DSR Houston Post-Race Recap

Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals
Presented by Pennzoil

Event No. 5 of 21
Houston Raceway Park
Baytown, Texas
May 21-24, 2021
After nearly completing the first round of Top Fuel eliminations on Sunday, persistent rain showers forced the NHRA to postpone the balance of the event to Monday, May 24.

DSR Elimination Highlights:

  • Ron Capps rocketed to a runner-up finish during his 127th career final round on Monday afternoon at the rain-delayed Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals Presented by Pennzoil
  • Capps’ solid performance at Houston Raceway Park propelled him up to fourth (tied) in the Funny Car point standings, and within two rounds of the No. 3-ranked driver
  • In Top Fuel, Antron Brown maintained his No. 2 ranking by advancing to the quarterfinals
  • Double-duty driver Leah Pruett showed significant progress in her Factory Stock Showdown Dodge Drag Pak entry, and reigning Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan also advanced to the quarterfinals on Monday afternoon

Driver Information:

Top Fuel:
Driver of Matco's 'Tools for the Cause' Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
Matco's Tools for the Cause to benefit the Fisher House Foundation

Qualified: No. 3 (3.749 E.T. at 325.22 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.142 E.T. at 207.98 MPH defeated Lee Callaway 10.054 E.T. at 90.28 MPH
E2: 5.889 E.T. at 116.72 MPH defeated by Doug Kalitta 3.778 E.T. at 291.57 MPH

Race Recap:
Aboard Matco’s ‘Tools for the Cause’/Toyota Top Fuel dragster, Antron Brown powered to the third-quickest pass during the sole qualifying session at the NHRA SpringNationals Presented by Pennzoil to earn a bonus point and draw Lee Callaway in the first round of eliminations on Sunday morning. Brown had the starting line advantage and while dropped cylinders caused him to slow at the top end, he easily defeated Callaway who was up in smoke right at the step of the throttle. The quarterfinals, which were delayed until Monday, featured a heavy-hitter match-up with Brown squaring off against Doug Kalitta for the 62nd time in their career. The veterans were nearly even on the tree, but Brown’s machine lost traction before the 300-foot mark while Kalitta made a clean pass for the win. His solid qualifying performance coupled with a quarterfinal finish allowed Brown to depart Houston Raceway Park maintaining his No. 2 ranking in the point standings.

“Houston started out well with a good qualifying pass. We made it to E2 but that’s definitely not the round we wanted to go out in. The thing is, we’re learning. We were pressing. The car picked up and it’s going in the right direction. We got out of here with this crazy weather this weekend, and we made some gains and we learned. Our Matco Tools/Toyota team is really ready for Epping. We’re ready to race. It’s too bad we have a couple of weeks in between, but we’re about to go on a tear with a lot of back-to-back races this summer in July and August, and that’s the time we have to get after it. We need to get after the Torrence team. We need to start making some ground before the Countdown and that’s our goal at these upcoming races.”

Driver of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster

Qualified: No. 2 (3.733 E.T. at 312.86 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 12.703 E.T. at 60.13 MPH defeated by Justin Ashley 3.770 E.T. at 317.79 MPH

Race Recap:
Leah Pruett will be the first to admit, her 2021 Top Fuel campaign has not gotten off to the solid start she had hoped for. After enjoying a 19-race streak of advancing to the quarterfinals or beyond, Pruett found herself in unfamiliar territory heading to Houston after having suffered an early first-round exit at the previous two events. She was hoping to change her luck at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals Presented by Pennzoil as she sought a repeat of her winning 2017 Houston performance. Pruett began by driving the Pennzoil dragster to the No. 2 position with a 3.722-second pass during the weekend’s only qualifying round. The run held up to be the second-best of the session and pitted her against No. 13 qualifier Justin Ashley in the first round of eliminations. Against Ashley, Pruett was flawless on the starting line, clocking an ultra-quick .020-second reaction time, but her holeshot advantage was short-lived. As soon as Pruett hit the gas, a mechanical malfunction stopped her machine right in its tracks, and she was forced to watch her opponent drive away with the round win.

“Frustration is the word of the day. Unfortunately for us, we were not able to advance out of the first round. Our issues were not caused by tune-up error, nor a driver error. We had a line and fitting that no longer wanted to be married to each other and they disconnected themselves, draining our CO2 bottle after the burnout. So, unfortunately, we did not have the proper pressure to set the clutch where it needed to be and when I hit the gas to leave, we had extra arms in play in the clutch that applied way more power than we had wanted. This is the ultimate proving grounds but I don’t think anybody would be able to make it down the track when you apply all 12,000-horsepower at the same time at the hit. Silver lining in this for us is we still have so much confidence in this team – the driver, the crew chief, the car when it’s not having a bad day. We’re hoping to minimize these terrible days. Thankfully we are still early in the season. Are we impressed with where we sit in the standings? No, but we look forward to getting back after it in Epping. Our heads are not down low; we’re holding them high.”

Funny Car:
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 3 (3.941 E.T. at 315.42 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.894 E.T. at 327.51 MPH defeated Paul Lee 3.956 E.T. at 322.88 MPH
E2: 3.929 E.T. at 325.30 MPH defeated Matt Hagan 3.964 E.T. at 317.87 MPH
E3: 3.915 E.T. at 326.24 MPH defeated Tim Wilkerson 3.999 E.T. at 322.04 MPH
E4: 4.684 E.T. at 179.25 MPH defeated by Robert Hight 3.916 E.T. at 327.19 MPH

Race Recap:
Ron Capps rocketed to a runner-up finish during his 127th career final round on Monday afternoon at the rain-delayed Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals Presented by Pennzoil.
Capps’ march to the final began by keeping his 2021 streak of top-five qualifying positions alive with a 3.941-second pass aboard the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to move into the No. 3 spot on the ladder. Rain washed out all four rounds of Funny Car eliminations on Sunday, setting up a Monday morning showdown between Capps and No. 14 qualifier Paul Lee in round one. The four-time Houston Raceway Park event champion powered the NAPA Dodge to a blistering 3.894-second pass which not only rewarded Capps with the round win, but held up to be low E.T. of the entire event.
In round two, it was a battle of the DSR Dodges as Capps lined up opposite teammate Matt Hagan to see who would represent drag racing’s winningest organization in the semifinals. Capps scored a slight starting line advantage and never trailed for the win, clocking a 3.929 versus his stablemate’s 3.964-second effort. For the third time in a row, Capps had lane choice, and once again his Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli and John Medlen-led team chose the left lane where they tuned Capps to another stellar pass of 3.915 seconds to defeat Tim Wilkerson’s 3.999 E.T. in the semis. The NAPA team then faced Robert Hight in the final, and for the first time all day, found themselves without the advantage of lane choice. Knowing Hight was capable of putting big numbers up on the scoreboard, the NAPA team knew they had to push it but unfortunately, Capps’ car overpowered the track before the 330-foot timing block, and Hight made a clean pass for the win.
Monday’s outing marked the NAPA team’s first final round of the season and moved Capps up from fifth to fourth place (tied with Hight) in the Funny Car rankings. Capps sits within a two-round striking distance of taking over the No. 3 spot.

“I feel so bad for the Angel family and everyone who put the effort into putting this race on in the backyard of Pennzoil. We really wanted to show off and it was close. The car is much better than the results we’ve shown and it’s just been weird stuff. I knew the momentum was coming. We have a great race car and we’re going to have a lot of long days, and it’s just really fun right now with the NAPA team. We lost lane choice in the finals but not by much. We had been in the left lane all day. Guido (Dean Antonelli) liked that left lane and we felt comfortable over there. It’s a little bumpier in the right lane and we weren’t sure we could push it. We knew Robert Hight’s team would go up there and go 3.90 or .91, which is what they ended up running. Overall, a great weekend for the NAPA AutoCare crew. My team put a great car together for Guido and John Medlen. We had a great time with our NAPA guests and we’re looking forward to the many races coming on.”

Driver of the Pennzoil Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye
Qualified: No. 6 (3.961 E.T. at 324.12 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.946 E.T. at 312.78 MPH defeated Chad Green 3.969 E.T. at 320.38 MPH
E2: 3.964 E.T. at 317.87 MPH defeated by Ron Capps 3.929 E.T. at 325.30 MPH

Race Recap:
Despite launching to the third-quickest pass of Q1, reigning Funny Car world champ Matt Hagan started Monday’s elimination rounds from the No. 6 seed after rain washed out his opportunity to make a second qualifying pass. Hagan was first out of the gate against E1 opponent Chad Green and took his Pennzoil Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye on a winning 3.946-second ride to set up a meeting with teammate Ron Capps in E2. Against Capps, crew chief Dickie Venables tuned Hagan to a solid 3.964 E.T., but Capps started to pull away early into the run, ending Venables’ shot at finishing race day in the winner’s circle with Hagan and the team at his hometown track.

“It was a wild weekend here at Houston. I’ve been here since Wednesday and we only got three runs in. I’m glad we were able to get the race in here at the Pennzoil Proving Grounds, but we’d have liked to gone more rounds for our friends at Pennzoil at their home track. It was a challenging weekend for us and all the teams. We’re on the right track to turn on more win lights. These Funny Cars are a handful to run. We had a boomer in E1 and then it was a mad dash and a quick turnaround for E2. I  was really happy with the guys and how they put everything together safely and properly, and we made the turnaround in 35-40 minutes. The guys are meshing really well and we’re going to do big things in the future.”

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

Top Fuel

1 Steve Torrence   529
2 Antron Brown   389
3 Shawn Langdon   321
4 Brittany Force   308
5 Doug Kalitta   289
6 Josh Hart   278
7 Billy Torrence   267
8 Justin Ashley   245
9 Clay Millican   238
10 Leah Pruett   215

Funny Car
1 Bob Tasca III   438
2 J.R. Todd   396
3 John Force   361
4 Ron Capps   331
4 Robert Hight   331
6 Matt Hagan   314
7 Tim Wilkerson   291
8 Alexis DeJoria   288
9 Cruz Pedregon   271
10 Blake Alexander   182

Factory Stock Showdown Series:
Driver of the Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 13 (8.050 E.T. at 172.21 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 8.708 E.T. at 157.80 MPH defeated by David Barton 7.896 E.T. at 175.96 MPH

Race Recap:
Mark Pawuk was looking for that same Houston Raceway Park magic he had experienced back in the 1990s when he won his first Pro Stock race and set a track record at the Baytown, Texas facility, but Mother Nature had other plans. Due to persistent rain showers, Pawuk and his Factory Stock competitors only had one crack at the Houston dragstrip before pulling into the staging beams on Monday morning. Pawuk’s one qualifying attempt placed him in the 13th seed and pitted him against David Barton to start race day. Pawuk appeared to have left the starting line cleanly but his machine slowed shortly after, allowing his opponent to drive away with the win.

“After three pretty long days of bad weather and rain, unfortunately, the Empaco Equipment Dodge Drag Pak for DSR didn’t perform very well first round. We’ve got some sort of gremlin in the car but we’ll find out what it is. We’re looking forward to getting to Norwalk, my home track, possibly with our new 2021 Dodge Drag Pak, where we’re focused on more consistency, and getting to the winner’s circle soon.”

Driver of the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 10 (7.959 E.T. at 174.73 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 7.893 E.T. at 174.96 MPH defeated Arthur Kohn 7.950 E.T. at 172.81 MPH
E2: 8.042 E.T. at 163.77 MPH defeated by David Janac 7.863 E.T. at 171.62 MPH

Race Recap:
For the second time in 2021, Leah Pruett pulled double duty, swapping seats between her Mopar Dodge Drag Pak and her HEMI-powered Pennzoil Top Fuel dragster. The 2018 Factory Stock Showdown Series champ successfully qualified both entries and was seeking her first win of the season in both classes at Houston Raceway Park. After a frustrating round-one exit on Sunday in Top Fuel, Pruett rolled into Monday’s elimination rounds determined to make it a long day in her Factory car. She ripped off a stellar .029 reaction time in E1 and never trailed for the win over opponent Arthur Kohn. Pruett then lined up next to David Janac in the quarterfinals, and once again, she made sure she had a sizeable starting line advantage, but by halftrack, Janac had caught up and was able to power to victory as Pruett’s car slowed to an 8.042 E.T.

“Overall, I have to say the end result of this Factory Stock Showdown weekend here at Houston, given our limited amount of track time, is extremely impressive. We made a lot of changes to this Drag Pak since Gainesville and we were unable to test on the track before Houston, so for us to have only one qualifying session with a soft tune-up and get in the show and win a round, shows we’re heading in the right direction. We picked at it a bit more for E1 and ran a real solid 7.89. We were on track to win in round two but we had a mechanical issue. I felt it, and stuck with it for as long as I could but decided to save on parts and ensure we can make a giant leap in Norwalk. Kevin (Helms) and Terry (Snyder) are doing a great job. We’re on the right path and we’ll keep accelerating it.”

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