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Topeka Pre-Race Report

Menard's NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties

Event 8 of 24 (Topeka)
Heartland Motorsports Park
Topeka, Kan. 
May 18-20, 2018

Noteworthy:

  • Don Schumacher Racing 'doubled up' winning in both Top Fuel and Funny Car at the 2017 event:
    • Top Fuel - Antron Brown 
    • Funny Car - Ron Capps 
  • Matt Hagan raced to a runner-up finish in 2017 and won the 2016 event, both from the No. 1 qualifying spot
  • Brown has been a final round contender the past two years 
  • Tony Schumacher and Hagan claimed the 2017 No. 1 qualifying spots while resetting the track Top Fuel and Funny Car E.T. records
  • Leah Pritchett enters the race weekend fresh off of her first event win of 2018 (Southern Nationals in Commerce, Ga.)
  • A native of Ottumwa, Iowa, Tommy Johnson Jr. considers Heartland Motorsports Park to be his hometown track
  • Brown will wheel a special Matco's 'Tools for the Cause' livery to benefit the Fisher House Foundation 

DSR-Owned Track Records:
Top Fuel, E.T.: 3.660-seconds, Tony Schumacher (2017)
Funny Car, E.T.: 3.802-seconds, Matt Hagan (2017)
Funny Car, speed: 338.85-mph, Matt Hagan (2017)

 
DSR Driver Information: 
 
Top Fuel:

ANTRON BROWN
Driver of Matco's Tools for the Cause/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Matco's Tools for the Cause to benefit the Fisher House Foundation

NHRA Topeka Highlights: 
  • 2017 event winner 
  • 2016 runner-up 
  • Four-time No. 1 qualifier (2009, 2010, 2012, 2015) 
2017 Topeka Recap:
Qualified third; Event champion (defeated Kebin Kinsley in E1, Shawn Langdon in E2, Leah Pritchett in E3, Steve Torrence in E4)
 
Last event (Atlanta):
Qualified seventh; First round exit (defeated by Blake Alexander in E1)

2018 Season Statistics:
Seven round wins; ranked sixth in points
 
Career Statistics:
389 races; 65 wins (16 Pro Stock Motorcycle); 49 No. 1 qualifiers (11 PSM)
 
Notable:
  • Has raced for the Topeka Wally the past two years in a row, winning in 2017 and finishing as the runner-up in 2016
  • Leads the Top Fuel class in number of No. 1 qualifiers (four) at Heartland Motorsports Park: 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015
  • Driving a special Matco's Tools for the Cause livery to benefit the Fisher House Foundation
    • May 1st – June 30th, Matco will donate 15% of sales of the Tools for the Cause merchandise to Fisher House Foundation.
    • The Matco Top Fuel Dragster will feature Tools for the Cause graphics during the month of May and will highlight the names of over 700 active duty military members and veterans submitted by Matco Distributors
    • In addition to the 15% donation from the sale of Tools for the Cause merchandise, people can log on tohttps://donate.fisherhouse.org/matcotools to directly make a donation to the Fisher House Foundation.
    • Since launching the Tools for the Cause program in 2012, Matco Tools has donated nearly $800,000 to research and community-based organizations.
 
Quotable:
"Topeka is one of those tracks where we always run well. It's a throw-down track. The track is probably the smoothest track we go to - period. You can go fast and you can hit it hard. We have been on the pole there (last time in 2015) and to finally win in Topeka last year in our Matco Tools/U.S. Army/Toyota was really special. The weather is usually good. It tends to be overcast and a little bit windy which keeps the track temps down and when you add in how smooth it is, it becomes a really fast race track."

 
LEAH PRITCHETT
Driver of the Schumacher Electric Top Fuel Dragster 
2017 Topeka Recap:
Qualified second; Semifinal finish (defeated Rob Passey in E1, Doug Kalitta in E2; defeated by Antron Brown in E3)
 
Last event (Atlanta):
Qualified fourth; Event champion (defeated Pat Dakin in E1, Bill Litton in E2, Mike Salinas in E3, Blake Alexander in E4)

2018 Season Statistics:
Nine round wins; ranked fifth in points
 
Career Statistics:
101 races; six wins; eight No. 1 qualifiers
 
Notable:
  • Enters the Topeka race as the most recent NHRA Top Fuel winner (NHRA Southern Nationals, Atlanta Dragway)

Quotable:
"This sport is super humbling. The setup for Topeka will be significantly different than the setup for Atlanta. We went into Atlanta just trying to make it down one pass at a time, and that cultivated a win so we're going to keep that mindset. If anything, (winning Atlanta) just let us know what we already knew- that we're capable of doing it. There's a bit of confidence instilled in us, but our actions aren't going to be any different."


 
TONY SCHUMACHER
Driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
NHRA Topeka Event Highlights: 
  • 2010 winner 
  • 2013 runner-up 
  • Two-time No. 1 qualifier (2011, 2017) 
 
2017 Topeka Recap:
Qualified No. 1; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Pat Dakin in E1; defeated by Clay Millican in E2)
 
Last event (Atlanta):
Qualified fifth; First round exit (defeated by Bill Litton in E1)

2018 Season Statistics:
Eight round wins; ranked second in points
 
Career Statistics:
487 races; 83 wins; 86 No. 1 qualifiers
 
Notable:
  • Reset the Topeka Top Fuel E.T. record (3.660-seconds) to claim the No. 1 spot in 2017
Quotable:
“We’re just ready to go out there to Kansas and do our duty by getting one of those Wallys. Topeka is a very nice track. It’s good, it’s fast, it’s clean, and it doesn’t have some of the issues we have at some other tracks. I think what’s good about that track is it almost always is a good, two-lane track where both cars will get down cleanly and it becomes a driver-crew chief thing rather than a racetrack issue in one lane or another.

"The fans are fantastic, they love the sport and they really come out and support the event. We left Atlanta two weeks ago feeling a little frustrated after having trouble in the first round Sunday for the second weekend in a row. You do everything you can to be ready, but sometimes in racing, something out of your control costs you. This U.S. Army team is filled with incredibly talented and smart people, and we will not give up. I know we will win races. This U.S. Army car is too good right now not to be winning. The good thing is, we all know that we will, and this weekend in Topeka is our next chance.”



Funny Car:
 
JACK BECKMAN
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T
NHRA Topeka Event Highlights: 
  • Two-time event winner (2012, 2015) 
  • 2016 event runner-up 
  • 2011 No. 1 qualifier 
 
2017 Topeka Recap:
Qualified fourth; Semifinal finish (defeated Chad Head in E1, Del Worsham in E2; defeated by Matt Hagan in E3)
 
Last event (Atlanta):
Qualified 10th; Semifinal finish (defeated J.R. Todd in E1, Bob Tasca III in E2; defeated by Matt Hagan in E3)

2018 Season Statistics:
13 round wins; ranked second in points
 
Career Statistics:
283 races; 27 wins; 24 No. 1 qualifiers
 
Quotable:
"Once we get through Topeka, we're already a third of the way through our season. It's the last chance to have a breather between races, because after Topeka, we have a week off, then go hard with eight races in ten weeks. It's also a pivotal race for teams hoping to contend for the championship. This is the time where we must be hitting our stride, mechanically and mentally."


 
RON CAPPS
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
NHRA Topeka Event Highlights: 
  • Four-time event winner (1998, 2006, 2009,2017) 
  • Two-time runner-up (2000, 2012) 
 
2017 Topeka Recap:
Qualified seventh; Event champion (defeated Cruz Pedregon in E1, Courtney Force in E2, Robert Hight in E3, Matt Hagan in E4)
 
Last event (Atlanta):
Qualified 12th; Quarterfinal finish (defeated John Force in E1; defeated by Cruz Pedregon in E2)

2018 Season Statistics:
Seven round wins; ranked seventh in points
 
Career Statistics:
514 races; 58 wins (one Top Fuel); 21 No. 1 qualifiers
 
Notable:
  • Returns as the defending event champion 
 
Quotable:
"I can't tell you how cool it is to once again say we're going back to a track as defending champions from that race last year. It shows the kind of season we had with our NAPA team winning eight races, and Topeka was a huge part of our four-race win streak last year.  Of course, going into Topeka this year, it is going to be a little bit different.

"It's a place that I've been able to win at several times, and I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Topeka because I got to race both Top Fuel and Funny Car there. Anytime we see Topeka on the schedule, you can bet it's going to be great side-by-side racing for our fans and, depending on weather conditions, Topeka always shows that it can hold world record runs." 

 
 
MATT HAGAN
Driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T 
NHRA Topeka Event Highlights: 
  • 2016 event champion 
  • 2017 runner-up 
  • Two-time No. 1 qualifier (2016, 2017) 
 
2017 Topeka Recap:
Qualified No. 1; Runner-up finish (defeated Jack Wyatt in E1, J.R. Todd in E2, Jack Beckman in E3; defeated by Ron Capps in E4)
 
Last event (Atlanta):
Qualified 11th; Runner-up finish (defeated Jonnie Lindberg in E1, Tommy Johnson Jr. in E2, Jack Beckman in E3; defeated by Courtney Force in E4)

2018 Season Statistics:
12 round wins; ranked third in points
 
Career Statistics:
223 races; 27 wins; 31 No. 1 qualifiers
 
Notable:
  • Raced to a runner-up finish in 2017 and won the 2016 event, both from the No. 1 qualifying spot
  • Reset the track Funny Car, E.T. record (3.802-seconds, 2017) 
  • Reset the track speed record (338.85-mph, 2017)
    • Career best 
 
Quotable:
"Coming into Topeka, obviously a race track we've done really well at. We've set national records there, and have won that race. The fastest I've ever driven was at that track- 338-mph. We've got some good history there; some race tracks show you some love, and this is hopefully where we can get another win, coming off of a runner-up finish in Atlanta.

"The crew chiefs have been working hard behind-the-scenes to apply some more traction and get us a little bit more race car with this new track prep. We're adapting, we're changing, and our team is adapting fast. I'm looking forward to getting to Topeka, the middle of nowhere, and talking some farming at the ropes." 


 
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T 
NHRA Topeka Event Highlights: 
  • Two-time runner-up (1999, 2005) 

2017 Topeka Recap:
Qualified fifth; First round exit (defeated by Del Worsham in E1)
 
Last event (Atlanta):
Qualified third; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Jim Campbell in E1; defeated by Matt Hagan in E2)

2018 Season Statistics:
Nine round wins; Ranked fourth in points
 
Career Statistics:
429 races; 17 wins (two Top Fuel); 15 No. 1 qualifiers (one Top Fuel)

Notable:
  • A native of Ottumwa, Iowa, considers Heartland Motorsports Park to be his hometown track
 
Quotable:
"Topeka has always been one of my favorite tracks. It's close to where I grew up, so I always see a lot of family and friends there. It's also where I became a part of the 'four-second' club years ago, so it's always held a lot of special memories. It's a great race track, and I'm looking forward to seeing if we can get the performance of these cars back on track with the new track prep. Going to be some warm temperatures, so difficult to navigate, but we learned a lot in Atlanta, and hopefully that will help us. 

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