Schumacher, U.S. Army teams earns No. 1 qualifying position in Gators, Hagan’s Mopar Express Lane Dodge continues to pace DSR Funny Cars

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 18, 2017) – Tony Schumacher earned his 81st No. 1 qualifying position for Sunday’s championship eliminations in the NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla., that enabled Don Schumacher Racing to continue its stranglehold on Top Fuel by winning DSR’s third pole of the season through three races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

It also extends DSR’s streak of earning at least one nitro pole in the past seven Mello Yello events including the last four in 2016.

Schumacher and the U.S. Army team led by crew chief Mike Green and assistant Phil Shuler produced their best time on Friday night with a run of 3.682 seconds at 328.22 that remained the best of four qualifying session. Their first run Saturday, on a slightly warmer day, of 3.710 was the best of the third session.

“Wow, that is a terrific U.S. Army car,” Schumacher said. “I am so proud of Mike, Phil and all the guys on the U.S. Army team for all their preparation before coming down to the Gatornationals, one of our biggest races, and be this good says a lot about their desire to win.

“Every run has been spot on and we’re ready for tomorrow. We have a chance to make history and winning the Gatornationals would be a big one.

A win in Sunday’s final round would be his record-breaking fifth at Gainesville and give him one more than Don Garlits, Joe Amato and Larry Dixon. It also would be the 10th track among the 21 on the 24-race Mello Yello tour at which he holds the wins records.

“The opportunity to do something like this is all you can ask for. If we can go out there and do what we did today and what we did yesterday, we might have a chance and that’s all you can ask for. It would be a record that I wouldn’t forget for a long, long time. As a kid, the Gatornationals was always one of the biggest races for my father.

“When you are given that opportunity, you have to surround yourself with people capable of that moment which we have done. We’ll come back tomorrow hoping for great weather and the perfect situation to unfold. We can’t wait.” 

Antron Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army team was quickest in the final session and moved up to the No. 3 spot while Leah Pritchett in the Papa John’s Pizza/FireAde 2000 Personal Fire Suppression system jumped from 13th to seventh.

Each of the seven DSR teams are qualified in the top half of their respective categories and will have lane choice to open racing at 11 a.m. (EDT) Sunday.

In Funny Car, Matt Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane 2017 Dodge Charger R/T powered by Pennzoil continues to lead the DSR Funny Car quartet by qualifying third with a best time of 3.854 (328.70) on Friday. Hagan with crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen have won the first two titles of the year and started the season at Pomona, Calif., by also winning the pole.

“Gainesville is just one of those tracks I haven’t won at yet,” said Hagan, who owns 24 titles and two world championships. “It always seems to throw us a curve. (Saturday night) we had a fire, and the guys had to re-plumb everything. They were here until 1:30 in the morning so it was a long night for them and another early morning today.

“We’ve got a great team and a great crew chief, and my lights (reaction times) are where they need to be.  As long as we keep this hot rod running, I think we’ll be fine tomorrow.” 




No. 1 qualifier: Tony Schumacher (Don Schumacher Racing) 3.682 sec.-track record, 328.22 mph


Crew chief: Mike Green; assistant: Phil Shuler

Qualified: No. 1


First round: Smax Smith


FRIDAY: 3.768 sec., 325.22 mph, (Session 1); 3.682-track record, 328.22, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 3.710, 324.36, (Session 3); 3.798, 266.06, (Session 4)


ANTRON BROWN: Matco Tools/U.S. Army

Crew chiefs: Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald;  assistant: Brad Mason

Qualified: No. 3


First round: Chris Karamesines


FRIDAY: 4.415 sec., 174.39 mph, (Session 1); 3.716, 325.22, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 5.090, 138.17, (Session 3); 3.716, 326.24, (Session 4)


LEAH PRITCHETT, FireAde/Papa John’s Pizza

Crew chief: Todd Okuhara; assistant: Joe Barlam

Qualified: No. 7


First round: Scott Palmer


FRIDAY: 3.768 sec., 325.69 mph – DISQUALIFIED, car too light, (Session 1); 4.686, 142.09, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 3.750, 327.66, (Session 3); 4.571, 165.72, (Session 4)


No. 1 qualifier: John Force (John Force Racing), 3.832 sec.-track record, 333.25 mph


MATT HAGAN, Mopar Express Lane 2017 Dodge Charger R/T

Crew chief: Dickie Venables; assistant: Michael Knudsen

Qualified: No. 3


First round: Dave Richards


FRIDAY: 28.000 sec., no speed, (Session 1); 3.854, 328.70, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 3.986, 326.32, (Session 3); 4.632, 178.45, (Session 4)


TOMMY JOHNSON JR., Make-A-Wish 2017 Dodge Charger R/T
Crew chief: John Collins; assistant: Rip Reynolds

Qualified: No. 5


First round: Cruz Pedregon


FRIDAY: 3.891 sec., 327.98 mph, (Session 1); 3.865, 329.83, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 4.444, 195.34, (Session 3); 3.896, 328.30, (Session 4)



Crew chief: Rahn Tobler; assistant: Eric Lane
Qualified: No. 6


First round: Alexis DeJoria


FRIDAY: 3.865 sec., 329.58 mph, (Session 1); 4.302, 204.66, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 4.291, 205.66, (Session 3); 3.927, 325.69, (Session 4)


JACK BECKMAN, Infinite Hero 2017 Dodge Charger R/T

Crew chiefs: John Medlen, Dean Antonelli, Neal Strausbaugh

Qualified: No. 8


First round: Tim Wilkerson


FRIDAY: 3.883 sec., 321.27 mph, (Session 1); 10.014, 74.13, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 4.382, 205.66, (Session 3); 3.897, 330.23, (Session 4)



The 2017 Charity Challenge Series pitting “Papa John” Schnatter against Leah Pritchett, driver of the Papa John’s Pizza Top Fuel dragster, opened Saturday during the Gatornationals and Leah posted the win to take a 1-0 lead in the five-race series.


DSR owner Don Schumacher and Papa John have each pledged $10,000 for each Challenge race with the money going to the Infinite Hero Foundation. Former Marine and Purple Heart recipient Mike Edwards, who represents IHF, accepted the check.


Leah won with a run of 9.560 seconds at 148.54 mph in her supercharged Mopar Gen III HEMI® engine in a 2017 Dodge Challenger configured for drag racing after John’s Camaro had mechanical problems at the starting line.


The fun feud began during last year’s prestigious U.S. Nationals over Labor Day Weekend near Indianapolis when she drove a borrowed street-legal racecar and edged past John in his prized 1971 Camaro Z28, the same car he bought for $1,600 when he was 15 years old from money he made washing dishes at Rocky's Sub Pub in his hometown of Jeffersonville, Ind. He eventually sold it to keep his dad out of bankruptcy and start the first Papa John's pizzeria. In 2009, he was reunited with his cherished Camaro that has been highly modified for speed.


The next Charity Challenge race will be on April 29 during the Four Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway followed by events AT Norwalk, Ohio (June 24), Indianapolis during the U.S. Nationals over Labor Day Weekend and other venues to be announced.


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