DSR Atlanta Post-Race Report

DSR Atlanta Elimination Highlights:

  • Ron Capps picked up his 61st Funny Car victory and first of the 2019 season on Sunday at the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals
  • Capps accumulated 112 points to advance two spots in the Funny Car point standings
  • Tommy Johnson Jr. raced to the semifinals for the third time in the first seven events and moved into the top five in the Funny Car rankings
  • With her quarterfinal finish, Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel) bumped up two spots and leaves Atlanta Dragway ranked fourth
Ron Capps Races to Victory at Atlanta

COMMERCE, Ga. (May 5, 2019) – Ron Capps raced the NAPA Brakes Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to victory on Sunday at the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals. It was Capps’ 61st Funny Car victory, 62nd overall, and first of the 2019 season.
Capps rocketed to the Atlanta winner’s circle by defeating Shawn Langdon, the most recent Funny Car winner on tour, John Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history, and venerable teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. to reach his first final round of the season and 119th of his career.
“Today was amazing,” said Capps, who claimed his first event win since the 2018 fall Charlotte race. “It still hasn’t hit me yet. We know we can win from any position, but (starting from 11th) I have to be honest, we didn’t have all of the confidence in the world.”
“We left Houston with so much confidence and then had that whole chassis thing throw us a curveball in Charlotte,” he said, referring to the team’s recent performance struggles. “We barely got qualified and just couldn’t wait to get out of there, and then we get here and again we struggled a little bit during qualifying.”
The 2016 NHRA Funny Car world champion started race day by overcoming a bottom-half No. 11 qualifying position to nab the round-one upset win over Langdon despite being assigned the less-desirable right lane. During the quarterfinals in what was their 101st matchup, Capps once again ended Force’s Southern Nationals Wally hopes for the fourth consecutive year by powering his NAPA Brakes Dodge to a session-best 4.022 E.T.
With a 0.047 reaction time, Capps was first off of the line against Johnson in the semifinals and never trailed, posting a pass of 4.071 seconds to reach his seventh Atlanta Dragway final, and setup a final round meeting with veteran racer Tim Wilkerson in the final.
Against Wilkerson, who was celebrating his 500th event, Capps once again was first off the line and charged his 11,000 horsepower NAPA Brakes Dodge Hellcat down the track in 4.022 seconds to take top honors.
“Today, our NAPA Brakes Dodge was a car you dream about driving. It was going down the lane every time when other people were struggling; cars are having a hard time getting grip and then you have (crew chief) Rahn Tobler pulling out ‘vintage Tobler.’ He tuned the car to a 4.02 in the lane nobody wanted in round two, and all day we were in the lane that everybody thought was inferior and we won in that lane. That just gave me more and more confidence.”
With his Southern Nationals event win, Capps kept his ‘win streak’ alive by recording at least one victory per season for the 11th consecutive year. With 17 races left in the 2019 season, Capps feels confident that his team’s early-season woes are behind them and this weekend’s victory could mark a turning point as they chase their second Funny Car series title.
“At the end of the year, you look back on the moments that define the season. The year that you win a championship or have a really good year, you can look back at a moment and say ‘this is what set us up for a championship run.’ In 2016, we DNQ’d early on and we learned a lot from that and that’s what helped us win the championship. We’ve been struggling this year and as a driver, I’ve learned the crew chiefs need you more than ever when they’re searching. Rahn Tobler has made it look easy a lot over the past decade and I’ve been the lucky guy behind the wheel, but you’ve got to be good when they need you the most.”
The Ron Capps/Rahn Tobler duo are among the highest regarded driver/tuner crew chief combinations in the industry. Sunday’s NAPA Brakes victory marks their 26th shared winner’s circle, all while bannering the NAPA brand.
“We brought out this special NAPA Brakes car this weekend, and then you add in the fact that we’re in the backyard of NAPA AUTO PARTS,” said the second-winningest Funny Car pilot in NHRA history. “We had the 'highest of the high' of the NAPA execs out this weekend for the first time and it’s really fun to see them witness our sport, and then to give this car a win, you dream about that.”
With his Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals win, Capps accumulated 112 points during the weekend, and advanced from ninth to seventh in the Countdown to the Championship point standings. The win was No. 335 for Don Schumacher Racing.

Qualified: No. 11 (4.149 E.T. at 290.94 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.076 E.T. at 315.78 MPH defeated Shawn Langdon 4.414 E.T. at 202.09 MPH
E2: 4.022 E.T. at 317.57 MPH defeated John Force 4.312 E.T. at 220.80 MPH
E3: 4.071 E.T. at 317.19 MPH defeated Tommy Johnson Jr. 4.091 E.T. at 310.27 MPH
E4: 4.068 E.T. at 315.34 MPH defeated Tim Wilkerson 4.052 E.T. at 310.05 MPH

Driver Information:

Top Fuel:
Driver of Matco's Tools for the Cause Top Fuel Dragster
Matco's Tools for the Cause to benefit the Fisher House Foundation
Qualified: No. 9 (3.821 E.T. at 323.19 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.771 E.T. at 323.89 MPH defeated Clay Millican 3.779 E.T. at 320.89 MPH
E2: 3.888 E.T. at 299.33 MPH defeated by Brittany Force 3.843 E.T. at 314.83 MPH

Race Recap:
Former Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Antron Brown has tasted Atlanta Dragway victory six times over the course of his professional NHRA career, four of them coming from behind the wheel of a Top Fuel dragster.
Brown faced Clay Millican in the first round on Sunday morning as he began his quest for a seventh Southern Nationals win. The three-time Top Fuel world champion was first off of the starting line and navigated the Tools for the Cause dragster to a session-best 3.771-second pass, earning a bid to round two.
In the quarterfinals, Brown had a sizable starting line advantage and held the lead until around 800 feet when he hit oil on the track and slowed to a 3.888, allowing Brittany Force to chase him down and take the win with her 3.843 E.T. Despite the late troubles, Brown still ran the third-quickest pass of the session, falling by 0.0143 seconds or about six feet.

“I’m proud of our Matco boys. This Tools for the Cause team came out really thinking this was our race day. With the exception of one session, qualifying went well and we picked up four bonus points.
“It’s a bummer when after you run you see the NHRA Safety Safari team cleaning up oil on the track, and you know it didn’t come from your race car. It must’ve come from one of the cars that ran before us. When I got to that point on the track, it barely spun the tires and it was enough to slow us down. Our car was on an 81 run. That all being said, the good news is we feel confident in our car, our team has turned a corner, and we’re looking forward to going to Virginia. When the tracks get hot, I know that we can run with anybody and having run low E.T. of E1, and likely low of E2, I feel really confident and looking forward to some great things for this Matco team.”

Driver of the John Schnatter Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 4 (3.764 E.T. at 325.14 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.812 E.T. at 317.79 MPH defeated Audrey Worm 4.008 E.T. at 289.88 MPH
E2: 3.898 E.T. at 306.95 MPH defeated by Jordan Vandergriff 3.871 E.T. at 313.15 MPH

Race Recap:
Going back-to-back in Atlanta was the goal of the weekend for No. 4 qualifier Leah Pritchett. The 2018 Southern Nationals champion was looking to become the fourth Top Fuel driver in the event’s 39-year history to score consecutive event wins in a rail car and first since Doug Kalitta accomplished the feat back in 2005 and 2006.

Pritchett was machine-like in her opening round race with Audrey Worm, posting the fourth-best run of the session with her lap of 3.812 seconds to earn lane choice in round two. In the second round, Pritchett faced Jordan Vandergriff for the first time and once again she had the starting line advantage, but her run of 3.898 came up 0.0105 seconds short of earning her the victory. 

“I think the real winners here today have been the fans. In that second-round, they got to see a real close drag race. We don’t take any of our competition lightly, especially that team. This was our one and only run on a hot track this weekend. We have been wearing more clutch than we wanted to and it kind of bit us right there. This was the hottest track we’ve run on all year. We’re going to take what we learned in that run and take it with us to the races coming up in the summer. We know we have a really good race car. We are all keeping our heads held up high, but we are disappointed. We wanted to go back-to-back with wins here at Atlanta and the fans have fueled that fire. We gave it everything we had and we’re going to keep hunting for more.”

Funny Car:
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 14 (5.126 E.T. at 149.12 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.040 E.T. at 312.78 MPH defeated by John Force 3.994 E.T. at 327.74 MPH

Race Recap:
Two-time Southern Nationals winner Jack Beckman made his best run of the weekend in Sunday’s round-one match-up with John Force, but it wasn’t quick enough to advance. Beckman muscled the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat down the Atlanta Dragway track in 4.040 seconds only to see Force take the early lead, never trailing with his winning lap of 3.994 seconds. 

“Tough weekend. Tough race track. There wasn’t a whole lot of success during qualifying in the Funny Car division and we never made it down. I think with us it was a case of too little, too late this weekend. We figured the car out for first round. We made the quickest run in the right lane and it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t quicker than the car in the other lane. We have to get better; we want to get better and we will get better. I don’t know if that means staying and testing or just going and crunching notes before Richmond. We are so much better than this, but you can’t keep saying that when the race day results don’t reflect it. We will fix the car. We will figure out a way to get win lights and we’ll get this Infinite Hero Hellcat back in the winner’s circle soon.” 

Driver of the Dayco Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 10 (4.129 E.T. at 263.98 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.113 E.T. at 287.35 MPH defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr. 4.037 E.T. at 309.84 MPH

Race Recap:
Last year’s Southern Nationals Funny Car runner-up began his day with an intramural battle against fellow Hellcat pilot Tommy Johnson Jr. After qualifying in the bottom-half of the field for the first time in 2019, Hagan found himself in the less-desirable right lane opposite his teammate. The DSR Dodges launched together and maintained pace until just past halftrack when Johnson surged ahead to nab the win ending Hagan’s day early.

“Tricky race track for us this weekend. Obviously, we had some issues that we just couldn’t overcome. Usually, our ole hot rod is like a bracket car; put a 94 on it and go racing, but the weather threw us for a loop this weekend and we just got behind the eight ball a little bit.”

Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 7 (4.031 E.T. at 313.66 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.037 E.T. at 309.84 MPH defeated Matt Hagan 4.113 E.T. at 287.35 MPH
E2: 4.334 E.T. at 218.62 MPH defeated J.R. Todd 10.638 E.T. at 76.09 MPH
E3: 4.091 E.T. at 310.27 MPH defeated by Ron Capps 4.071 E.T. at 317.19 MPH

Race Recap:
Tommy Johnson, Jr. has been edging closer to capturing his first Wally of 2019 behind the wheel of the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car. He was in the hunt Sunday with his run to the semifinal after knocking out a pair of Funny Car champions. In the opening round, he avenged his first-round loss in Houston to teammate Matt Hagan with a run of 4.037 seconds and in round two, he defeated reigning Funny Car champion J.R. Todd with a smooth pass of 4.334 over Todd’s tire-smoking effort. In his second side-by-side semifinal run of 2019, it was another teammate, Ron Capps, on the opposite side of the staging tree. Capps took the advantage at the hit and Johnson, despite a solid run of 4.091, was never able to catch up. 

“I thought we were going to be able to break our Atlanta curse today. We had a good running Dodge in hot conditions and just lost a close one. I’m excited because the summer races are coming and we are running well. It was a good points day, we moved up today. We need to maintain our consistency and stay in this thing and continue to do better. The hot races are coming and with the way we are running, I think our win is coming.” 

NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:

Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence - 579
2. Brittany Force - 483
3. Doug Kalitta - 464
4. Leah Pritchett - 433
5. Clay Millican - 427
6. Mike Salinas - 384
7. Antron Brown - 373
8. Richie Crampton - 329
9. Terry McMillen - 319
10. Austin Prock - 288

Funny Car
1. Robert Hight - 663
2. Matt Hagan - 472
3. John Force - 470
4. J.R. Todd - 456
5. Tommy Johnson Jr. - 445
6. Tim Wilkerson - 436
7. Ron Capps - 430
8. Jack Beckman - 425
9. Shawn Langdon - 365
10. Bob Tasca III - 338

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