DSR Indianapolis Post-Race Recap

Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals
Event No. 13 of 20
Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis
September 3-5, 2021

DSR Elimination Highlights:

  • Funny Car pilot Ron Capps advanced to a runner-up finish and clinched the No. 1 seed to start the NHRA Countdown to the Championship
  • Top Fuel ace Antron Brown finished the ‘regular season’ ranked third to start his playoff run
  • Leah Pruett advanced to round two in both the Top Fuel and Factory Stock Showdown Series categories. She will start the Countdown in the fourth seed, and occupies the No. 5 spot on the FSS leaderboard
  • Matt Hagan currently occupies the No. 6 position in the Funny Car standings

Capps Clinches No. 1 Seed to Start NHRA Countdown to the Championship Playoffs

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (September 5, 2021) – Aboard the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car, Ron Capps raced to a runner-up finish at the Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals, and successfully clinched the ‘regular season’ championship to start the Countdown to the Championship playoffs from the No. 1 position.
Capps began his march to the finals by qualifying his 11,000-horsepower Funny Car in the top half of the field on Friday night. He then went on to clock three 3.9-second passes to defeat Justin Schriefer, Robert Hight, and Alexis DeJoria during Sunday’s elimination rounds, setting up a showdown with fellow Funny Car veteran Tim Wilkerson in the finals.
While Capps won an event at Indy in 2020, the 27-year Funny Car veteran and second-winningest driver in the class has never won the coveted Wally trophy at the ‘Big Go,’ and was looking to achieve that bucket-list item this weekend. Against Wilkerson in the finals, Capps moved first to nab the starting line advantage and recorded another solid sub-four second pass, but his opponent pulled ahead and into the lead by the time they went by the Christmas tree and never trailed for the win.
While Capps may not have ended Sunday in the winner’s circle, being able to advance from fifth in the standings all the way up to the No. 1 spot, reclaiming the point lead from teammate Matt Hagan who was sidelined from the weekend’s event due to COVID-19, helped to soften the blow of coming up short in the final round.
“First and foremost, our thoughts are with Matt Hagan and his health is on everyone’s mind here,” said Capps, who started his race weekend trialing Hagan by 25 points. “That’s a great race car with (crew chief) Dickie Venables and Hagan, and you expect to go through that Dodge to win a race and a championship. It was weird not having them in the show today. We have these small goals we set and one of those was to be the regular-season points leader. Coming in here, there were a lot of drivers with the chance to grab that top spot. It was pretty bunched up and exciting for the fans. Things fell our way today. We had some tough matchups with Robert Hight second round, Alexis DeJoria in the semifinals, and Tim Wilkerson in the final round. Honestly, if there’s someone we have to lose to, we don’t mind that it’s Tim. He has a NAPA AutoCare Center at home and he’s part of the NAPA family. We both went up, and talked before the run and we were going to throw down. He outran us. It stings, but hats off to them. They threw down that .91 in a lane nobody thought could run that time. You’ve got to give them credit.”
The 2021 Countdown to the Championship format is unique in that it features seven playoff events instead of six, and starts immediately following the Indianapolis event with race No. 1, the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil, kicking off next weekend at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Penn.
“Going to Maple Grove in just a few days to start the Countdown and having a race car as good as our NAPA car is right now with the consistency and performance is exciting,” said Capps who previously started his playoff run from first in 2016 and 2017, and parlayed his 2016 start all the way to a Camping World Series championship. “We didn’t beat ourselves today. That 3.90 in the semifinals was very impressive. I’m really pumped to get to Maple Grove to start the playoffs. We won the championship in 2016 without winning a race in the Countdown, but we were, by far, the most consistent car. We put the pressure on people and that’s what you have to do. We have a great team with (crew chiefs) John Medlen and Guido (Dean Antonelli). They’re firing on all cylinders and it’s really great to drive this NAPA race car.”

Qualified: No. 6 (3.907 E.T. at 326.08 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.903 E.T. at 325.77 MPH defeated Justin Schriefer 6.496 E.T. at 102.64 MPH 
E2: 3.952 E.T. at 326.79 MPH defeated Robert Hight 12.145 E.T. at 75.88 MPH
E3: 3.909 E.T. at 327.74 MPH defeated Alexis DeJoria 3.992 E.T. at 323.04 MPH
E4: 3.946 E.T. at 326.63 MPH defeated by Tim Wilkerson 3.912 E.T. at 320.36 MPH


Defending Camping World Series Funny Car champion Matt Hagan recently tested positive for COVID-19 and withdrew from this year’s Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals. In his place, DSR called upon Tommy Johnson Jr. to take on the driving responsibilities for Hagan’s Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye Funny Car.
Efforts to qualify and add to Hagan’s point total were short-lived when a mechanical issue was discovered after Johnson’s Q1 burnout, forcing the team to abort the run. When Saturday’s qualifying sessions were washed out by persistent rainfall, Johnson was left with no qualifying time and without a spot on the eliminations ladder, a situation that also unfortunately meant that no points would be awarded to Hagan.

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

Qualified: No. 15 (4.305 E.T. at 192.14 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 8.442 E.T. at 72.76 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.716 E.T. .at 325.37 MPH

Race Recap:
After persistent rain showers wiped out Saturday’s two qualifying sessions and the Sunday elimination field was set based on Friday night’s sole qualifying session, three-time Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown found himself seeded in the unfavorable 15th position, and facing point leader and defending series champion Steve Torrence in round one. Brown was prepared to battle from the bottom of the ladder and earned a slight starting line advantage against Torrence, but his hopes of a fourth U.S. Nationals Wally trophy were up in smoke shortly after when his machine lost traction right at the hit and his opponent made a clean pass for the win.
The U.S. Nationals marks the conclusion of NHRA’s regular season. Brown begins the seven-event 2021 Countdown to the Championship ranked third. He will begin his quest for a fourth series title next weekend in Reading, Penn. where he is a two-time Maple Grove Raceway event champion, and five-time finalist.

“This was not the U.S. Nationals we wanted. We got behind from the start with having only one qualifying run, and that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. It’s not what we wanted. We really wanted to build some momentum going into the Countdown to the Championship next weekend at Reading. But, we’re looking forward. We’re locked into third place going into the Countdown. We set ourselves up for a ‘top three’ spot, and that’s a good thing. Now we just need to go out and swing for the fences. We’re ready for Reading. I’m anxious to get out there and get back at it.”

Driver of the Dodge//SRT Top Fuel Dragster

Qualified: No. 5 (3.755 E.T. at 322.88 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.933 E.T. at 253.37 MPH defeated Joe Morrison 4.331 E.T. at 224.36 MPH
E2: 3.897 E.T. at 318.84 MPH defeated by Josh Hart 3.759 E.T. at 325.53 MPH

Race Recap:
Dodge//SRT Top Fuel pilot Leah Pruett was looking to take her 2020 U.S. Nationals runner-up finish one step further on Sunday in Indianapolis. She kicked off her weekend by powering to the fifth-quickest run in Q1 which set her up with a round-one match-up against Joe Morrison. Against Morrison, Pruett took her 11,000-horsepower rail straight down the groove to defeat her opponent who started dropping cylinders early into the run. In the quarterfinals, Pruett knew she was up against tricky track conditions in the right lane and made sure she gave herself every advantage. She ripped off a near-perfect reaction time, clocking a .002 light, but her machine encountered issues and began to slow, and Josh Hart was able to chase her down by halftrack for the win.

Pruett departs Indianapolis locked into the No. 4 spot to start her fourth Countdown to the Championship playoff run.

"The U.S. Nationals is normally the biggest marathon of a race as we usually test right before it, take part in a number of events, and have five qualifying sessions and then race on Monday. It's been quite the opposite this year. This week we had just one qualifier and everybody got a real green track on race day. It was awesome to get through the first round with a very consistent car even with some issues at the top end power-wise.

"It's no secret that the left lane is much more competitive to race on than the right lane, and we knew that going in. I sat in the car for almost fifty-five minutes against Josh Hart, as the Safety Safari did the best job that they could on track prep. This is where my team really comes together. I had a conversation with (crew chief) Neal (Strausbaugh) after forty minutes and after looking at the track, they didn't think we were going to make it off the line, so when they told me to 'do whatever you want to do as a driver,' I got excited. This is your time. This is the Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals. Usually, as a driver you stage really shallow, you try to get the best E.T. that you can, but we wanted to take every advantage that we could. So, I took a pretty good chunk out there, thinking I could distract him. I went 0.002 but just didn't have enough power because we had to back down our HEMI to get down that right lane and it was not enough to get around Josh Hart in that second round.

"Leaving here fourth in points, heading on into Reading for the Mopar Express Lane Nationals, and starting the Countdown from there, we feel good about that. Right now, we have the most capable and consistent car that we've had all year long and it’s responding to what we want it to do. And that's exactly where we want to be going into the Countdown."

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

Top Fuel

1 Steve Torrence   1389
2 Brittany Force   978
3 Antron Brown   839
4 Leah Pruett   712
5 Shawn Langdon   668
6 Mike Salinas   646
7 Justin Ashley   627
8 Billy Torrence   621
9 Clay Millican   594
10 Doug Kalitta   588

Funny Car
1 Ron Capps   981
2 John Force   938
3 Bob Tasca III   937
4 J.R. Todd   931
5 Robert Hight   867
6 Matt Hagan   865
7 Alexis DeJoria   835
8 Cruz Pedregon   825
9 Tim Wilkerson   801
10 Blake Alexander   519

NOTE: Points will be reset after this weekend in preparation for the 2021 Countdown to the Championship, which begins next weekend at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil in Reading, Penn. 

Factory Stock Showdown Series:
Driver of the D H Davies Racing Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 13 ( 7.969 E.T. at 176.79 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 7.959 E.T. at 175.89 MPH defeated by Leah Pruett 7.953 E.T. at 176.93 MPH

Race Recap:
Making his Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown Series U.S. Nationals debut, David Davies posted a 7.965 E.T. in qualifying to earn the No. 13 starting position in a stacked 23-car field. He drew Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak teammate Leah Pruett as his round one competitor and took his D H Davies Racing machine on a solid 7.959-second pass, but Pruett was a tick faster, clocking a 7.953 E.T. for the narrow victory.

“We’re obviously excited to be racing on Sunday. Anytime you race a team car and Leah Pruett, that’s a tough draw. We lost by six thou and that’s the right way to lose if you have to lose a race. Losing to a teammate makes it less painful. I’m excited about what we’ve done with the car. We’re starting to get this thing dialed in. We were happy with our runs this weekend with only two laps and we’re looking forward to the last two Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown races at St. Louis and Vegas to get ready for next year.”

Driver of the Empaco Equipment Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 22 (13.781 E.T. at 75.07 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 7.973 E.T. at 177.32 MPH defeated by Jesse Alexandra 7.924 E.T. at 170.36 MPH

Race Recap:
Aboard his brand-new 2021 Empaco Equipment Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak, Mark Pawuk clocked a blistering 177.32 mph run during round one of eliminations to record a new career-best speed. Despite the solid pass, it wasn’t enough for Pawuk to advance to round two as his 7.973 E.T. was outpaced by opponent Jesse Alexandra’s 7.924-second run.

“Unfortunately, with not getting down the track in Q1 on Friday and rain all day yesterday, it put us behind the eight ball coming into Sunday. We did make a big improvement. Our Dodge Drag Pak ran 7.97 at 177 mph in E1, which is our career-best speed. We’re heading in the right direction with this Empaco Drag Pak. We had a driver error in the first round. I was a little late. We got the ‘new car blues’ out of the way and we’ll run better at St. Louis.”

Driver of the Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 12 (7.965 E.T. at 166.70 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 7.953 E.T. at 176.93 MPH defeated David Davies 7.959 E.T. at 175.89 MPH
E2: 7.958 E.T. at 176.07 MPH defeated by Joseph Welch 7.831 E.T. at 177.65 MPH

Race Recap:
A competitive field of 23 entries hit the staging lanes for the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown eliminations at the ‘Big Go’ and among them was Leah Pruett who qualified her 2021 Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak in the No. 12 spot on the basis of her single Friday evening pass after rain washed out any chance of getting in another run on Saturday. Despite the lack of track time, Pruett went into the opening round with the confidence of having earned two runner-up finishes at the last two FSS events at Denver and Topeka. 

Her first pairing was with DSR stablemate and No. 13 qualifier David Davies, aboard his own his 2021 Mopar Drag Pak. Pruett took the early lead with a quick 0.060-second reaction time to her opponent’s 0.095, and turned on the win lights with a 7.953-second pass to edge Davies’ equally solid 7.959-second effort. That set up a second round battle for Pruett against No. 1 qualifier Joseph Welsh, who had the advantage of registering a second qualifying run to earn the top seeding before rain ended everyone else’s opportunity for tuning their car any further. While Pruett powered her Mopar Drag Pak to another solid and consistent 7.958 second run, her opponent took advantage of a quicker start and posted a 7.831 E.T. to end her hopes of advancing. 

“Recently, our Factory Stock Showdown Dodge Drag Pak has performed in the clutch on Sundays, making race day very exciting. Today, we just did not have enough against the No. 1 qualifier in the other lane. We put on a good race, but it was a power management situation. Running early in the morning for E1, we were able to find that power and then we had about six hours before the second round. We just weren’t able to turn on the win light. We still have a strong hold in the points standings in the Factory Stock class. We will be testing before our next race at St. Louis and I’m excited about that. We have a good team with (crew chiefs) Kevin Helms and A.J. Berge, and we hope to get back to going rounds in a few weeks.”

NHRA Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown Series Championship Standings (unofficial):
1 Aaron Stanfield   533
2 David Barton   396
3 Jesse Alexandra   372
4 John Cerbone   342
5 Leah Pruett   332
6 David Janac   314
7 Stephen Bell   307
8 Dan Condon   235
9 Arthur Kohn   231
10 Doug Hamp   230

Our Sponsors

Connect with DSR