drivers walking away with wins at the legendary track.

In Stock Eliminator, three Dodges and five Plymouths took home class victories. On the Dodge side, Steiger took the E/SA victory driving his ’70 Challenger, Marcus Widuch from Mount Juliet, Tennessee, won M/SA in a ’79 Aspen, and Bristow, Indiana’s Luke Ubelhor won FS/G in an ’09 Challenger.

As for the Plymouth contingent, Steve Wann of Modesto, California, took A/SA in a ’62 Fury, Chuck Beach from Delaware, Ohio, drove his ’68 Barracuda to the F/SA win, Rougemount, North Carolina’s Mitch Kight won G/SA in a ’67 Barracuda, Van Buren, Arkansas’ Jim Hale took down the K/SA victory behind the wheel of his ’66 Belvedere, and Mark Madison of Seaside, California, claimed the Combo-Auto victory with a ’65 Belvedere.

The Super Stock category also saw a number of Mopar-powered class winners. Helms won FSS/E in his ’10 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, Houma, Louisiana’s James Caro took the FSS/K trophy in a ’10 Challenger, Carl Weisinger from Orlando turned on the FSS/L win light in an ’09 Challenger, Flushing, Ohio’s Al Ross took FGT/L in a classic ’72 Challenger, and Mark Nowicki from Gaylord, Michigan, claimed Combo-FS in an FGT/I ’96 Dodge Avenger.

College student Jimmy Daniels from Yardley, Pennsylvania, also won the Mopar HEMI Challenge in an SS/AH ’68 Dodge Dart on Friday evening for the second straight year.

Up Next: NHRA Carolina Nationals
In two weeks, the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship begins at zMAX Dragway outside of Charlotte. Last year Mopar Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. finished as the event runner-up in the Carolina Nationals. Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan have each won at the Charlotte-area track three times, while Ron Capps has visited the winner’s circle there twice. Mopar-powered Tony Schumacher has also won at the facility twice in Top Fuel.

The 10th annual Carolina Nationals are slated for September 15–17. FOX Sports 1 will provide qualifying coverage throughout the weekend, with the elimination rounds airing LIVE on FS1 at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 17.


2017 NHRA Championship — Point Standings After Round 18 of 24
(Re-set for Countdown to the Championship, Season Wins in Parentheses)


NHRA Funny Car
1. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger R/T (6) – 2,100
2. Robert Hight (2) – 2,080
3. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger R/T (3) – 2,070
4. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger R/T (2) – 2,060
5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger R/T (1) – 2,050

6. Courtney Force – 2,040
7. John Force (1) – 2,030
8. J.R. Todd (2) – 2,020
9. Tim Wilkerson – 2,010
10. Cruz Pedregon – 2,000

NHRA Top Fuel

1. Steve Torrence (7) – 2,100
2. Antron Brown (4) – 2,080
3. Leah Pritchett, Mopar HEMI (4) – 2,070
4. Tony Schumacher, Mopar HEMI (1) – 2,060

5. Doug Kalitta – 2,050
6. Brittany Force (1) – 2,040
7. Clay Millican (1) – 2,030
8. Terry McMillen – 2,020
9. Scott Palmer – 2,010
10. Shawn Langdon – 2,000
 
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