DSR Denver Post-Race Recap

Dodge//SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals
Presented by Pennzoil

Event No. 8 of 20
Bandimere Speedway
Morrison, Colo.
July 16-18, 2021

DSR Elimination Highlights:

  • After more than a decade of chasing that elusive first Denver victory, defending Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan went wire-to-wire at the 41st running of the Dodge//SRT Mile-High Nationals presented by Pennzoil, capturing his 37th win from the pole
  • Hagan’s triumph was his first of the season, and marked win No. 360 for Don Schumacher Racing, NHRA’s winningest organization
  • Hagan’s standout performance propelled him three spots on the Funny Car leaderboard where he currently ranks third
  • By reaching round three, Ron Capps has advanced to the semifinals or better at three out of the last four events, and maintains his ‘top five’ ranking in the Funny Car point standings
  • Leah Pruett overcame a frustrating round two Top Fuel loss by advancing to the final round in the Factory Stock Showdown Series
Matt Hagan Finally Conquers ‘Thunder Mountain!’

Hagan wins Dodge//SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil

MORRISON, Colo. (July 17, 2021) – After more than a decade of attempts to conquer ‘thunder mountain,’ defending NHRA Camping World Series Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan finally hoisted the Wally trophy at Bandimere Speedway on Sunday. Starting from the pole for the second time this season and 42nd time of his career, Hagan powered his Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye through eliminations to break through for his first coveted victory at the picturesque Morrison, Colo. venue which sits a mile above sea level. The triumph was his first of the 2021 season, the 37th of his career, and national event win No. 360 for Don Schumacher Racing, the winningest team in NHRA history.

“Man, I tell you, this mountain has chewed me up and spit me out several years in a row, and I’m just so glad to pull that win down for Dodge and SRT, and to do it behind the wheel of the Dodge//SRT Hellcat Funny Car in front of so many passionate Dodge and Mopar fans,” said Hagan whose last win came at the 2020 season-finale, the Dodge NHRA Finals presented by Pennzoil in Las Vegas, where he secured his third NHRA Funny Car series title. 

“We finally got it done, and I finally get to put this trophy up on the shelf,” added Hagan, acknowledging the unique conditions and challenges and that come with racing in the mile-high Denver altitude during the heat of the summer. “I’ve got to call out my guys and give them so much love. Dickie Venables, Mike Knudsen, Alex Conaway, the whole group, man. To watch them up here in the altitude wrenching and sweating. These guys love doing what they do, and they bust their ass for me. My heart was beating out of my chest up there during the finals and it felt like I was running for a championship. I had to remind myself to calm down, take a deep breath, and just do what I do. It’s so cool when you do a burnout and see all of these fans in the stands; it genuinely gives me chill bumps. It feels amazing being back in the winner’s circle like we’re used to.”

Hagan’s triumph at ‘thunder mountain’ was earned with a round-one victory over Chris King, an E2 Bye run, and an exciting side-by-side semifinal battle won against his fellow DSR HEMI-powered teammate Ron Capps to face No.2 qualifier Alexis DeJoria in the final round showdown. Hagan’s quick 0.046-second reaction time gave him the starting line advantage and he never looked back, powering his machine to victory in 4.105 seconds.  

With this win, Hagan will have his first career opportunity to attempt to ‘sweep the Swing,’ winning the grueling trio of back-to-back races which visits Sonoma and Pomona, Calif. following Denver, but Hagan isn’t getting ahead of himself and is focused on the task at hand – taking it one round at a time.

"I’m not even thinking about ‘sweeping the Swing’ at this point,” said Hagan. “I just want to take it one race at a time, qualify well, and take it round by round. Fuel Funny Cars are so unpredictable, and that’s why this sport is so humbling. Every win light and every race win you’re grateful for, and we’re just going to keep moving forward."
Hagan’s wire-to-wire weekend enabled him to advance three positions in the Funny Car point standings, where he currently occupies third heading into Sonoma.

Qualified: No. 1 (3.966 E.T. at 319.22 MPH )

The Results:
E1: 4.045 E.T. at 317.49 MPH defeated Chris King 6.222 E.T. at 100.34 MPH
E2: 4.019 E.T. at 314.09 MPH defeated BYE
E3: 4.022 E.T. at 314.53 MPH defeated Ron Capps 4.051 E.T. at 313.58 MPH
E4: 4.105 E.T. at 305.70 MPH defeated Alexis DeJoria 4.227 E.T. at 297.68 MPH



Driver Information:

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

Qualified: No. 9 (4.030 E.T. at 309.42 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.046 E.T. at 293.22 MPH defeated by Greg Carrillo 3.860 E.T. at 316.23 MPH

Race Recap:
A two-time winner in the previous eight events, Antron Brown and the Matco Tools/Toyota Top Fuel team were seeking to celebrate crew chief Brian Corradi’s 25th NHRA anniversary weekend with a win at the facility where Corradi got his professional start in 1996.

After qualifying ninth, Brown faced Greg Carrillo in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday morning. The three-time Denver winner nabbed the starting line advantage but encountered issues early on, while Carrillo pulled ahead into the lead by the time they drove past the tree, never trailing for the win. Brown maintains his No. 2 ranking heading to Sonoma Raceway, the next stop on the NHRA Camping World Series tour.

“Not the Denver outing we wanted. ‘Thunder mountain’ kicked our butts this year. We’ve finished on top of it numerous times, but this year it was just tricky for our whole Matco Tools team. Denver is definitely the most challenging stop on the tour with the altitude, but we learned a lot this weekend, and we’ll have a game plan and be right and correct to conquer the mountain next year.

“We’re going to suck it up, we’ve still got two more races of this Western Swing with Sonoma and Pomona coming up, so we’re going to get our car back together, get it re-set for sea-level racing, and prepare for those races. As always, qualifying well is our first order of business, and then we’ll focus on taking it one round at a time.”

Driver of the Mopar Dodge//SRT Top Fuel Dragster

Qualified: No. 11 (4.056 E.T. at 249.49 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.824 E.T. at 316.45 MPH defeated Doug Kalitta 7.384 E.T. at 108.12 MPH
E2: No Time; Oil leak after the burnout

Race Recap:
Leah Pruett started race day in the No. 11 seed facing heavy-hitter and fellow championship contender Doug Kalitta in round one. Pruett took advantage of Kalitta’s difficulties gaining traction off the start and, after wrangling her dragster slightly mid-track, crossed the finish line with a 3.824-second pass at 316.45 mph to advance. Armed with lane choice, Pruett lined up next to Joey Haas in E2, and was ready to continue her quest for a second Denver Top Fuel trophy, but an oil leak while backing up from her burnout caused her to be shut off on the line before having an opportunity to stage the car.

“What a complex day of emotions, to say the least. Usually I like to reflect on my day thinking of Top Fuel and Factory Stock separately, but this weekend, it all runs together. I was going back-and-forth between the pits all weekend, up the stairs, down the stairs, warming up, just shifting gears all weekend long.
“Winning first round of Top Fuel was great, and was what this team needed. We put down a really solid .82 run and we would’ve even had top speed if we had made it all the way down to the finish line. Our Dodge//SRT Top Fuel dragster was exactly on the path that we wanted. Unfortunately, second round, we had a valve cover leak and it spilled some of that good Pennzoil on the track during the burnout. Just very unfortunate, and not how we wanted to show out at our sponsor’s event. We could easily be discouraged, but we’ve done our due diligence and we’ll keep our heads up, and keep dotting our I’s and crossing our T’s. We are resilient and we will get out of this hole, and that starts in Sonoma.
“Coming off of that Top Fuel disappointment, man, what a triumphant feeling to make it to the finals in Factory Stock. It’s been a small while since we visited the final round, and being competitive with the other manufacturers in our class, and the consistency that we had in eliminations today was so impressive. Testing last week was very important. We’ll continue to pick away at our sea-level tune-up, but to me, the most impressive thing is getting this new Drag Pak dialed-in and working very well. The car is responding, and it’s consistent. I haven’t been this excited about our program since we were so dominant in 2018. I had a ton of fun driving this Drag Pak this weekend. To go from such a disappointing second round exit in Top Fuel, to finding that inner strength, to wanting to chop the tree down, and the only thing I wanted to do was put on a win light, and I was able to do that with Factory Stock, it was a roller coaster of emotions. I’m very blessed to be able to run in both categories and compete with two different teams. The power is in the numbers so, we’re going to keep putting in the hours and chasing those win lights, and they will come.”

Funny Car:
Driver of the Pennzoil Synthetics/NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 4 (3.986 E.T. at 318.09 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.083 E.T. at 317.12 MPH defeated Terry Haddock 4.413 E.T. at 214.52 MPH
E2: 4.039 E.T. at 312.42 MPH defeated John Force 4.376 E.T. at 226.47 MPH
E3: 4.051 E.T. at 313.58 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 4.022 E.T. at 314.53 MPH

Race Recap:
Ron Capps’ impressive 2021 streak of qualifying fifth or better continued at the Dodge//SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil. He began his weekend at Bandimere Speedway aka ‘thunder mountain’ by roaring to the third-quickest pass of Q1 which helped him to secure the No. 4 seed to start race day. For the third race in a row, Capps drew Terry Haddock as his round one opponent, and for the second event in a row, he successfully defeated his competitor to advance to the second round.
The quarterfinals featured a head-to-head battle between the two winningest Funny Car pilots in NHRA history, with Capps staging the Pennzoil Synthetics/NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat alongside John Force. Capps took his chromed-out machine on a winning 4.039-second ride, defeating Force who lost traction early. Capps, a runner-up and two-time No. 1 qualifier in 2021, squared off with DSR Dodge teammate Matt Hagan in the semifinals. The two world champs were nearly even leaving the starting line but Hagan grabbed a slight early lead which he maintained to the finish, narrowly defeating Capps’ straight-down-the-groove pass.

“Just a great job by Guido (Dean Antonelli), (John) Medlen, and this whole NAPA AutoCare team. We always get pumped to run the blue chrome Pennzoil car. When you run these special schemes you surely want to do well and try to give your partners a Wally, and we came close today. Another fantastic qualifying job by this NAPA team; top five. That’s a heck of a streak to qualify in the top five at each race so far this year. This is a very grueling race track that will test and strain all of the parts, components, and lubricants through the most extreme conditions we will see all season. For us, it’s always fun to leave here with everything in one piece and running great. We have great oil from Pennzoil, and fantastic parts from NAPA and DSM, and I can’t say enough about the DSR shop guys who build this car. To come out with a new car and qualify well, and make it to the semis and nearly a final round is a good start to ‘the Swing.’ We’re headed to my two home tracks in the next two weeks at Sonoma and Pomona, and that excites me. I’m pumped to have the family come out and hang out with this new NAPA team I have.”

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

Top Fuel

1 Steve Torrence   858  
2 Antron Brown   551  
3 Brittany Force   505  
4 Billy Torrence   448  
5 Shawn Langdon   408  
6 Mike Salinas   395  
7 Doug Kalitta   367  
8 Leah Pruett   362  
9 Justin Ashley   337  
10 Clay Millican   328  

Funny Car
1 Bob Tasca III   643  
2 John Force   593  
3 Matt Hagan   558  
4 J.R. Todd   532  
5 Ron Capps   529  
6 Robert Hight   517  
7 Alexis DeJoria   498  
8 Tim Wilkerson   477  
9 Cruz Pedregon   450  
10 Terry Haddock   264  

Factory Stock Showdown Series:
Driver of the Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 8 (8.330 E.T. at 164.73 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 8.345 E.T. at 164.81 MPH defeated Joseph Welch 8.384 E.T. at 162.55 MPH
E2: 8.286 E.T. at 165.50 MPH defeated by Aaron Stanfield 8.284 E.T. at 164.37 MPH

Race Recap:
Former Pro Stock racer Mark Pawuk returned to Denver competition for the first time since 2006, but this time he was behind the wheel of the Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak to compete in the Factory Stock Showdown Series’ Denver debut. Pawuk was eighth-quickest during qualifying, setting up a round-one meeting with Joseph Welch. Heading into the matchup, Pawuk and Welch held a tied 1-1 win-loss record against each other, with Pawuk successfully extending his round win count on Sunday by driving his Mopar-powered machine to an 8.345 E.T. versus his opponent’s 8.348-second pass. The quarterfinals found Pawuk lining up next to reigning series champion Aaron Stanfield. ‘The Cowboy’ gave it a ride, keeping pace with his competitor until just ahead of the finish line when Stanfield pulled ahead for the narrow victory.

“Definitely a better weekend for our Empaco Equipment/Ohio CAT/Ohio Peterbilt/Mr. Heater Dodge Drag Pak. We qualified eighth and made it to the second round. It was a great race, and we were close on the reaction times. We lost on the E.T. by only two-thousandths of a second. We feel that we made huge progress this weekend and we’re very excited about the new members on our team. We’re looking forward to getting back down to sea level and continuing to make progress, and moving the program forward in Topeka. I want to congratulate my teammate Leah Pruett for going to the final. What a great race, and great weekend for Dodge and Don Schumacher Racing.”

Driver of the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 4 (8.261 E.T. at 167.24 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 8.344 E.T. at 166.25 MPH defeated Waldemar Rodriguez 8.502 E.T. at 162.61 MPH
E2: 8.290 E.T. at 166.05 MPH defeated John Cerbone; Foul, red light
E3: 8.259 E.T. at 166.54 MPH defeated Aaron Stanfield 13.604 E.T. at 63.74 MPH
E4: 8.265 E.T. at 166.48 MPH defeated by Stephen Bell 8.259 E.T. at 164.79 MPH

Race Recap:
For the first time in her career, Leah Pruett pulled double-duty at Bandimere Speedway, as the Factory Stock Showdown Series made its Denver debut during the Dodge//SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil. After three sessions of gathering data, crew chief Kevin Helms tuned Pruett to a stout 8.261-second pass in the final session of qualifying, which placed Pruett in the No. 4 starting position to begin race day.
Pruett, the 2018 series champion, made two clean passes to defeat Waldemar Rodriguez and John Cerbone, earning a spot in the semifinal round where she faced reigning series champ and current point leader Aaron Stanfield. The two FSS heavyweights had gone head-to-head in competition twice prior with Pruett coming out on top both times. She successfully extended her round-win record to 3-0 on Sunday by driving her new Mopar-powered Dodge Challenger Drag Pak to an 8.259 E.T., advancing to the finals for the first time in 2021. In the final round, Pruett and Stephen Bell were nearly even leaving starting line. The pair charged hard racing neck-and-neck down the Bandimere track with Bell claiming the win with a narrow eight-thousandth of a second margin of victory.

See Top Fuel quote

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