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DSR Las Vegas Pre-Race Report

Dodge NHRA Finals Presented by Pennzoil
Event No. 11 of 11
The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nev.
October 31 - November 1, 2020

Highlights:

  • All eyes on Don Schumacher Racing’s Funny Car contingent as drag racing’s winningest organization is poised to capture its 18th series title this weekend at the 2020 NHRA season finale in Las Vegas
    • A fierce three-way battle awaits No. 1 ranked Funny Car driver Matt Hagan, No. 2 ranked Tommy Johnson Jr., and No. 3 ranked Jack Beckman heading into the Dodge NHRA Finals Presented by Pennzoil as they battle to earn DSR’s sixth Funny Car world championship
      • Hagan owns two world titles (2011, 2014), Beckman one (2012), Ron Capps one (2016), and Gary Scelzi (2005)
    • 43 points separate the three championship contenders
      • Hagan (842 points) 
      • Johnson (800 points) 
      • Beckman (799 points) 
    • Las Vegas features a unique point-and-a-half format where each elimination round is worth 30 points. A total of 183 points are up-for-grabs in each Camping World category
  • Johnson enters the final event of 2020 as the most recent Funny Car winner on tour, and has raced to victory at two of the last three events
  • Don Schumacher Racing’s foursome of Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car drivers will be aiming to ‘sweep the season’ as they attempt to pick up DSR’s 14th consecutive Funny Car triumph, an undefeated streak that dates back to October 2019
    • DSR Funny Car drivers have competed head-to-head in final round competition at six of the first 10 events of 2020
  • In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher will be looking to pick up his second consecutive victory after earning the W last weekend in Houston
  • Leah Pruett will pull double-duty for the final time in 2020, competing in both the Top Fuel and Factory Stock Showdown categories. Pruett is currently ranked fourth in the Top Fuel point standings and will be looking to crack back into the ‘top three’ in Vegas to improve upon her career-best season-ending position of fourth (2018, 2019) 
  • Factory Stock Showdown driver Mark Pawuk will be focused on closing out the season solidly in the No. 2 spot


DSR Funny Car Championship Contenders:
 

MATT HAGAN
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye

Ranked No. 1 in the standings; 842 points


 

Crew chief: Dickie Venables
Assistant crew chief: Mike Knudsen

2020 Season Statistics:
Wins: two (Indy 1, Indy 2)
Runner-ups: two
No. 1 qualifiers: four
23 round wins

Career Statistics:
274 races; 35 wins; 40 No. 1 qualifiers
Two-time Funny Car world champion (2011, 2014)

Las Vegas II Event Highlights: 
  • Two-time event champion (2017, 2019) 
  • Two-time runner-up (2010, 2018) 
2019 Las Vegas II Recap:
Qualified seventh; Event champion (defeated Paul Lee in E1, Tommy Johnson Jr. in E2, Bob Tasca III in E3, Jonnie Lindberg in E4)

Last Event (Houston):
Qualified second; Semifinal finish (defeated Dave Richards in E1, Blake Alexander in E2; defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr. in E3)

Noteworthy:
  • Hagan enters the season finale with a target on his back. Starting from the top of the leaderboard, Hagan will be laser-focused on maintaining his No. 1 ranking to pick up his third Funny Car world championship
  • Hagan has a history of being able to race late into the day on Sundays. Throughout the first 10 races of the season, Hagan has been to the semifinals or beyond at eight events
  • Hagan has been to the Las Vegas II final round the past three years 
Quotable:
“It’s kind of wild that we’re here – starting the season and then stopping, and then not even knowing if we’d even have a season, or what it would even entail. It’s been a weird year, and we’re happy to be racing, and even happier to be in this year’s championship hunt. We’re in the thick of it right now. Our Mopar Dodge Funny Car team has done really well at Vegas in the past. We qualify well there and we actually won that race the last time we were there (October 2019), so we’ve got some great data from that track.
 
“I have a lot of confidence in our team, and our car, and what we’re doing. We’ve made up a lot of ground in a little bit of time. We’ve done what we needed to do to put ourselves in this position to have the points lead. That was a huge round against Tommy Johnson in the semis (in Houston) that we just didn’t win. If we had won, that would’ve pushed him closer to being out of contention, and given us an extra point cushion over Jack, so those are tough to lose. You can go back through your season and look at all kind of stuff where you’ve lost small points here and there, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be what it will be. I just want to enjoy this ride right now. You never know how many times you’ll have the opportunity to run for a championship, so putting too much pressure on yourself really doesn’t change anything. I just want to go out there this weekend at the Dodge NHRA Finals Presented by Pennzoil and treat it like a regular race. We want to qualify well and take it one round at a time, and if we can do that, we’ll be successful. We’re 43 points ahead, but with the points-and-a-half deal things can really turn quickly, but I’d rather be leading than following, and that’s where we’re at right now. We’ve got to keep digging, stay focused, and go rounds in Vegas, and if all goes according to plan, I’m looking forward to partying hard Sunday night and celebrating with my team.”
 
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Ranked 2nd in the standings; 800 points

 

Crew chiefs: John Collins/Rip Reynolds

2020 Season Statistics:
Wins: three (Phoenix, St. Louis, Houston)
Runner-ups: one
No. 1 qualifiers: three
21 round wins

Career Statistics:
480 races; 22 wins; 21 No. 1 qualifiers
Best points finish: 2nd (2016)

Las Vegas II Event Highlights: 
  • 2006 runner-up   
  • Two-time No. 1 qualifier (2015, 2018) 
2019 Las Vegas II Recap:
Qualified second; Quarterfinall finish (defeated Jim Campbell in E1; defeated by Matt Hagan in E2)

Last Event (Houston):
Qualified sixth; Event champion (defeated Jim Campbell in E1, J.R. Todd in E2, Matt Hagan in E3, Ron Capps in E4)

Noteworthy:
  • Won two of the last three events; tied with Beckman for most Funny Car wins in 2020 (three)
  • Johnson is seeking that elusive first Funny Car world championship and would love nothing more than to close out the seven-year ‘giving car’ program by sending team sponsor Doug Chandler out as a champion
Quotable:
“It's been an interesting year for sure and it's coming to the last race of the season. There's lots of mixed emotions. Honestly, I'm happy. We're coming into this last race with a shot at the championship and I'm happy that we even got a season because it looked like maybe after the second race of the year we wouldn't have a season at all.

“I'm excited to come into Vegas with a shot at this championship and the team has had a great season. It's a track where I have had some success and do pretty well at. I'm a round-and-a-half behind Matt (Hagan), and Jack (Beckman) is right on our heels. To see the dominance that the Don Schumacher Funny Cars have had all season is really exciting. I think we are all excited to see if we can't close out the season and sweep all the races with the DSR Funny Cars.

“I’m going to go out there and enjoy it and at the same time, give it all we’ve got and ride the momentum we've got coming off the win and the last few races on the tour. I'm happy for the guys. I'm happy for our MD Anderson Dodge Funny Car team. We've had a great season and would love nothing more than to be able to cap it off with a win and have a few things go our way and maybe sneak away with the championship as well.”
 
JACK BECKMAN
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Ranked 3rd in the standings; 799 points

 

Crew chiefs: Dean Antonelli/John Medlen

2020 Season Statistics:
Wins: three (Pomona I, U.S. Nationals, Dallas)
Runner-ups: two
No. 1 qualifiers: one
22 round wins

Career Statistics:
334 races; 33 wins; 28 No. 1 qualifiers
2012 Funny Car world champion

Las Vegas II Event Highlights: 
  • 2006 event champ  
  • Two-time runner-up (2009, 2012)  
  • Three-time No. 1 qualifier (2016-2017, 2019) 
2019 Las Vegas II Recap:
Qualified No. 1; Semifinal finish (defeated Terry Haddock in E1, Robert Hight in E2; defeated by Jonnie Lindberg in E3)

Last Event (Houston):
Qualified No. 1; First round exit (defeated by Ron Capps in E1)

Noteworthy:
  • Beckman occupied the No. 1 spot in the Funny Car point standings for six of the first 10 events of the season. He dropped to third after a first-round upset last week, but with 799 points, sits only one point out of second and 43 points out of first
  • Beckman and Johnson are tied for number of wins during the season, both having raced to victory three times in 2020. Beckman’s wins are from: Pomona 1, the U.S. Nationals, and Dallas
  • Leads the class in most final round appearances in 2020 (five) 
  • Beckman is the 2012 Funny Car world champion, and has his sights set on closing out the seven-year Chandler family ‘giving car’ run by earning a world championship for team sponsor, Doug Chandler
Quotable:
“I think just about everybody can't wait to put 2020 in the rearview mirror, but I think the NHRA fans are in for a huge treat with the points chase, specifically in Funny Car where you’ve got three cars within two rounds of each other. It's probably going to be one of the most thrilling conclusions ever, and I fully expect the Funny Car championship is probably going to go down to the final round of the final race on the final day of the season. For a fan that's amazing and from a driver's perspective that's the deal you want; to be in it going into the last race of the season. There's a lot of different things on the line. For us, obviously, the championship, and for our team it’ll likely be the last race with Infinite Hero, and we’re not sure what will happen next year. So, there's a lot of extra incentive to try to end the year on a positive note. As long as we win the race and Matt (Hagan)'s car is not in the other lane in the final round, I would consider that as perfect a year to a season as I've ever had, so I’m very much looking forward to this.”
 
 
Non-Championship Contenders:

Top Fuel:

ANTRON BROWN
Driver of the Matco Tools 'Tools for the Cause'/Global Electronic Technology/Toyota Top Fuel Dragster


 

Las Vegas II Event Highlights: 
  • 2013 event champion   
  • 2001 runner-up (Pro Stock Motorcycle)  
  • 2015 No. 1 qualifier 
2019 Las Vegas II Recap:
Qualified 11th; First round exit (defeated by Terry McMillen in E1)

Last Event (Houston):
Qualified fourth; Semifinal finish (defeated Scott Palmer in E1, Doug Kalitta in E2; defeated by Steve Torrence in E3) 

2020 Statistics:
10 round wins; ranked sixth in points

Career Statistics:
440 races; 66 wins (16 Pro Stock Motorcycle); 49 No. 1 qualifiers (11 PSM)

Quotable:
“Looking forward to our final race of the year. Our Matco Tools car has really been coming along lately and starting to get in the groove. We’ll roll the dice in Vegas. It’s a points-and-a-half race and there’s room to move up in the standings, and we want to end the season on a good note. No better place to do that than in Vegas. I have a lot of good memories at that track. I’ve locked-up championships there in the past, and even though we’re not in contention this year, we want to be sure we end the year on a high note.” 


LEAH PRUETT
Driver of the Mopar Dodge SRT Hellcat Redeye Top Fuel Dragster

 

Las Vegas II Event Highlights:
  • 2018 event runner-up 
  • 2019 No. 1 qualifier 
2019 Las Vegas II Recap:
Qualified No. 1; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Cameron Ferre in E1; defeated by Doug Kalitta in E2)

Last Event (Houston):
Qualified sixth; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Lee Callaway in E1; defeated by Billy Torrence in E2)

2020 Season Statistics:
16 round wins; ranked fourth in points

Career Statistics:
151 races; eight wins; 12 No. 1 qualifiers 

Noteworthy:
  • Has enjoyed a ‘top three’ ranking throughout seven of the first 10 events. Pruett fell to fourth in Houston and will be looking to make up ground as she aims for her career-best finish. To date, Pruett’s best finish has been fourth, which she achieved in both 2018 and 2019. 
Quotable:
“Hard to believe the final race of the season is here. The key to the kingdom for us has been more runs to get this car dialed-in and getting back to being the quickest on the property. We are so close, and we know that, given our runs in Houston. We left Houston strong which means we are headed into Vegas with full-steam and a tail wind! Bringing home a little gold man, and not the spray painted one you can find on Fremont Street, is the primary focus here. We are unfortunately out of the hunt for the No. 1 spot in the championship, but earning our way to our best championship-finish yet is what I’m looking forward to. Each season that we as a team have contended together we have accented in points, with our eyes on finishing No. 2 this season.”


TONY SCHUMACHER
Driver of the Okuma/Sandvik Coromant
Toyota Top Fuel Dragster

 

Las Vegas II Event Highlights: 
  • Four-time event champion (2005, 2006, 2008, 2010)  
  • Three-time runner-up (2002, 2003, 2012)  
  • Seven-time No. 1 qualifier (2003, 2006 - 2008, 2010, 2012, 2017)  
2019 Las Vegas II Recap:
DNS

Last Event (Houston):
Qualified second; Event champion (defeated Cameron Ferre in E1, Doug Foley in E2, Billy Torrence in E3, Steve Torrence in E4)

Career Statistics:
511 races; 85 wins; 88 No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:
  • Last week in Houston, Schumacher picked up his first victory since returning to the seat of a Top Fuel dragster after a nearly 20-month hiatus. The 85-time Top Fuel winner will be aiming to close out the season with a second consecutive triumph
  • As an eight-time Las Vegas winner, Schumacher is the winningest driver in the category and is tied with Pro Stock racer Greg Anderson for most wins at The Strip at LVMS
Quotable:
"We’re coming off of an awesome win with a car that just seems to be near-flawless right now. We're going to a track where I’ve won more races (eight) than anyone else. I can’t wait to see the outcome of the championship. It’s been a crazy year, but it was great to come back out and be able to race at several of these events. I’m proud to represent DSR, Sandvik Coromant, Okuma, Toyota and all of our amazing partners during these trying times.”  


Funny Car:
RON CAPPS
Driver of the Pennzoil/NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

 

Las Vegas II Event Highlights: 
  • Four-time event champion (2001, 2005, 2011-2012)  
  • 2011 No. 1 qualifier  
2019 Las Vegas II Recap:
Qualified 11th; First round exit (defeated by Bob Tasca III in E1)

Last Event (Houston):
Qualified 16th; Event runner-up (defeated Jack Beckman in E1, Cruz Pedregon in E2, Alexis DeJoria in E3; defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr. in E4)

2020 Season Statistics:
Two event wins; 18 round wins; ranked fourth in points

Career Statistics:
565 races; 66 wins (one Top Fuel); 24 No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:
  • Capps will be aiming to close out the year with a third 2020 victory after racing to a runner-up finish in Houston
Quotable:
“Well, this is it. It’s hard to believe that we’ve actually gotten to the end of the season and it’s so much fun right now. Sometimes you don’t want the season to end, and the way our NAPA AUTO PARTS team has been running these last couple of races, really since the summer started, we feel like we’ve gotten into our groove so we would’ve loved a couple of more races to catch up in points.
 
“It’s going to be a little strange to end the season in Vegas, but it’s one of my favorite tracks. It’s become sort of a ‘home track’ for me. So many good people there, longtime friend Chris Bond who’s been taking care of our team for years, first at New York New York, then The Mirage, and now The Sahara, and that’s become our ‘home away from home’ for the race team. We’re really excited to carry the colors of The Sahara on our car this weekend. We’ve got 20+ years friendship with the Palmer Electric family. They do a ton of work at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and also The Strip, and they’ve taken us in like family, and we look forward to spending time with them two times a year. Unfortunately, this year we were only able to get out to Vegas once, so we’re going to enjoy this weekend and try and finish out on a good note. We’ve been running so well right now, and to end with a win and have some time to reflect on it would be great. We’re going to carry the Pennzoil colors with NAPA AUTO PARTS and finish the year strong.”

Factory Stock Showdown Series:


MARK PAWUK
Driver of the Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak


 

2019 Las Vegas II Recap:
N/A

Last Event (Houston):
Qualified second; Semifinal finish (defeated Lindsey Wheelock in E1, Stephen Bell in E2; defeated by Aaron Stanfield in E3)

FSS Career Statistics:
18 races; three runner-ups; two No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:
  • Pawuk has one runner-up and two semifinal finishes in five events in 2020 
  • Occupies the No. 2 spot in the Factory Stock Showdown Series standings and will be looking to defend his ranking heading into the final event of the year
Quotable:
“Well, as we head west for the third week in a row and close out our season in Las Vegas, I’m looking forward to another strong outing by the Empaco Equipment/Ohio CAT/Mr. Heater Dodge Drag Pak team. The finish in the semis in Houston was good, but we want to do better. The last time I raced at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was in 2005, and actually my last win as a professional NHRA drag racer was during the 2001 Vegas event when I won in Pro Stock. Would love to get back to the Vegas winner’s circle. Kevin Helms, Terry Snyder, and Kyle Pawuk have done a great job on the car this year. We’ve been running very consistently, and when the driver does his job, we have a chance at going rounds and winning races. We’re coming off of two semifinal finishes from the last two races, and we would like to take it a step further this weekend and finish the year out strong.”

 

LEAH PRUETT
Driver of the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak


 

2019 Las Vegas II Recap:
N/A

Last Event (Houston):
Qualified 11h; First round exit (defeated by John Cerbone in E1)

FSS Career Statistics:
22 races; three wins; one runner-up; two No. 1 qualifiers

Quotable:
“Can’t say it’s been ‘el Bandito’s’ favorite year so far, to be honest. He’s been trying hard to keep up with Mark Pawuk who’s been doing an awesome job carrying the Mopar flag deep into the rounds this season. We’ve been swapping combos on el Bandito for races trying to get him just right, and just when we thought we narrowed down the difference between the two during Dallas, we ordered up some changes to arrive in time for Houston, and well, turns out the shipping giant had other plans. Our parts arrived late Saturday night after qualifying to the hotel, so we rolled the dice, went into first round of eliminations with a brand-new un-dyno’d setup, and it was a little too saucy to turn on the win light. But el Bandito is finally in the direction we’ve been aching for. So, with one last final race to be had in the 2020 Factory Stock Showdown season, and el Bandito’s last ever entry into NHRA competition, you better bet we’re gonna send it in Vegas!”

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