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Brainerd Pre-Race Report

NHRA Nationals at Brainerd

Event 17 of 24 
Brainerd International Raceway
Brainerd, Minnesota
August 17-19, 2018

Noteworthy:

  • Leah Pritchett returns as the defending Top Fuel event champion 
  • All-DSR Top Fuel final in 2017 (Pritchett vs. Antron Brown) 
  • Tommy Johnson Jr. finished as the Funny Car runner-up in 2017 
  • Pritchett secured the 2017 No. 1 qualifier while also resetting the Brainerd International Raceway track record (3.640) 
  • Brown is seeking his third consecutive Brainerd final round  
  • Brown and Ron Capps enter the weekend as the most recent Top Fuel and Funny Car event winners (Seattle)
  • Capps looks to continue his final round streak at BIR with his fourth consecutive final of 2018 (Denver, Sonoma, Seattle)
  • Tony Schumacher leads the Top Fuel class in No. 1 qualifiers at BIR (six) 
  • Brown has been victorious in both Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle at BIR 

DSR-Owned Track Records:
Top Fuel, E.T.: 3.640-seconds, Leah Pritchett (2017)


DSR Driver Information:
 
Top Fuel:

ANTRON BROWN
Driver of the Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster

NHRA Brainerd Event Highlights: 
  • Five-time event champion
    • Top Fuel (2011) 
    • Pro Stock Motorcycle (2000, 2001, 2003, 2006) 
  • Three-time runner-up (2012, 2016, 2017) 
  • Four-time No. 1 qualifier
    • TF (2014, 2016) 
    • PSM (2001, 2004) 
2017 Brainerd Recap:
Qualified seventh; Event runner-up (defeated Shawn Langdon in E1, Brittany Force in E2, Steve Torrence in E3; defeated by Leah Pritchett in E4)
 
Last event (Seattle):
Qualified fifth; Event champion (defeated Shawn Reed in E1, Tony Schumacher in E2, Steve Torrence in E3, Leah Pritchett in E4)

2018 Season Statistics:
18 round wins; ranked sixth in points
 
Career Statistics:
398 races; 66 wins (16 Pro Stock Motorcycle); 49 No. 1 qualifiers (11 PSM)

Noteworthy:
  • Claimed his 50th Top Fuel win at the previous event (Seattle) 
  • Has raced to the Brainerd Top Fuel final round for the past two years (2016, 2017)
  • Owns BIR victories in both Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle 

Quotable:
“We got everything in a groove and we’ve been doing it one run at a time. Our main focus was always to get better every race and learn this new combination and make it work. All the media, all the fans, they’ve kept telling us all year that it was going to be OK. I knew it was going to be OK, this is just drag racing. You just have to stay with it and it will get better."


 
LEAH PRITCHETT
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster 
NHRA Brainerd Event Highlights: 
  • 2017 Top Fuel event champion  
  • 2017 No. 1 qualifier 

2017 Brainerd Recap:
No. 1 Qualifier; Event champion (defeated Rob Passey in E1, Scott Palmer in E2, Clay Millican in E3, Antron Brown in E4)
 
Last event (Seattle):
Qualified sixth; Event runner-up (defeated Troy Buff in E1, Clay Millican in E2, Mike Salinas in E3; defeated by Antron Brown in E4)

2018 Season Statistics:
25 round wins; ranked fourth in points
 
Career Statistics:
110 races; seven wins; ten No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:
  • Owns the Brainerd International Raceway E.T. record (3.640-seconds, 2017)
    • Career-best E.T. 
    • With her 3.640, Pritchett is the quickest woman in NHRA history 

Quotable:
“Last year was a perfect scenario of conditions, of rising to the occasion on every level from the tuners to the crew, to making sure everything was perfect. We were able to make that all come together and execute it. That’s what is so exciting. It was a sense of satisfaction, gratitude and justification when everything came together. We know what that feels like. We know what it takes to do that. You practice that every single race, trying to have that perfect execution, and we were able to do that. That feeling and momentum are still with us and I feel it will be with us when we go into Brainerd because it will be those conditions you look forward to. Our focus is moving up in the points. On one hand, it’s extremely key to get momentum coming out of Brainerd, but then, on the other hand, you look at it as just another race. I’d like to think of this race as a practice crunch-time for hopefully what will be at the end of the season. The importance is there.”


 
TONY SCHUMACHER
Driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
NHRA Brainerd Event Highlights: 
  • Three-time event champion (2000, 2004, 2008) 
  • Three-time runner-up (2003, 2006, 2011) 
  • Six-time No. 1 qualifier (2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012) 
 
2017 Brainerd Recap:
Qualified fourth; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Troy Coughlin Jr. in E1; defeated by Clay Millican in E2)

Last event (Seattle):
Qualified fourth; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Terry McMillen in E1; defeated by Antron Brown in E2)

2018 Season Statistics:
22 round wins; ranked second in points
 
Career Statistics:
496 races; 84 wins; 87 No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:
  • Leads the TF class in number of No. 1 qualifiers (six) at Pacific Raceways: 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012)

Quotable:
“It’s Brainerd – the fans are going to see some outstanding racing. This U.S. Army team keeps plugging away, trying to be as machine-like as we can. We’re in a good spot in the standings. There’s not really a chance to catch the leader with just two races left in the regular season, but we need to work really hard to keep those folks behind us right where they are. We just have to do what we know how to do and try and head into the Countdown on a high note.

"The biggest reason for our U.S. Army team's success is because of its commitment to be the best and that starts with (crew chief) Mike (Neff) and (assistant crew chief) Phil (Shuler). Those guys are phenomenal, and the rest of the guys follow their lead. Every one of them is vital to us being successful. They all have their role and have to be great at their jobs. We compete against great drivers and teams and, if we aren’t at our best, then we will get beat. Experience plays a big factor. They’ve been through the battles. When it comes time for those quick turnarounds and making sure everything is perfect, that’s when their talents come out even more. It’s a privilege for me to get in that U.S. Army car and look out and see my nine guys. I know I’ve always got a great chance just because of the work those guys do.”



Funny Car:
 
JACK BECKMAN
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T
NHRA Brainerd Event Highlights: 
  • Two-time runner-up (2008, 2010) 
  • Three-time No. 1 qualifier (2012, 2013, 2015) 

2017 Brainerd Recap:
Qualified sixth; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Brian Stewart in E1; defeated by John Force in E2)
 
Last event (Seattle):
Qualified 11th; First round exit (defeated by Shawn Langdon in E1)

2018 Season Statistics:
20 round wins; ranked fifth in points 
 
Career Statistics:
292 races; 27 wins; 24 No. 1 qualifiers

Quotable:
"After only our third first-round loss of the year, the Infinite Hero team spent what should’ve been an off-weekend at the annual Norwalk match race using it as a test day to zero-in on a better clutch combination. Hopefully, that will translate into better results.
 
"Brainerd will not be a ‘make or break’ for us, and it should be where we clinch a spot in the Countdown. Brainerd really kind of represents a turning point because the next race after that is Indy, which is points-and-a-half, and then we get into the Countdown. At Brainerd, you either have your tune-up together or you’re going to be an also-ran for the championship."


 
RON CAPPS
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
NHRA Brainerd Event Highlights: 
  • Five-time event champion (1998, 2001, 2012, 2013, 2014) 
  • Three-time runner-up (1997, 2008, 2011) 
  • 2000 No. 1 Qualifier  
 
2017 Brainerd Recap:
Qualified eighth; Quarterfinal finish (defeated J.R. Todd in E1; defeated by Robert Hight in E2)
 
Last event (Seattle):
Qualified ninth; Event champion (defeated Jonnie Lindberg in E1, Matt Hagan in E2, Tim Wilkerson in E3, Courtney Force in E4)

2018 Season Statistics:
27 round wins; ranked second in points
 
Career Statistics:
523 races; 60 wins (one Top Fuel); 21 No. 1 qualifiers
 
Noteworthy:
  • Enters the event as the most recent Funny Car event winner 
  • Is seeking his fourth consecutive final round appearance of 2018 (Denver, Sonoma, Seattle)

Quotable:
“We talk every year about the Brainerd race being that point in the season when the teams get what we call ‘Countdown-ready.’ That can mean a lot of different things for different teams, but for our NAPA team, it's always meant that we want to make sure that we have our team, our tune-up, and everything lined up for us to be able to start the Countdown and run for the NHRA Mello Yello Championship once again. Brainerd always plays a crucial part of the Countdown, whether you're fighting to stay in the top 10, or like us, fighting to gain the number one spot going into it.
 
“(Crew chief) Rahn Tobler and our NAPA team work really hard away from the track to make sure that we are ready for these next two races to end the regular season on a high note. But I have to say, Brainerd really brings a smile to my face because of not only the success that we've had in the past there with all of the wins and final rounds, but the fact that I'm able to make sure that our guys have a great time while we're in town. Our NAPA group from that area has always taken our team out for a fishing expedition on Thursday prior to the race, as well as a great big dinner at the Power Lodge across the street from the track on Friday night. On top of that, my wife's family is from that area, so every year it's like a family reunion, and there's nothing better than having family by your side when you can get in the winner's circle. But the biggest thing about the Brainerd race is of course ‘the Zoo,’ and the fans that created ‘Capps’ Corner.’ I'm not sure I've had a better compliment than having something named after me in the legendary Brainerd Zoo.”
 

 
MATT HAGAN
Driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
NHRA Brainerd Event Highlights: 
  • Two-time runner-up (2013, 2016) 
  • Two-time No. 1 qualifier (2011, 2016) 
 
2017 Brainerd Recap:
Qualified second; First round exit (defeated by Cruz Pedregon in E1)
 
Last event (Seattle):
No. 1 qualifier; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Cruz Pedregon in E1; defeated by Ron Capps in E2)

2018 Season Statistics:
24 round wins; ranked fourth in points 
 
Career Statistics:
232 races; 29 wins; 34 No. 1 qualifiers

Quotable:
“Looking forward to Brainerd. We’ve kind of struggled the last couple of races while on the Western Swing, so now that’s behind us I feel a little bit better about things. Brainerd has been a fast track in the past. We’ve been able to lay down some good numbers there. I don’t think we’ll see any records this year, but you never know. We’re going to try and get this new Hellcat body in the winner’s circle for the first time, and I think based off of what we’ve learned the past few races with clutch wear and wearing the primary, I think we can do well this weekend. We’re ready to race, we’re focused; let all of the crazy people be crazy in ‘the Zoo’ and hopefully we can turn on four win lights on Sunday.”


 
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T 
NHRA Brainerd Event Highlights:
  • 2006 event champion 
  • Four-time runner-up
    • 2015, 2017 (Funny Car) 
    • 1993, 1995 (Top Fuel) 

2017 Brainerd Recap:
Qualified fifth; Event runner-up (defeated Jonnie Lindberg in E1, Courtney Force in E2, Robert Hight in E3; defeated by Alexis DeJoria in E4)
 
Last event (Seattle):
Qualified seventh; Semifinal finish (defeated John Force in E1, Robert Hight in E2; defeated by Courtney Force in E3)

2018 Season Statistics:
17 round wins; ranked seventh in points
 
Career Statistics:
438 races; 17 wins (two Top Fuel); 15 No. 1 qualifiers (one Top Fuel)

Noteworthy:
  • Returns as the 2017 Funny Car event runner-up 

Quotable:
"Looking forward to Brainerd, especially with the way our car has been running lately, with two semifinals over the last few races and being runner-up at Brainerd last season. I think we’re at a time right now where our Make-A-Wish Dodge has really turned the corner. We’re due for a win and we’d love nothing more than to build some momentum right before Indy."

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