Atlanta Pre-Race Report

NHRA Southern Nationals

Event 7 of 24 (Atlanta)
Atlanta Dragway
Commerce, Ga. 
May 4-6, 2018


  • Ron Capps returns as defending Funny Car event champion 
  • Tony Schumacher qualified No. 1 and raced to a runner-up finish during the 2017 event
  • Jack Beckman enters the event as the Funny Car points leader 
  • Atlanta Dragway is the only venue on the current NHRA tour where Schumacher has gone winless
  • Leah Pritchett made her first professional final round appearance at the 2015 event
  • Antron Brown has raced to victory in both Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle at Atlanta Dragway 
  • 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.: 3.699-seconds, Leah Pritchett (2017)
Top Fuel, speed: 329.91-mph, Antron Brown (2017)
Funny Car, speed: 329.02-mph, Matt Hagan (2016)

DSR Driver Information: 
Top Fuel:

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 Atlanta Highlights: 
  • Six-time event winner:
    • Top Fuel (2008, 2011, 2013, 2015) 
    • Pro Stock Motorcycle (2001, 2006) 
  • 2003 PSM runner-up 
  • Two-time No. 1 qualifier:
    • TF (2015) 
    • PSM (2006) 
2017 Atlanta Recap:
Qualified third; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Troy Coughlin Jr. in E1, defeated by Leah Pritchett in E2)
Last event (Charlotte I):
Qualified third; First round exit (defeated by Doug Kalitta, Mike Salinas in E1)

2018 Season Statistics:
Seven round wins; ranked fifth in points
Career Statistics:
388 races; 65 wins (16 Pro Stock Motorcycle); 49 No. 1 qualifiers (11 PSM)
  • In a three-way tie for winningest Top Fuel driver at Atlanta Dragway with four Southern Nationals event wins:
    • 2008, 2011, 2013, 2015 
  • Reset the Top Fuel speed record in 2017 (329.91-mph) 
  • Has won in both TF and PSM at Atlanta Dragway 
  • Has qualified No. 1 in both categories at Atlanta Dragway 
  • 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 to 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.
"Atlanta has always been a great race track for us. It has an old-school feel to it. I love racing on the east coast; it’s where I’m from and it gives me that feeling of how I grew up around dragstrips. We’ve had a lot of success there - I’ve been fortunate to win in Atlanta in both Pro Stock Motorcyle (2001, 2006) and Top Fuel (2008, 2011, 2013, 2015).  I won my second Top Fuel race there during my first year. It was incredible. I remember that we beat Tony Schumacher in the final on a holeshot. When we went out there and won that race, it was a statement that we were here to compete and win. It gave us an air of legitimacy. I’m really looking forward to getting back there and trying to put our Matco Tools/U.S. Army/Toyota team back in the winner's circle."

Driver of the FireAde Top Fuel Dragster 
NHRA Atlanta Highlights: 
  • Made her first professional final round appearance at the 2015 event 

2017 Atlanta Recap:
Qualified 11th; Semifinal finish (defeated Terry McMillen in E1, Antron Brown in E2; defeated by Steve Torrence in E3)
Last event (Charlotte I):
Qualified 15th; First round exit (defeated by Dom Lagana, Clay Millican in E1)

2018 Season Statistics:
Five round wins; ranked sixth in points
Career Statistics:
100 races; five wins; eight No. 1 qualifiers
  • Reset the Atlanta Dragway Top Fuel, E.T. record in 2017: 3.699-seconds 

"Finally over the 100th race mark, with Atlanta kicking off the next 100. Not only was this my first race with DSR in 2016, but I've got FireAde, my original supporters, backing our team as the primary this weekend."

Driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
NHRA Atlanta Event Highlights: 
  • Five-time runner-up (2000, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2017) 
  • Two-time No. 1 qualifier (2012, 2017) 
2017 Atlanta Recap:
Qualified No. 1; Event runner-up (defeated Brittany Force in E1, Bob Vandergriff in E2, Doug Kalitta in E3; defeated by Steve Torrence in E4)
Last event (Charlotte I):
Qualified second; First round exit (defeated by Dom Lagana, Clay Millican in E1)

2018 Season Statistics:
Eight round wins; ranked second in points
Career Statistics:
486 races; 83 wins; 86 No. 1 qualifiers
  • Finished as the runner-up at the 2017 event 
  • Raced to a No. 1 qualifier in 2017 
  • Has won at every track along the NHRA tour with the exception of Atlanta Dragway 
"The problem with Atlanta is that track’s too long (laughs). I was winning many times and the other guy passed me. Seriously though, this race is in the home area for our sponsor, Coca-Cola. It’s an important event because a number of their executives come out and see what our racing is all about firsthand and guys like Al Rondon are smiling and it's exciting to be part of an extraordinary weekend.

"We seem to specialize in the absolute must-win events. And for my entire career, there haven’t been many must-wins in May, but this year, it’s a little different. We are in need of a win in a major way. It’s been over a year now, something like 26 races since we won the 2017 Gatornationals. That’s far too long for this U.S. Army team. We’ve had some chances to win since last year, but we haven’t sealed the deal. Similar to Atlanta over the years where we’ve had some great opportunities to win. I’ve made it to a lot of finals (five) in Atlanta. We have to figure out how to finish the mission. It’s time. I can tell you this. With this new energy surrounding this U.S. Army team, I go into every race thinking I’m going to win it. That’s just the way it is. Mike Neff has brought something out of every one of the guys working on the car. And he’s inspired me to be better. It’s a good attitude team and I’m really looking forward to getting to Atlanta."

Funny Car:
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T
NHRA Atlanta Event Highlights: 
  • Two-time event winner (2009, 2011) 
  • 2015 event runner-up and No. 1 qualifier 
2017 Atlanta Recap:
Qualified 14th; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Tommy Johnson Jr. in E1; defeated by Tim Wilkerson in E2) 
Last event (Charlotte I):
Qualified 13th; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Bob Tasca III, Shawn Langdon in E1; defeated by John Force, Courtney Force in E2)

2018 Season Statistics:
11 round wins; ranked No. 1 in points
Career Statistics:
282 races; 27 wins; 24 No. 1 qualifiers
  • Enters the event as the Funny Car points leader 
"With the new style of track prep, the last two races have been very difficult for the nitro crew chiefs to adjust to, and it’s made it pretty interesting as a driver. I have all of the trust in the world in the Infinite Hero guys. I’m sure they’ll figure it out soon and our Dodge will be back in the winner’s circle."

Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
NHRA Atlanta Event Highlights: 
  • Two-time event winner (2012, 2017) 
  • Four-time runner-up (1995, 2000, 2001, 2015) 
2017 Atlanta Recap:
Qualified fourth; Event champion (defeated J.R. Todd in E1, John Force in E2, Robert Hight in E3, Tim Wilkerson in E4)
Last event (Charlotte I):
Qualified second; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Dale Creasy Jr., Jonnie Lindberg in E1; defeated by Cruz Pedregon, Tommy Johnson Jr. in E2)

2018 Season Statistics:
Six round wins; ranked seventh in points
Career Statistics:
512 races; 58 wins (one Top Fuel); 21 No. 1 qualifiers
  • Returns as the defending event champion 
"Well here we are, that time of the year to go to Atlanta Dragway. We're going to a race where we are defending our win from last year. 

"It's also a huge event for most of us because of Coca-Cola being based in Atlanta. We have the Coca-Cola Champions dinner in downtown Atlanta on Wednesday with all of the corporate people from Coke. It's always great to replace our firesuit with a suit and tie, and spend the evening with Ben (Reiling), and Al (Rondon) and everybody that makes our sport what it is today.

"Leading up to qualifying, it's a busy week. I have a NAPA AUTO PARTS appearance on Thursday in Jefferson. It's always great to hang out with the fans prior to the race, and then Friday, we get to Atlanta Dragway, strap into the race car and start qualifying." 

Driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T 
NHRA Atlanta Event Highlights: 
  • 2016 event champion 
  • 2013 No. 1 qualifier and runner-up 
2017 Atlanta Recap:
Qualified second; Semifinal finish (defeated Cruz Pedregon in E1, Dave Richards in E2; defeated by Tim Wilkerson in E3)
Last event (Charlotte I):
Qualified 11th; First round exit (defeated by Cruz Pedregon, Tommy Johnson Jr. in E1)

2018 Season Statistics:
Nine round wins; ranked fourth in points
Career Statistics:
222 races; 27 wins; 31 No. 1 qualifiers
  • Holds the Atlanta Dragway Funny Car speed record (329.02-mph), set during the 2016 event
"Atlanta will be a crapshoot. With NHRA's new track prep and the fact that it's going to be 75 - 80 degrees out there this weekend, I'm not really sure what to expect. We might end up having to change our entire combo if NHRA stays with this spray. Hopefully, they decide to spray like they used to on hot tracks and maybe pull the spray back on really good, tight race tracks when it's cool outside. But we'll figure it out, we'll have a gameplan and see what happens." 

Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T 
2017 Atlanta Recap:
Qualified third; First round exit (defeated by Jack Beckman in E1)  

Last event (Charlotte I):
Qualified third; Semifinal finish (defeated Matt Hagan, John Smith in E1, Ron Capps, Robert Hight in E2; defeated by Cruz Pedregon in E3)
2018 Season Statistics:
Eight round wins; Ranked sixth in points
Career Statistics:
428 races; 17 wins (two Top Fuel); 15 No. 1 qualifiers (one Top Fuel)
"Atlanta hasn't always been my best track, but the way we are running lately, and coming off of a final round at the four-wide, I'm pretty excited to see what this year at Atlanta has in store for us. Hopefully, this will be the year that I turn it around in Atlanta and win it, and overcome all of the obstacles I've had along the way at that track."

Our Sponsors

Join Shoe's News

Thank You!

Thank you for signing up to receive Shoe’s News.