DSR Chicago Post-Race Report

Route 66 NHRA Nationals
Event 9 of 24 (Chicago)
Route 66 Raceway
Joliet, Ill. 
May 31 - June 2, 2019

DSR Chicago Elimination Highlights:

  • Tommy Johnson Jr. raced to his first win of 2019 at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals and advanced to second in the Funny Car point standings
  • Johnson’s victory marked the third consecutive Don Schumacher Racing Funny Car triumph and fourth of the season
  • Antron Brown and Jack Beckman recorded semifinal finishes 
  • All four DSR Funny Cars advanced to the quarterfinals 

Tommy Johnson Jr. Races to Victory at Route 66 NHRA Nationals
JOLIET, Ill. (June 2, 2019) – Tommy Johnson Jr. raced to his first win of the season at the 22nd annual Route 66 NHRA Nationals near Chicago on Sunday, moving up to second in the Funny Car point standings and bringing home the third consecutive Don Schumacher Racing win, and fourth this year.
The win was the 18th of Johnson’s career in his 50th overall final, and marked his first victory since the NHRA Finals in November 2017, ending a 32-race drought. The triumph was also the second for the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driver in five career final-round appearances at Route 66 Raceway.
Johnson kicked off race day from the No. 2 spot after a strong qualifying effort that saw the 2015 Chicago event winner collect six bonus points. He posted a steady 3.946-second E.T. in round one to defeat Paul Lee and was even better in the quarterfinals with the quickest pass of the round at 3.941-seconds to outrun teammate Matt Hagan.
Johnson left first in the semifinals against John Force with a quicker .081-second reaction to Force’s slower .137 mark, earning him the holeshot win on a 3.972-second run and a chance to run for the Wally trophy. Pitted against the current Funny Car point leader, Robert Hight, in the final round, Johnson took the win in dramatic fashion, overcoming a “boom and bang” under the hood to hold off Hight, who smoked the tires in the opposite lane.
“It makes your heart stop for a second because you’re sitting there coasting and you know he’s got to be there somewhere,” said Johnson of his nail-biter of a final round. “It’s the longest coasting you’ve ever done in your life. You’re thinking ‘come on, get there,’ and then I saw the light come on and I was just so thrilled for the guys and (team sponsor) Doug Chandler. He continued this program in his wife, Terry Chandler’s, honor so I’m happy we could get this win for him. We’ve been close a lot – six times we were there in the final and couldn’t get it done, so it was nice to finally do that.”
Following Terry Chandler’s passing, the Make-A-Wish St. Louis chapter purchased a star in her honor. Johnson’s Make-A-Wish Funny Car proudly features the coordinates of the star as a reminder that the late drag racing enthusiast is always watching over them. Sunday’s win at Route 66 Raceway was the first time they’ve finished the day in the winner’s circle since adding the star’s coordinates, making the victory even sweeter.
“That was actually (crew chief) John Collins’ idea to put the coordinates of her star on our roof hatch,” explained Johnson. “The roof hatch comes up every time I get out, and every time I turn around and look at it I see the coordinates, so I know she’s always there. She’s a lasting impact on our team and she’ll be with us forever.”
The Chandler family’s Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat’s Joliet victory notched win No. 337 for Don Schumacher Racing.

Qualified: No. 2 (3.882 E.T. at 326.24 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.946 E.T. at 325.85 MPH defeated Paul Lee 4.673 E.T. at 180.72 MPH
E2: 3.941 E.T. at 323.81 MPH defeated Matt Hagan 4.071 E.T. at 274.16 MPH
E3: 3.972 E.T. at 321.81 MPH defeated John Force 3.953 E.T. at 322.42 MPH
E4: 4.715 E.T. at 229.86 MPH defeated Robert Hight 4.438 E.T. at 202.55 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. 2 (3.715 E.T. at 328.14 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.736 E.T. at 327.11 MPH defeated Brittany Force 5.776 E.T. at 112.30 MPH
E2: 3.789 E.T. at 322.96 MPH defeated Jordan Vandergriff 3.805 E.T. at 318.54 MPH
E3: 6.050 E.T. at 89.27 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.804 E.T. at 322.42 MPH

Race Recap:
Following a runner-up finish at the previous event in Richmond, Va., Antron Brown was looking to go one step further on Sunday at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals and pick up his first event win of the 2019 season.
His race day campaign started with a round-one meeting with No. 15 qualifier Brittany Force. Against the former world champion, Brown was machine-like, cutting a quick 0.057 reaction time to earn the holeshot advantage. His winning 3.736 E.T. awarded him with lane choice against rookie Jordan Vandergriff in round two. Once again, Brown was first on the throttle and first to cross the finish line. In the semifinals, he faced friend and reigning Top Fuel champion and current point leader Steve Torrence. Brown had a small starting line advantage but his engine gave way to a huge fireball shortly after launch and Torrence was able to drive away with the round win, ending the three-time world champion’s day at the semifinals.

“All in all, it was a good weekend. We qualified second, ran low E.T. of round one, second low of round two. The good part is, we’re getting to the place where we want to be. The car is performing well, and we’re getting back into our game. A win is right around the corner, we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. I feel really good about our guys, and where our whole team is at right now. We’re improving, and each week we’re getting one step closer to where we want to be. I feel like we’re going to go on that championship run this year and I just feel very blessed and fortunate to be with the group of guys I’m with.”

Driver of the Okuma Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 8 (3.776 E.T. at 327.82 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.736 E.T. at 137.39 MPH defeated by T.J. Zizzo 3.821 E.T. at 313.22 MPH

Race Recap:
The 2018 Route 66 NHRA Nationals Top Fuel runner-up qualified eighth for the 22nd running of team owner Don Schumacher’s hometown event. Decked out in her brand-new blue Okuma livery, Leah Pritchett faced another Chicago-area local, T.J. Zizzo, in round one. She was first out of the gate against her opponent but by the time she neared halftrack, the pipes went wet on her 11,000-horsepower machine and the engine let go with a massive explosion causing a rear tire to blow. Pritchett masterfully guided her car to a safe stop while her competitor drove to the round win.

“First and foremost, unfortunately, we did not get the win light, which is disappointing. But man, we were on one heck of a pass going for a low 3.70 before we had a part malfunction which led to a chain of events eventually resulting in all hell breaking loose and a cut tire among other things. We can repair parts. Every safety mechanism we had in place on the car did its job. I was able to get the car straight and stopped. Our crew chiefs and engineers are all working toward making sure a situation like that doesn’t happen again. We had the best-case scenario in a worst-case storm in regards to safety. Sometimes people lose sight of these cars and the fast show we put on that it could end a different way. I’m thankful for the team that I have and the guys back at the shop for developing a great chassis and parts. We’re keeping our sights on win lights, but for now, we’re focused on fixing this problem.”

Funny Car:
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 5 (3.899 E.T. at 331.28 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.930 E.T. at 329.18 MPH defeated Blake Alexander 4.250 E.T. at 222.77 MPH
E2: 3.962 E.T. at 329.75 MPH defeated Jeff Arend 4.028 E.T. at 317.49 MPH
E3: 4.352 E.T. at 206.86 MPH defeated by Robert Hight 4.105 E.T. at 239.40 MPH

Race Recap:
The 2012 Funny Car world champion drew Blake Alexander as his round-one opponent after qualifying in the No. 5 seed for the Route 66 NHRA Nationals. ‘Fast’ Jack Beckman lived up to his nickname when he unloaded with a 3.930-second at 329.18-mph run against the part-time racer, which held up to be the quickest and fastest of race day.
In round two, Beckman ripped off another impressive run – a winning 3.962-second E.T. against fellow Frank Hawley Drag Racing School instructor, Jeff Arend.

The semifinal round pitted Beckman against the current point leader, Robert Hight. Against Hight, Beckman suffered an uncharacteristic miscue when he stood on the throttle early and activated the red light, handing the round win to Hight.

“I feel about three inches tall right now. My job as a driver is to go up there and drive the car well, and I didn’t, and what makes it sting even worse is, we had the better car that round. Not to say we would’ve won the race but we certainly would’ve won that round and I gave it away with a red light. There’s no silver lining on that. I’m not going to beat myself up for two days because that doesn’t work. I’m going to go home and be dad for two days then get back on an airplane and head to Topeka. Our car is getting down the track consistently. I think staying on Monday at Richmond and testing probably helped us a bunch. I’m going to get back in the car five days from now in Topeka and get this out of my head. I’ll think positive thoughts, I’ll practice at home, I’ll visualize and if we’re holding the trophy Sunday at Topeka, that’s probably the best salve for this.”

Driver of the NAPA Brakes Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 3 (3.882 E.T. at 325.53 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.944 E.T. at 325.53 MPH defeated Bob Bode 4.349 E.T. at 215.51 MPH
E2: 4.018 E.T. at 298.47 MPH defeated by John Force 3.961 E.T. at 325.53 MPH

Race Recap:
Ron Capps entered the Route 66 NHRA Nationals with his sights set on a third consecutive victory behind the wheel of his NAPA Brakes Hellcat. After an impressive qualifying performance which earned him the No. 3 starting position, Capps looked prime for a three-peat. 
Sunday morning began with a first-round matchup against Bob Bode. Capps was first on the throttle and navigated his black-and-gold machine to a 3.944-second pass to defeat the popular hometown racer and setup a battle with John Force in round two. After nine consecutive round wins, the NAPA Brakes hot streak would come to an end at the Joliet quarterfinals when Capps was defeated by Force during the veterans’ 102nd head-to-head race day matchup.

“The car fell off a lot during round two, and Tobler and the guys are trying to figure out what happened. It looks like it lost a little bit of fuel pressure, but we’ll find out and see what’s going on.
“Our NAPA Brakes run has now come to an end, but I really want to thank our fans for their support of our car and the NAPA Brakes promotion. It was so much fun running the black-and-gold car these last few races. The good thing is, we have back-to-back race weekends. Four races in a row can be fun if you’re running good and have a great car like we do. I’m excited to get back to our signature blue NAPA livery in Topeka and continue climbing back up in the Mello Yello points.”

Driver of the MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 7 (3.936 E.T. at 323.97 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.954 E.T. at 328.46 MPH defeated Bob Tasca III 4.014 E.T. at 320.28 MPH
E2: 4.071 E.T. at 274.16 MPH defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr. 3.941 E.T. at 323.81 MPH

Race Recap:
Matt Hagan used the final qualifying session on Saturday to jump his MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car into the top half of the field at No. 7, and he carried that momentum into Sunday with a winning 3.954 at 328.46-mph first-round pass against Bob Tasca III. The three-time Chicago event winner was trailing in a close battle with teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. in the quarterfinals when a dropped cylinder down track ended any hopes of yet another Route 66 Raceway victory by Hagan.

“We struggled a little bit in qualifying, but we found the problems and addressed those issues and ended up having a really good race car on race day. I got through round one and didn’t have lane choice. I just let it get a little inside, and it got sucked in and kind of pulled the tires loose. Once you get these things inside, it’s hard to get them back. Just a little combination of everything. This one falls on me this weekend, so I’ll have to do better in Topeka for my team. We’re looking forward to racing the next couple of weekends in a row. We’ve got a lot of data to accumulate and a lot of different racetracks to hit. Ready to do a little work at home, and then get back here and get busy again.”    

NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:

Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence - 820
2. Doug Kalitta - 574
3. Mike Salinas - 573
4. Brittany Force - 572
5. Antron Brown - 544
6. Clay Millican - 523
7. Leah Pritchett - 497
8. Richie Crampton - 410
9. Terry McMillen - 383
10. Austin Prock - 375

Funny Car
1. Robert Hight - 818
2. Tommy Johnson Jr - 650
3. Ron Capps - 610
4. John Force - 596
5. J.R. Todd - 593
6. Matt Hagan - 559
7. Jack Beckman - 553
8. Tim Wilkerson - 495
9. Shawn Langdon - 435
10. Bob Tasca III - 401

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