DSR Brainerd Post-Race Recap

NHRA Brainerd Nationals
Event 12 of 20
Brainerd International Raceway
Brainerd, Minn. 
Aug. 20 - 22, 2021

DSR Elimination Highlights:

  • Defending Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan captured his first Brainerd victory on Sunday and moved into the Funny Car point lead
    • Hagan’s triumph was his second of the season, and 38th overall 
  • Leah Pruett and Hagan added their names to NHRA’s ‘Countdown Clinched’ list on Sunday morning, ensuring all four DSR Camping World Series competitors will have a chance to battle it out in the 2021 Countdown to the Championship
  • All four DSR drivers are ranked in the ‘top five’ heading into the Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals, the final event of the 2021 ‘regular’ season 
    • Top Fuel: Antron Brown, 3rd; Pruett, 4th (tied) 
    • Funny Car: Hagan, 1st; Ron Capps, 5th  

Matt Hagan Captures First Brainerd Victory; Moves into Funny Car Point Lead

BRAINERD, Minn. (August 22, 2021) – Last month, reigning Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan was able to check ‘winning Denver’ off of his racing bucket list, and on Sunday afternoon at Brainerd International Raceway, Hagan was able to cross another item off the list when he won the NHRA Brainerd Nationals for the first time in 12 attempts. Hagan drove the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye into the winner’s circle for the second time in 2021, and 38th time in his career when he clocked a stout .051 reaction time and 3.923 second E.T. to defeat Cruz Pedregon’s 3.935-second effort in the final Funny Car showdown. 
After officially clinching a Countdown berth during qualifying, Hagan began race day from the fourth seed and with a round-one matchup versus Dale Creasy Jr. where he posted the second-quickest E.T. of the session to advance to round two. Against Paul Lee, his quarterfinal opponent, it was Hagan’s right foot that sealed the victory when he took a starting line advantage all the way to a holeshot win. In the semifinals, Hagan once again used his machine-like reflexes coupled with a solid 3.932-second pass to propel him to victory over Bob Tasca III, and earn a bid to the finals for the fourth time this season. By winning the Brainerd hardware, Hagan moved into the Funny Car point lead with only one event remaining – the Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis – before playoff positions are set and the Countdown to the Championship chase begins.
“I’ve been racing for so long, and it’s great to knock this one off the list and add a Brainerd trophy to the shelf,” said Hagan, who, despite having a lot of success at Brainerd in the past, including being the first Funny Car pilot to clock a 3.8-second run during the 2015 event, had yet to seal the deal and hoist a Brainerd Wally trophy before Sunday. “We want to win every race, and at every race track, so I’m especially glad we got it done today.”
As Hagan and the Dickie Venables-led Mopar Dodge Funny Car team prepare to begin their 2020 title defense, they have one race left to continue to tweak their performance and put as many points on the leaderboard as possible. Hagan occupies the No. 1 spot heading into the final ‘regular season’ event which features a unique points-and-a-half format. With a mere 25 points separating the top five ranked drivers, Hagan knows his team has their work cut out in order to maintain their position at the top of the board.
“We’re trying to get where we should be,” explained the three-time Funny Car world champion. “After coming off of such a strong championship run last year, you come out and expect to set the world on fire, and we just haven’t been able to do that. But Dickie Venables, you give the guy enough shots at the race track, he’s a bad man. I just want to do my job up there. I really pride myself in leaving the starting line really well, and it’s going to take these tough packages to win. You’re going to have leave good, and you’re going to have to race good, and that’s what we’re doing with this Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.
“The points lead has changed hands so many times this year. There's less than one round that separates the top five ranked cars so it’s a true dogfight right now. We struggled a little bit in the beginning of the season, and it feels like things are really starting to click and come together for our team. The Countdown is the Countdown. I’ve won from all different starting positions, you’ve just got to be in it to win it. This team, we’re all starting to peak at the right time, so I’m excited about that.”

Qualified: No. 4 (3.891 E.T. at 328.06 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.911 E.T. at 328.30 MPH defeated Dale Creasy Jr. 4.031 E.T. at 311.85 MPH
E2: 3.928 E.T. at 323.27 MPH defeated Paul Lee 3.911 E.T. at 329.18 MPH
E3: 3.932 E.T. at 328.30 MPH defeated Bob Tasca 3.940 E.T. at 329.10 MPH
E4: 3.923 E.T. at 327.98 MPH defeated Cruz Pedregon 3.935 E.T. at 324.83 MPH 


Driver Information:

Top Fuel:
Driver of the Matco Tools Toyota Top Fuel Dragster

Qualified: No. 6 (3.752 E.T. at 328.22 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.749 E.T. at 326.08 MPH defeated Shawn Langdon 12.384 E.T. at 71.89 MPH
E2: 3.771 E.T. at 315.78 MPH defeated by Brittany Force 3.672 E.T. at 333.33 MPH

Race Recap:
Antron Brown posted the third-quickest E.T. of Top Fuel Q2 to start Sunday’s eliminations from the top half of the field and with the advantage of lane choice. Brown’s day began by driving the Matco Tools/Toyota/Global Electronic Technology/SiriusXM/Hangsterfer’s dragster straight down the groove in 3.749 seconds, posting his best pass of the weekend for the win against Shawn Langdon who was up in smoke at the hit of the throttle. 
In round two, Brown was first out of the gate and made a solid run, but Brittany Force clocked low E.T. of the event in the opposite lane to claim the round win. Brown leaves the NHRA Brainerd Nationals, the penultimate event before Countdown to the Championship positions are set, ranked third. 

“It was a tough race day and weekend here at Brainerd. We raced Shawn Langdon again first round and he’s always tough. One of the best leavers in the class. I think that’s four straight races we’ve run that DHL car. We made a nice, decent 3.74-second lap for the win, and then Brittany Force just threw a hell of a run on us. Low E.T. of the weekend. We could have raced pretty much anyone else and got through that round with the package that we had. We’re just gonna get ready for Indy right now. That’s our focus. We’re making gains and our goal is to be ready for the Countdown by the end of Indy, and peak at the right time.”

Driver of the Mopar Dodge//SRT Top Fuel Dragster

Qualified: No. 8 (3.789 E.T. at 319.90 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.472 E.T. at 179.64 MPH defeated by Justin Ashley 3.765 E.T. at 326.32 MPH

Race Recap:
Leah Pruett clinched a berth into the NHRA’s 2021 Countdown to the Championship by qualifying for the Brainerd Nationals, and she made it official when she signed her name to the NHRA’s Countdown Clinched list following E1 on Sunday morning, ensuring she will finish ranked in the Top 10 for the sixth consecutive year. 
Starting race day from the eighth seed, Pruett found herself in a Pomona 1 final round rematch versus Justin Ashley in the opening session on Sunday morning. Unfortunately for Pruett, who entered the race weekend as the defending Top Fuel event champion (2019), her hopes of going back-to-back in Brained were up in smoke almost immediately when her machine lost traction early into the run and Ashley was able to avenge his Pomona loss by driving away with the win. Pruett departs Brainerd International Raceway ranked fourth (tied).

“I’m not sure if there’s an amusement park here at Brainerd, but we sure feel like we’re on a roller coaster with this season of highs and lows. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the number of runs for the team to stay on track is crucial. So, when we lost our third qualifying session lap to a mechanical malfunction, we were robbed of an opportunity to learn this tune-up and get better. What we had for Q3 is pretty much what we had for E1, and that’s a high sixty run and we were just outside of that window. The goal was to turn on win lights. We will not test before the Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals in Indy, but we are real close to breaking through again and we have the confidence to do it. We appreciate the great fan support this weekend at Brainerd for our Mopar Dodge//SRT team and now we focus on Indy and the Countdown.”

Funny Car:
Driver of the Pennzoil Synthetics/NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 7 (3.922 E.T. at 325.22 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.953 E.T. at 323.35 MPH defeated John Force 6.205 E.T. at 112.01 MPH
E2: 3.935 E.T. at 325.45 MPH defeated by Cruz Pedregon 3.908 E.T. at 325.45 MPH

Race Recap:
For the 11th time in 12 events, Ron Capps started race day from the top half of the field but found himself with a tough round-one matchup more akin to a semifinal or final round outing. As the No. 7 qualifier, Capps drew fellow Funny Car veteran John Force in E1. Capps, who returned to Brainerd as the defending Funny Car event champ, was on the throttle first and clocked a 3.953 E.T. for the definitive victory over Force who lost traction early on. 
The quarterfinals pitted Capps against No. 2 qualifier Cruz Pedregon. Capps and Pedregon were nearly even leaving the starting line, and Capps took his Pennzoil Synthetics/NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat on a solid ride, posting a 3.935 at the finish line, but it wasn’t enough to outrun Pedregon whose 3.908 E.T. was the second-quickest of the round. Capps leaves Brainerd ranked fifth on the Funny Car leaderboard, but less than one round out of first place heading into Indy.

“We always talk about Brainerd being such a pivotal race heading into the Countdown. We have Indy coming up and that’s points-and-a-half, but Brainerd always plays a huge role because it’s the second-to-last race before heading into the Countdown. You’ve got to come out of Brainerd with a good race car. We didn’t make up as many points as we wanted to this weekend, but we have a great race car. Dean Antonelli and John Medlen have been really focusing on clutch-wear these past couple of races, and we were really happy to run a .93 in the right lane, we just got beat by a quicker car in the left lane this weekend. The NAPA team did a great job, and it was fun carrying the Pennzoil colors once again. Now we have a week off to focus on Indianapolis and the playoffs. Right now, the fans are getting a really good taste of what the Countdown to the Championship will be like this year. Not only are the points close right now, but the performance of the cars in the Funny Car category right now is something to behold.”

NHRA Camping World Countdown to the Championship Standings (unofficial):

Top Fuel

1 Steve Torrence   1212
2 Brittany Force   829
3 Antron Brown   791
4 Leah Pruett   631
4 Mike Salinas   631
6 Shawn Langdon   620
7 Clay Millican   579
8 Justin Ashley   578
9 Billy Torrence   510
10 Doug Kalitta   503

Funny Car
1 Matt Hagan   865
2 J.R. Todd   850
2 Bob Tasca III   850
4 John Force   849
5 Ron Capps   840
6 Robert Hight   782
7 Alexis DeJoria   725
8 Cruz Pedregon   712
9 Tim Wilkerson   631
10 Blake Alexander   470

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