DSR Sonoma Post-Race Recap

NHRA Sonoma Nationals
Event No. 9 of 20
Sonoma Raceway
Sonoma, Calif.
July 23-25, 2021

DSR Elimination Highlights:

  • Leah Pruett and Matt Hagan raced to a runner-up finish on Sunday at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals
  • As the Denver event champ, Hagan has now been to two consecutive final rounds, and three overall in 2021 
  • Pruett’s runner-up finish allowed her to move up three spots into fifth in the Top Fuel point rankings
  • Antron Brown and Funny Car No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps advanced to the semifinals
    • Brown has now visited the semifinals or beyond sixth times through the first nine races of the season, and Capps’ has advanced to the semis or beyond four times in the last five events
  • All four DSR Camping World Series drivers are ranked in the ‘top five’ heading into Pomona, the final leg of the three-race Western Swing 

Driver Information:

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

Qualified: No. 3 (3.724 E.T. at 326.71 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.081 E.T. at 243.81 MPH defeated Buddy Hull 4.840 E.T. at 165.84 MPH
E2: 3.815 E.T. at 313.88 MPH defeated Shawn Langdon 4.308 E.T. at 192.44 MPH
E3: 3.813 E.T. at 321.19 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.739 E.T. at 328.70 MPH

Race Recap:
Antron Brown kicked off his 450th NHRA national event by driving the Matco Tools Toyota Top Fuel dragster to the second-quickest run of Friday’s lone qualifying session, which held up to be third best of qualifying. Starting from the ‘quick half’ of the field and with the advantage of lane choice, Brown powered past E1 opponent Buddy Hull to advance to round two where he drew Shawn Langdon as his quarterfinal competitor. Against Langdon, Brown used his machine-like reflexes to earn the holeshot advantage, and his stout 3.815-second pass led Langdon’s 4.308-second effort from start to finish. Brown’s semifinal appearance, his sixth in nine races, found him pitted against friend and Top Fuel point leader Steve Torrence. Once again, Brown was quick on the throttle to nab the starting line advantage, but his opponent had the difference made up by the time they drove past the starting tree and maintained his lead to the finish line.

“Sonoma was a good, productive race weekend. We started strong on Friday night and made some good moves on race day and went to the semifinals. Anytime you make it down to the final three or four cars, it’s a good weekend. The most important thing is that we’re moving forward and learning from every run. We’ll get ready for Pomona and get after it again in five days in So Cal.”

Driver of the Okuma Top Fuel Dragster

Qualified: No. 6 (3.749 E.T. at 323.97 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.739 E.T. at 327.51 MPH defeated Justin Ashley 3.758 E.T. at 323.04 MPH
E2: 3.958 E.T. at 288.64 MPH defeated Brittany Force 4.359 E.T. at 181.18 MPH
E3: 3.726 E.T. at 325.53 MPH defeated BYE
E4: 3.768 E.T. at 323.04 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.757 E.T. at 327.98 MPH

Race Recap:
After clocking a ‘top three’ run on Friday night under the Sonoma Raceway lights, Leah Pruett qualified the Okuma Top Fuel dragster sixth for an opening-round pairing with No. 7 seed Justin Ashley. Pruett was quicker off the start and never trailed with a 3.739-second run at 327.51-mph to defeat her opponent and move on to battle Brittany Force in the quarterfinals for their first match-up since 2018.
Force held the early lead for the quarterfinal battle, but when mid-track traction issues affected them both, it was Pruett who pedaled it and recovered quickly to cross the finish line first and earn a Bye run into the final round. During that solo semifinal run, the Okuma rail recorded low E.T. of the event, posting a 3.726.
In Pruett’s 17th Top Fuel final round appearance, she staged up opposite Steve Torrence, the category’s point leader and five-time event winner this season. Sonoma fans were treated to an exciting side-by-side final showdown that saw Pruett and Torrence glued down the dragstrip until just before the finish line when her opponent pulled ahead to claim the narrow victory. The runner-up finish is Pruett’s first of the season, ninth of her Top Fuel career, and allowed her to advance three spots up to fifth in the Countdown to the Championship point rankings. 

“I think the most impressive thing about this weekend is our progression from last weekend at Denver. These Top Fuel cars don’t necessarily have a full reset button, but that’s what we did as a team this weekend. We dug deep and found some issues and ultimately, we had great progress this weekend. To have such a consistent car from qualifying into eliminations and to put down what we needed to in the semifinals to get lane choice was great to see. We have a very conversational car that listens to us right now. The team is thriving. We didn’t have the start to the season we wanted, but this is a marathon of a year and this is the momentum we’ve been searching for. For Don (Schumacher) to give us the patience and resources to do what we needed to get here has allowed us to open possibilities and that’s what Okuma does. It’s great to win rounds and get to the finals. It was a very close race. We can’t wait to get Sparkling Ice on the car and spike ‘em next weekend.”

Funny Car:
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 1 (3.897 E.T. at 328.78 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.924 E.T. at 324.75 MPH defeated Tony Jurado 4.362 E.T. at 217.74 MPH
E2: 3.965 E.T. at 321.35 MPH defeated Paul Lee 4.043 E.T. at 309.20 MPH
E3: 3.979 E.T. at 322.73 MPH defeated by Robert Hight 3.943 E.T. at 323.35 MPH

Race Recap:
After running low E.T. of Q1 and Q2, Ron Capps started race day from the pole for the third time in nine events and 28th time of his career on Sunday at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals. As the No. 1 qualifier, Capps drew Tony Jurado in round one and took his NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat on a winning 3.924-second ride to defeat the rookie and set up a quarterfinal matchup with Paul Lee. During his 1,270th competition round which ranks third-most in NHRA history, Capps grabbed the early lead and never looked back as he powered to victory in 3.965 seconds. 
The semifinal round featured a battle between Capps and fellow Funny Car veteran Robert Hight. Capps stood on the throttle first, allowing him a slight starting line advantage, and gave it a good run, clocking a 3.979 E.T., but it wasn’t enough to catch up with Hight who regained the lead before the 60-foot marker. While Capps would’ve loved nothing more than to have visited the winner’s circle at a venue he considers to be a home track, he’s pleased with his team’s consistent performance which has seen them advance to the semifinals or better at four out of the last five events. 

“Man, what a great weekend. Obviously, we wanted to leave with a Wally, but we qualified No. 1 again and had a quick and competitive race car every single round, and you really can’t ask for more. In the semifinals there, we were on a good run but it just wore a little more clutch than it should have against Hight and that was that, it was a close race.
“I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, we’re a win waiting to happen and the Wallys are coming; I’m not worried about that. Close races all day. ‘Guido’ (Dean Antonelli) and John Medlen made fantastic calls. It was great to have all of our NAPA fans, and have our big annual NAPA wine dinner Saturday night, it was just really an overall great weekend. I can’t wait to get to Pomona after this fantastic weekend, We’re headed southbound and down to Pomona, and it should be fun.”

Driver of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye

Qualified: No. 3 (3.909 E.T. at 328.94 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.971 E.T. at 327.19 MPH defeated Jeff Diehl 6.085 E.T. at 116.47 MPH
E2: 3.960 E.T. at 322.42 MPH defeated Blake Alexander 4.103 E.T. at 256.80 MPH
E3: 3.967 E.T. at 324.36 MPH defeated Alexis DeJoria 4.001 E.T. at 309.70 MPH
E4: 3.991 E.T. at 324.44 MPH defeated by Robert Hight 3.971 E.T. at 322.50 MPH

Race Recap:
After a championship finish at the Dodge//SRT Mile-High Nationals presented by Pennzoil in Denver last week, Matt Hagan had the unique opportunity to ‘sweep the Swing’ for the first time in his decorated career. He started race day from the No. 3 seed and battled through a stacked Funny Car field to advance to his second consecutive (2019) Sonoma Nationals final round. Hagan’s day began with an opening-round match-up against Jeff Diehl. The defending series champion moved first and wheeled the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye to a clean pass for the win. In round two, Hagan and Blake Alexander were nearly even off of the line but by the 660-foot timers, the Dodge Hellcat pulled ahead to a clear lead and Hagan was off to the semis for a rematch of the Denver final round versus Alexis DeJoria. History repeated itself on Sunday when once again, Hagan nabbed the early lead and powered to victory over his opponent, resulting in Hagan advancing to the final round for the second consecutive week and third time in 2021. 
The final round showcased a meeting between two three-time Funny Car world champions with Hagan going toe-to-toe with Robert Hight for the Sonoma trophy. Hagan moved first and led until halftrack when Hight pulled ahead for the win, spoiling Hagan’s attempted Western Swing sweep. While he may not have finished the Sonoma Nationals in the winner’s circle, Hagan continued to make up ground in the points, moving into second place and within two round wins of reaching the current point leader. 

“Our guys are doing just a phenomenal job. This is really the most confident I’ve felt with a group of guys in a long time. They’re killing it. They’re making super-quick turns in between rounds. We’ve got some really good juju going on. The group is clicking so well, Dickie (Venables) is making great calls out there. I see us ticking off a few more wins real soon. This Hellcat is running great. We’re qualifying well and going to the finals. It’s there. The confidence is there. The team is there. My lights are good. Everything we need to win races and a championship is right there with this package. I’m very excited and pumped up.”

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

Top Fuel

1 Steve Torrence   978
2 Antron Brown   629
3 Brittany Force   564
4 Shawn Langdon   460
5 Leah Pruett   457
6 Billy Torrence   448
7 Mike Salinas   432
8 Doug Kalitta   420
9 Justin Ashley   370
10 Clay Millican   351

Funny Car
1 Bob Tasca III   676
2 Matt Hagan   655
3 Robert Hight   636
4 John Force   624
5 Ron Capps   613
6 J.R. Todd   584
7 Alexis DeJoria   577
8 Tim Wilkerson   521
9 Cruz Pedregon   481
10 Terry Haddock   306

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