DSR NHRA Gatornationals Post-Race Report

NHRA Gatornationals
Event No. 7
Gainesville Raceway
September 26-27, 2020
DSR Elimination Highlights:

  • Ron Capps wins the NHRA Gatornationals and delivers the 10thconsecutive Funny Car victory for Don Schumacher Racing
    • All four DSR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat pilots have claimed at least one victory throughout the first seven races of 2020
    • The only other time in the series’ history that a team swept 10 consecutive race wins in a single category was during the 2017 season when the same lineup of current DSR Dodge drivers contributed to that streak
  • Capps’ victory advanced him to fourth in the Funny Car point standings, with DSR Dodge drivers occupying the top four spots on the leaderboard
  • In Top Fuel, Leah Pruett raced to a semifinal finish, marking the fourth consecutive time that she has advanced to the semifinals or better
  • Pruett is ranked third in the Top Fuel standings, and is within two rounds of the current point leader
  • Mark Pawuk led the DSR Dodge Drag Pak tandem by racing to the quarterfinals 

Ron Capps Wins Gatornationals; Delivers 10th Consecutive Funny Car Victory for DSR
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (September 27, 2020) – Ron Capps made it 10-in-a-row for Don Schumacher Racing on Sunday afternoon at historic Gainesville Raceway. Capps defeated Tim Wilkerson in the final round of the NHRA Gatornationals to earn DSR its 10th consecutive Funny Car triumph, a streak which dates back to October 2019.
By claiming the victory, his fourth at Gainesville, second in 2020 and 66th overall (one Top Fuel), Capps advanced a position in the Funny Car point standings, with DSR’s Funny Car quartet now occupying the top four spots on the leaderboard.
On race day, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat was unstoppable. Crew chief Rahn Tobler, who was celebrating a birthday on Sunday, tuned Capps’ machine to sub-four second passes throughout all four rounds, battling the hot and humid track conditions that proved troublesome for many other teams. Starting from fourth, Capps was out of the gate first in round one and ran a 3.999 E.T. to outrun his opponent’s 4.024. In the quarterfinals, he lit up the scoreboard with a 3.968 to defeat Alexis DeJoria’s 4.014-second pass, and in the semifinals, Capps clocked low E.T. and top speed of the meet (3.898 at 329.99) for the win over his teammate and No. 1 qualifier Matt Hagan, but the win didn’t come without drama as Capps suffered an explosion just past the lights. He wrangled his machine to a safe stop, but the NAPA team had their work cut out for them to get ready to run the final round. The thrash was on and Tobler and the crew, along with several other DSR team members, worked quickly to get the NAPA back-up car race-ready. Their hard work paid off when they came up for the final round and Capps threw-down with a 3.937 at 323.12-mph to defeat Wilk’s 3.945 and deliver the birthday win for his crew chief.
"We blew up right when I stepped off the gas in the semifinals. It exploded down there but thanks to the Don Schumacher Racing fab (fabrication) shop, this body stayed on, rather than potentially launch up in the air. I felt very safe after it blew up and everything stayed together on the car. 
"We all knew it was Tobler's birthday and we all secretly wanted to win on his birthday. But to bring out a car that we had as a backup, that's never made it to the finish line and it goes 3.93 in the final round of the Gatornationals is crazy. He's had that car up in the trailer since last year when we ran it at 'Night Under Fire' at Norwalk (Ohio) and made a check-out run with it and then he put it away for these occasions. With live TV pushing us, we had every team member of Don Schumacher Racing over here working on the car. It was unbelievable. Team members you're battling against in the championship are over here helping our guys and it was cool. I'm so happy for Tobler and (assistant crew chief) Dustin (Heim) because to go up there in the final round and beat someone like (Tim) Wilkerson in a final is always tough to do, but to do it with a car that has never been to a finish line, that's NAPA Know How.”
By nabbing the Gainesville win, Capps put himself solidly in the Funny Car championship hunt with his teammates. He sits 83 points behind top-ranked Jack Beckman, 79 behind Hagan, and 26 points behind Tommy Johnson Jr. with four races to go, including the points-and-a-half season finale in Las Vegas. With each of the four DSR drivers having contributed to the team’s 10-race win streak, Capps knows his Dodge teammates will be tough competition, but has nothing but confidence in Tobler and the NAPA team’s abilities to nab the 2020 crown.
"It was a crazy day today. There was a lot going on, probably more than a lot of fans realized. We've always got confidence that we can win a race. That NAPA Know How I brag about that (crew chief) Rahn Tobler has, I mean everybody's got their favorite neighborhood mechanic at a NAPA AutoCare Center and Tobler to me is that guy. He's the guy you can trust and the guy you can count on, and I’m confident we’ll do big things as we head into this final stretch.”

Qualified: No. 4 (4.025 E.T. at 309.27 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.999 E.T. at 325.14 MPH defeated John Smith 4.024 E.T. at 302.21 MPH
E2: 3.968 E.T. at 325.22 MPH defeated Alexis DeJoria 4.014 E.T. at 319.98 MPH
E3: 3.898 E.T. at 329.99 MPH defeated Matt Hagan 4.016 E.T. at 312.64 MPH
E4: 3.937 E.T. at 323.12 MPH defeated Tim Wilkerson 3.945 E.T. at 325.92 MPH 


Driver Information:

Top Fuel:
Driver of the Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 3 (3.831 E.T. at 320.36 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.821 E.T. at 325.06 MPH defeated Cameron Ferre 8.300 E.T. at 74.27 MPH
E2: 4.575 E.T. at 178.05 MPH defeated by Terry McMillen 3.827 E.T. at 310.63 MPH

Race Recap:
Antron Brown qualified the Matco Tools/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota dragster third with a 3.831-second pass at 320.36 mph to open up Sunday with a first-round match-up against Cameron Ferre. Brown, who made his NHRA debut at the 1998 event aboard a Pro Stock Motorcycle, launched his 11,000-horsepower machine hard. He kept it hooked up and straight down the groove for the win, clocking a 3.821 E.T. at 325.06 mph, which held up to be top speed of the meet. In round two, Brown was out of the gate first but started to lose traction. He pedaled it but his opponent, Terry McMillen, made a clean pass for the win.

“We were trying to step in up in the second round and the track just didn’t hold what we were trying to put down. We’re just going to learn from this and go to St. Louis next weekend with our heads down and go in ‘on mean.’ St. Louis has always been a great track for us and we have our sights set on a solid weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway.”

Driver of the Mopar Dodge SRT Hellcat Redeye Top Fuel Dragster

Qualified: No. 8 (3.922 E.T. at 315.64 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.152 E.T. at 300.13 MPH defeated Joe Morrison 4.583 E.T. at 248.66 MPH
E2: 3.788 E.T. at 321.96 MPH defeated Clay Millican 3.788 E.T. at 315.86 MPH
E3: 3.812 E.T. at 310.20 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.772 E.T. at 324.36 MPH

Race Recap:
As one of the top contenders to have a shot at the 2020 Top Fuel world championship, Leah Pruett and her Mopar team were looking to make big points gains on Sunday as they jockey for position with Doug Kalitta and Steve Torrence in what is heating up to be a three-way battle for the Top Fuel crown.

Pruett began race day from the No. 8 position and used her driving skills to pedal to the win over Joe Morrison in E1. In round two, Pruett’s skill behind the wheel once again proved key when both she and Clay Millican clocked identical E.T.s, with Pruett’s reaction time earning her the round win. The semifinals featured a match-up with rival Steve Torrence. Both Pruett and Torrence were fast on the throttle, leaving the line nearly even. Pruett powered the Mopar Dodge SRT Hellcat Redeye to a solid 3.812-second pass, but Torrence narrowly edged past with his 3.772 E.T. for the win.

Pruett entered the weekend ranked second, and while she did fall to third, only a small margin separates her from point leader Torrence (-33) and No. 2 ranked Kalitta (-11). 
“It seems like we all lost about 15 pounds of water weight this weekend and I couldn’t be more proud of this group with the performance of this Dodge SRT car in very challenging conditions. We put out stout runs and we’ve made it to the semis at the majority of the races this year, and we need to keep that momentum going. We wore through the clutch and the motor dropped a few holes in the top end against Steve Torrence in the semis.

“The top three is really getting tight and we are in a Countdown (to the Championship) however you want to look at it. We’re racing for the championship every single round. Our heads are very high. We’re looking forward to St. Louis and those cool conditions, and when you’re excited about something you usually have good results, and for us, that’s a win that we’re strongly in need of.”

Driver of the Okuma/Sandvik Coromant
Toyota Top Fuel Dragster

Qualified: No. 13 (5.391 E.T. at 127.68 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.868 E.T. at 158.04 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.787 E.T. at 319.45 MPH

Race Recap:
Tony Schumacher leads the Top Fuel category in number of wins at historic Gainesville Raceway, and he entered the event hoping to add to his collection of five Gatornationals trophies. The weekend got off to a rough start for Schumacher when he struggled to make a full pull in Q1 and was not able to make the call for Q2. He qualified 13th to set up a round-one match-up with Steve Torrence. In the battle of two Top Fuel titans, Schumacher’s Okuma/Sandvik Coromant machine was aggressive early but was up in smoke by 300-feet, while Torrence made a clean pass for the win in the opposite lane.

“We tend to draw the guy who runs low E.T. and that’s what we’ve done for a long, long time. In reality, we’re a few runs away. (Crew chief) Mike Green and I have a real good understanding of each other, we just need more runs. We lost the Q2 run and that hurt us. Our car is really fast early. We need to make it not exactly like Leah’s (Pruett). We have different cars and there are different tune-ups and sometimes you try to replicate, and it’s not always that easy. Mike will analyze the computer and we’ll go to St. Louis where it looks like it will be in the mid-60s and very, very fast.”

Funny Car:
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 9 (4.123 E.T. at 254.18 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.921 E.T. at 325.92 MPH defeated Paul Lee 4.135 E.T. at 261.67 MPH
E2: 4.134 E.T. at 242.67 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 3.954 E.T. at 325.37 MPH

Race Recap:
For someone who has two wins in four final showdown appearances in 2020, Jack Beckman is a safe bet to pick for a long day of going deep into elimination rounds. He entered the weekend with the point lead, a position which he has maintained throughout five of the first six events of the season, and had his sights set on widening the margin between him and his teammates who have been hot on his heels all season. Beckman and the Infinite Hero Foundation Funny Car team struggled to make a clean pass during qualifying and started race day from the ninth position. In round one, Beckman had the starting line advantage and never trailed for the win over a tire-smoking Paul Lee. The quarterfinals found Beckman facing teammate and fellow championship contender Matt Hagan. Again, ‘Fast Jack’ was out of the gate first and held the lead until just before the big end when his car started to lose traction and Hagan was able to drive around for the win. Beckman remains the point leader heading into the next event in St. Louis.

While Beckman’s race day may have been cut short, his fight to raise funds for the Infinite Hero Foundation’s Task Force 22 campaign is still going strong. From now through the end of the month, Beckman has various items up-for-grabs to help raise money for the mental health and suicide prevention programming for our nation’s veterans. The former U.S. Air Force sergeant has donated a custom helmet as well as a Zoom call, among other prizes. To bid:

“If I had one do-over so far this year, I’d like to race that one (E2) again. We both knew we had to push hard against each other. I think Hagan’s car did something weird in the bell housing and it didn’t run what they were anticipating. Ours was just a handful. We were pushing hard. I’m going to have to be smoother with my steering because when the car is accelerating that hard, it’s on the razor's edge of breaking loose and I don’t think I helped it by trying to keep it in the groove and making a lot of corrections. I think our 3.92 first-round shows people that we’re capable of running as good or better than anyone out here. We’ll head on to St. Louis next week and we have another shot at a trophy. There are four more opportunities and 16 rounds left this year; we just have to be incredibly greedy for the rest of the season. The big throw-down cars are probably ours and Dickie (Venables) and Matt’s (Hagan) cars. But don’t write off NAPA and Rahn (Tobler) and TJ’s (Tommy Johnson) also. They have a lot of poles and obviously, a ton of other cars are really good. (Tim) Wilkerson is back in the thick of things and J.R. Todd raced us in the final at Indy. I’m looking forward to St. Louis. That’s going to be a stout weekend.”

Driver of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye
Qualified: No. 1 (3.975 E.T. at 321.35 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.915 E.T. at 327.90 MPH on a bye
E2: 3.954 E.T. at 325.37 MPH defeated Jack Beckman 4.134 E.T. at 242.67 MPH
E3: 4.016 E.T. at 312.64 MPH defeated by Ron Capps 3.898 E.T. at 329.99 MPH

Race Recap:
Matt Hagan, a two-time winner and three-time No. 1 qualifier in 2020, arrived in Gainesville, Fla. occupying the No. 2 spot on the Funny Car leaderboard, and was laser-focused on achieving his first Gatornationals victory. Behind the wheel of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye, Hagan clocked the only sub-four second run of qualifying to earn the No. 1 spot which came with an added bonus of a first-round bye. He may not have had anyone lined up opposite him in the first round of eliminations, but that didn’t stop the Dickie Venables-led team from turning up the wick and making a ‘throw down’ lap. Hagan powered the Dodge Redeye to low E.T. and top speed of the round to ensure lane choice over teammate and point leader, Jack Beckman, in the quarterfinals. Hagan had no trouble trailering his teammate, running a 3.954 E.T. over Beckman who encountered traction issues.   
In the semifinals, Hagan squared off with another heavy-hitter, his teammate Ron Capps. Hagan was machine-like on the throttle, ripping off a .020 reaction time, but his 4.016-second pass couldn’t outrun Capps’ event-best 3.898 E.T. Hagan remains second in the point standings, sitting only four points behind Beckman.

“We have a great race car. Dickie Venables is doing a great job and has been all year. He put us on the pole this weekend. (Assistant crew chief) Mike Knudsen is doing a great job in the clutch department and overseeing things. (Car chief) Alex Conaway has been doing so well with the guys as a team leader. We have a real shot at winning the championship. This Dodge SRT Hellcat Funny Car is running really strong and we need to keep that momentum going. You’re going to have races that you go out early and others that you win, and if we can keep pace with the semifinals or better, you can win. We made up a lot of ground on (Jack) Beckman today and I’m really excited about that and we have four more races to go. I don’t know what’s ahead, but I’m excited to be here and run fast and I’m going to drive my ass off for these guys and have some fun doing it. The weatherman, the only thing he knows is that there’s increasing darkness by nightfall. I’ve never won St. Louis or here in Gainesville. We didn’t get the win at the Gators today so I’d like to check off St. Louis next weekend and bring that trophy home.”

Driver of the MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 10 (4.129 E.T. at 249.44 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.962 E.T. at 320.66 MPH defeated J.R. Todd 4.006 E.T. at 321.58 MPH
E2: 3.957 E.T. at 318.84 MPH defeated by Tim Wilkerson 3.949 E.T. at 325.22 MPH

Race Recap:
Sunday at the Gatornationals marked the late Terry Chandler’s birthday, and Tommy Johnson Jr. was hoping to deliver his second win of the season for the Chandler family on this special day. Johnson’s campaign for a first Gainesville trophy got off to a strong start when he defeated J.R. Todd in the opening session of eliminations. Johnson used a stout reaction time coupled with a solid 3.962-second pass to get the upset win over his higher qualified opponent. In the quarterfinals, Johnson lined up opposite Tim Wilkerson. The veteran drivers were nearly even leaving the starting line, and both made solid, clean passes. Johnson piloted the MD Anderson Dodge to a 3.957 E.T. but it wasn’t quite enough to outrun Wilkerson’s 3.949.
Johnson, who has one win, a runner-up, and three No. 1 qualifiers in the first six races of the season, arrived in Gainesville, Fla. ranked third in the championship standings. He maintains his position heading to St. Louis later this week.

“We probably would have won most races that round (E2), we just ran the wrong guy in (Tim) Wilkerson. That’s a good car and it was a close race and we came up a little bit short. It will be a whole different race next weekend with the weather conditions. This MD Anderson car is on track. We struggled in qualifying and (crew chiefs) John (Collins) and Rip (Reynolds) got things back on track during eliminations today and we’ll see if we can’t continue that next weekend at St. Louis and gain some momentum in the points.”

Factory Stock Showdown Series:
Driver of the Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 10 (8.105 E.T. at 171.99 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 8.091 E.T. at 169.83 MPH defeated David Kramer 8.192 E.T. at 168.05 MPH
E2: 8.065 E.T. at 170.58 defeated by Stephen Bell 7.987 E.T. at 171.18 MPH

Race Recap:
Fresh off a runner-up appearance from the U.S. Nationals, Mark Pawuk was looking to Gainesville Raceway to be the scene of his first breakthrough Factory Stock Showdown victory. Pawuk qualified his Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak tenth to set up a first-round meeting with David Kramer. Pawuk navigated his machine to a 8.091 at 169.83-mph to defeat Kramer’s 8.192. In round two, Pawuk used a sizeable reaction time advantage to take the initial jump over Stephen Bell, but his opponent quickly caught up and was able to outrun Pawuk to the finish line.

“Not a bad weekend for our Empaco Equipment/Ohio CAT/Mr. Heater Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Challenger Drag Pak. After qualifying in the bottom half of the field, we got by first round and almost second round. Unfortunately it looked to be, especially in the hotter weather, like we are still out-powered by some of our competitors. So, we’re going to work hard to continue our round wins in St. Louis. Maybe a little cool weather will make us a little more competitive.”

Driver of the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 12 (8.160 E.T. at 169.25 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 8.128 E.T. at 167.28 MPH defeated by Arthur Kohn 8.027 E.T. at 170.82 MPH

Race Recap:
Leah Pruett and the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak team battled hot and humid conditions in Gainesville, Fla., running an 8.160 during Q2 to start race day from the No. 12 position. Pruett drew Arthur Kohn as her round-one opponent. Kohn took the initial lead and never trailed for the win over Pruett.

“(Arthur) Kohn had a phenomenal package that would have been hard to beat. We have a very awesome Mopar in the stable and we’re excited for St. Louis next weekend where we can put that power to the ground. We’re behind Mark’s (Pawuk) car and about a tenth (of-a-second) off. We’ll get that fixed and be back in the hunt. It’s going to be quite a seasonal change overnight going back to the Midwest and we’re looking forward to that with El Bandito. A full 180 with the program and I know we’re close to hitting it right.”

NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:

Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence - 548
2. Doug Kalitta - 526
3. Leah Pruett - 515
4. Billy Torrence - 433
5. Justin Ashley - 402
6. Shawn Langdon - 383
7. Terry McMillen - 377
8. Antron Brown - 373
9. Clay Millican - 337
10. Doug Foley - 216

Funny Car
1. Jack Beckman - 569
2. Matt Hagan - 565
3. Tommy Johnson Jr. - 512
4. Ron Capps - 486

5. Tim Wilkerson - 448
6. Bob Tasca III - 434
7. J.R. Todd - 420
8. Alexis DeJoria - 296
9. Cruz Pedregon - 266
10. Paul Lee - 258

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