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DSR Houston Post-Race Report

MOPAR Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals Presented by Pennzoil
Event 5 of 24 (Houston)
Houston Raceway Park
Baytown, Texas
April 12-14, 2019

DSR Houston Elimination Highlights:

  • Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Matt Hagan (Funny Car) raced to runner-up finishes on Sunday afternoon
  • Brown’s final round appearance was his first of 2019 and allowed him to advance three spots in the Top Fuel rankings
  • Hagan advanced to second in the Funny Car point standings by racing to his second final of the year
  • Ron Capps drove to his first semifinal appearance of the season 
  • Before eliminations got underway, Jack Beckman joined Chandler family representative Judy Pittman on-stage during NHRA’s pre-race ceremony where the duo presented a $100,000 donation check to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center on behalf of Doug Chandler and his TLC Foundation in honor of the late Terry Chandler 


Driver Information:

Top Fuel:
ANTRON BROWN
Driver of the Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
 
Qualified: No. 11 (3.753 E.T. at 326.56 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.735 E.T. at 325.69 MPH defeated Mike Salinas 3.727 E.T. at 321.96 MPH
E2: 3.750 E.T. at 320.89 MPH defeated Leah Pritchett, Foul (Red Light)
E3: 3.746 E.T. at 320.28 MPH defeated Steve Torrence 3.744 E.T. at 315.71 MPH
E4: 3.995 E.T. at 233.48 MPH defeated by Brittany Force 3.749 E.T. at 302.14 MPH

Race Recap:
Event runner-up Antron Brown raced to the Top Fuel winner’s circle for the first time in his career during the 2008 Baytown meet and was looking to pick up his third Houston Raceway Park Wally trophy on Sunday afternoon as he advanced to his first final of the 2019 season.
 
After qualifying sixth for Sunday’s elimination rounds, Antron Brown mustered a 3.735 E.T. in his Matco Tools Toyota to nab the holeshot win over Mike Salinas, the most recent Top Fuel winner on tour. Brown’s Brad Mason/Mark Oswald-guided machine made another solid lap in the quarterfinals, posting a 3.750 to defeat teammate Leah Pritchett who stood on the gas early and recorded a red light start.
 
In the semifinals, Brown took down the reigning world champ as he once again used his strong leaving capabilities to help him cross the finish line before Steve Torrence, earning his second holeshot victory of the day.
 
Brown and his final round opponent, Brittany Force, were nearly even leaving the starting line, but Force took the early lead and never trailed for the win. By setting off three win lights, Brown was able to advance three spots from tenth to seventh in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship Top Fuel rankings.

Quotable:
“It was a good day for the Matco Tools/Toyota/Pennzoil team today. We’ve been going through a lot of adversity and we’ve just been fighting through it as a unit together. Today, people saw what we are capable of. It feels good just to get back to what’s been the norm. We still have a-ways to go, but we’re just going to keep on working and keep our heads down and everything’s going to be just fine. 
 
“We can take this run today and build a little momentum and go to Charlotte and start where we left off here. We just need to keep getting better. That’s the name of the game. It’s still early in the season and we want to keep making the car better and I need to keep driving better. I’m proud of my boys. They were up late Saturday night where they rebuilt the whole clutch system. Now the car is doing the things we want it to do. We’re on the road to recovery and we’re going to keep pressing. Now we need to get back to qualifying in the top five. With as tight and tough as the class is, if you can do that you’re going to have good days.”


LEAH PRITCHETT
Driver of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster
 
Qualified: No. 3 (3.709 E.T. at 326.79 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.736 E.T. at 322.73 MPH defeated Shawn Reed 3.755 E.T. at 326.16 MPH
E2: Foul (Red Light) defeated by Antron Brown 3.750 E.T. at 320.89 MPH

Race Recap:
The 2017 Houston Raceway Park Top Fuel event champion qualified her Pennzoil-powered machine third to start race day. Leah Pritchett had raced opposite her first-round competitor Shawn Reed four times prior, coming out victorious each time. Against Reed, Pritchett grabbed the lead at 330 feet and never trailed for the win, extending her record to 5-0 against the part-time racer. In the quarterfinals, Pritchett faced Antron Brown but an early throttle stomp activated the red light and allowed her teammate the automatic round win.

Quotable:
“We came in with a stout hot rod. Got that first-round win and matched up with our teammate Antron Brown. I consider him to be one of the best leavers in the industry and I got a little bit too ‘up’ apparently. I take 100-percent credit for the lack of being able to put a win light on in the second round. I wanted it really bad. This was a super important race to all of us and I just can’t thank Pennzoil enough for backing us. When the failure falls solely on you, you have two ways to handle it – one is to let it eat at you or the other is to know where and how to improve and just think positively about the next one. We have a second go-round in the Pennzoil chrome car coming up at our next race in Charlotte and I can’t wait for that to be my redemption.”


Funny Car:
 
JACK BECKMAN
Driver of the MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
 
Qualified: No. 8 (3.932 E.T. at 311.34 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 5.321 E.T. at 137.23 MPH defeated by Bob Tasca III 3.949 E.T. at 316.60 MPH

Race Recap:
MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car pilot Jack Beckman began race day seeking his first triumph at Houston Raceway Park. Against round one opponent Bob Tasca III, the driver of the ‘Best Appearing Car of the event’ experienced problems early into the run before slowing to a 5.321-second E.T. versus Tasca’s 3.949-second winning pass.
 
Despite the team’s early exit, they were still able to count the weekend as a win thanks to Doug Chandler, husband of the late Terry Chandler, who elected to banner MD Anderson Cancer Center on the side of Beckman’s Hellcat in honor of his wife. Before Sunday’s elimination rounds got underway, Beckman joined Chandler family representative Judy Pittman on-stage during NHRA’s pre-race ceremony where the duo presented a $100,000 donation check to Bobby Dean, Executive Director of Philanthropic Resources for MD Anderson, on behalf of Doug Chandler and his TLC Foundation.

Quotable:
“This (first round loss) is a little bit of a gut check. It hurts for a couple of reasons. One is for MD Anderson, that’s a one-race-only deal and despite the fact that we didn’t achieve what we wanted to on the track, we did some real positive things for cancer research and I’m proud of that. But once the helmet goes on, your goal is to win the race and we’ve got a great car right now. We don’t know what happened. We had a breakage in the bottom end there and we’re going to have to find out what caused it. When you’re running well, you have to strike while the iron’s hot. To lose when we know we have this good of a race car, it’s tough. That being said, that’s why we get 24 shots at this a year. We’ll regroup, we’ll figure out what went wrong, see if we can prevent that from happening again and we’ll go back to four-wide and take that trophy.”

 
RON CAPPS
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
 
Qualified: No. 2 (3.893 E.T. at 319.29 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.950 E.T. at 318.54 MPH defeated Jeff Diehl 12.698 E.T. at 69.80 MPH
E2: 3.938 E.T. at 315.78 MPH defeated Shawn Langdon 3.983 E.T. at 318.17 MPH
E3: 7.818 E.T. at 98.67 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 4.613 E.T. at 255.79 MPH

Race Recap:
Ron Capps powered the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to a stout run of 3.893 seconds on Saturday to qualify second for the MOPAR Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals Presented by Pennzoil. The run held up to be the quickest of the session, and Capps was one of only two drivers to dip into the 3.8-second range during qualifying.
 
Capps drew Jeff Diehl as his first-round opponent and had no trouble defeating the part-time racer with his 3.950 E.T. versus Diehl’s tire-smoking effort. In the quarterfinals, Capps once again had the better car as he navigated the NAPA Dodge to a 3.938-second lap to claim the win over Shawn Langdon’s 3.983 E.T. The round two victory set up a teammate versus teammate semifinal battle with the 2016 NHRA Funny Car world champion squaring off against Matt Hagan. Capps and Hagan had nearly identical reaction times, but Capps’ machine gave way to tire smoke at the hit of the throttle. Hagan lost traction at the 300-foot mark and Capps attempted to catch up to his stablemate, but Hagan was already too far downtrack and was able to post the win.

Sunday’s semifinal appearance was Capps’ first of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, and his strong qualifying performance coupled with two round wins enabled him to accumulate 81 points over the course of the weekend.

Quotable:
“This was definitely a ‘get-healthy’ weekend for the NAPA guys. To come in and run like we did in qualifying, progressively getting better, and end up No. 2 and then to go out there and get to the semifinals. We are still looking at the data trying to figure out why we smoked the tires at the hit. They did scrape the track in front of us. And obviously, cars in front of us and behind us ran really well. For some reason, our car didn’t. I always brag about (crew chief Rahn) Tobler and his NAPA Know How; I know he’ll have it figured out by tonight.”
 
“After a week off for Easter, we’ll be right back at it going four-wide in Charlotte. We’ve got a racecar. I’ve been telling our fans to hang with us. After a slow start, we’re back in fighting shape. It’s going to be fun now. It was so much fun going up there with the juices flowing and trying to cut my best light knowing I had a good thoroughbred underneath me. The confidence just grows and grows. We’ll build off this semifinal finish and continue to move up in the points. Our goal is to be ‘top three’ by the middle of the summer.”    

 
MATT HAGAN
Driver of the Pennzoil Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
 
Qualified: No. 6 (3.916 E.T. at 318.47 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.946 E.T. at 318.62 MPH defeated Tommy Johnson Jr. 4.807 E.T. at 166.87 MPH
E2: 3.948 E.T. at 312.93 MPH defeated Blake Alexander 4.011 E.T. at 306.40 MPH
E3: 4.613 E.T. at 255.79 MPH defeated Ron Capps 7.818 E.T. at 98.67 MPH
E4: 3.966 E.T. at 311.70 MPH defeated by Robert Hight 3.941 E.T. at 310.84 MPH

Race Recap:
Two-time Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan had visualized what the perfect outcome for this weekend’s MOPAR Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals at Houston Raceway Park Powered by Pennzoil would be. It was parking the Pennzoil Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car in the winner’s circle for the second time in 2019.  

Up first on Sunday for Hagan and his Dickie Venables-led team was a matchup with fellow Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driver Tommy Johnson Jr. Hagan’s lap of 3.946 seconds knocked out Johnson and advanced the 2010 SpringNationals winner into the second round. Hagan dismissed Blake Alexander with another consistent run of 3.948 to setup a semifinal showdown with another DSR teammate, Ron Capps. Hagan legged his way to a victory over Capps after losing traction near halftrack, ultimately crossing the finish line with a run of 4.613 to reach his 56th career final and first in Houston since 2010 when he won his first career Funny Car Wally.

In the final, Hagan lost the starting line advantage to Robert Hight, a .076 reaction time to a .056, and was never able to catch up. His run of 3.966 trailed Hight’s winning pass of 3.941. The run to the final moved Hagan from fifth to second in the championship standings through five of 24 events. 

Quotable:
“I had a great weekend here in Houston. I’ve got a great race car. Dickie Venables is doing an amazing job with this car. The result today falls on me. I was putting down some numbers that were unacceptable and I didn’t leave the way I needed to. We ran just as good as they did, maybe a little better. I put that weight on me. I should have been better (on the starting line). I should have been in the 40s (reaction time) and we would have won this race today. Sometimes you need things like this to make you dig deeper. I felt really good about my lights all weekend. In qualifying, I was where I needed to be and today the first three rounds I was there. In the final, I had a really long tree. I went inside my head and almost double-stepped the car, but I pulled it back. As soon as I’m pulling back the light is dropping. You just know to yourself that you are dead late. I would have loved to have won it for Pennzoil this weekend. Driving the chrome Pennzoil car right here in Houston with so many Pennzoil and MOPAR people out here to root us on was amazing. I couldn’t be happier with the car and team I have surrounding me. We’re ready to keep things going in Charlotte.”

 
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
 
Qualified: No. 11 (3.959 E.T. at 312.13 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.807 E.T. at 166.87 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 3.946 E.T. at 318.62 MPH

Race Recap:
Following a runner-up finish in Las Vegas last Sunday, Tommy Johnson Jr. felt like his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car was on the verge of breaking through this weekend in Houston. After a pair of “misses” in Friday’s opening qualifying rounds, the team dialed-in their MOPAR-powered Hellcat and made a pair of consistent runs despite changing weather conditions. The Iowa driver ended up 11th on Sunday’s elimination ladder and faced teammate Matt Hagan in the first round. Johnson had a slight starting line advantage, but lost traction shortly thereafter allowing Hagan to drive away for the victory. Johnson’s run of 4.807 seconds resulted in his first first-round loss of 2019.

Quotable:
“We were just off a little bit this weekend. We never could quite find our mojo with our tune-up. It wasn’t a horrible weekend, but we are better than that. We’ll rebound and come back at Charlotte and try to regroup. Throughout the season there are going to be weekends where you just don’t do as good as you should. Hopefully this is ours and it’s out of the way.”

NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:

Top Fuel
1. Doug Kalitta - 367
2. Brittany Force - 349
3. Steve Torrence - 343
4. Mike Salinas - 320
5. Leah Pritchett - 303
6. Clay Millican - 302
7. Antron Brown - 278
8. Billy Torrence - 265
9. Richie Crampton - 264
10. Terry McMillen - 231

Funny Car
1. Robert Hight - 476
2. Matt Hagan - 366
3. J.R. Todd - 341
4. John Force - 339
5. Jack Beckman - 332
6. Tommy Johnson Jr. - 315
7t. Ron Capps - 286
7t. Tim Wilkerson - 286
9. Bob Tasca III - 250
10. Shawn Langdon - 223 
Before Sunday’s elimination rounds got underway, Jack Beckman joined Chandler family representative Judy Pittman on-stage during NHRA’s pre-race ceremony where the duo presented a $100,000 donation check to Bobby Dean, Executive Director of Philanthropic Resources for MD Anderson Cancer Center, on behalf of Doug Chandler and his TLC Foundation in honor of the late Terry Chandler.

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