DSR St. Louis Post-Race Recap

AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals
Event 20 of 24 (St. Louis)
NHRA Countdown, Event 2 of 6
Gateway Motorsports Park
Madison, Illinois
September 21-23, 2018
DSR St. Louis Elimination Highlights:
  • Leah Pritchett made it two-in-a-row, picking up her second consecutive Factory Stock Showdown Series event win
  • Pritchett moved into second place in the FSXX driver standings
  • The DSR Top Fuel trio of Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett and Tony Schumacher sit in the top five of the Countdown to the Championship rankings
  • Ron Capps is ranked in the top half of the Funny Car Countdown standings
  • Pritchett (Top Fuel) and Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) raced to semifinal finishes
Leah Pritchett Continues Factory Stock Showdown Series Dominance with St. Louis Triumph
MADISON, Illinois (September 23, 2018) – Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak driver Leah Pritchett continued to own the Factory Stock Showdown class, celebrating her second consecutive event win one day after becoming first in the class to run in the seven-second range during the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis.
The double-duty driver made history during Factory Stock Showdown qualifying on Saturday, shrugging off a recent decision by the NHRA to effectively slap a 50-lb. weight handicap on all Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak vehicles to post a 7.936-second E.T. and become the first NHRA driver in the class to make a hit in the seven-second range.
Despite owning a new entry in the NHRA record books, Pritchett would wrap up qualifying No. 2 after her teammate Mark Pawuk ran even lower with a 7.929 E.T. to earn the pole.
Pritchett, winner and No. 1 qualifier at the most recent NHRA Factory Stock Showdown event at the NHRA U.S. Nationals earlier this month, kept the seven-second train rolling with a 7.948 pass at 172.70-mph to defeat former NHRA Pro Stock racer Allen Johnson in the opening round. She used an 8.031-second pass to send home Pete Gasko Jr. in the quarterfinals and then knocked out Arthur Kohn in the semifinals with an 8.011 E.T.
In the final, Pritchett nudged up near the seven-second range in an easy defeat of Stephen Bell, who knocked out her teammate Pawuk in round two, unleashing her Kevin Helms-tuned Drag Pak with a blistering 8.001 E.T. to claim victory after Bell experienced problems early.

"Incredible weekend by the ‘el Bandito’ team with Mopar," said Pritchett who moved up to the No. 2 spot in the FSXX standings. "We carried that momentum from the U.S. Nationals without a hiccup. That extra 25-pounds didn't seem to faze this Mopar power. I'm not saying it was easy by any means. We put it to it every single round and that's extremely impressive and a testament to the durability of the race cars, the powerplant and the people that Schumacher has put in place to run this program.

"We are in a fantastic spot, second place in the points. It's like Christmas Eve going into these last races. I really wouldn't want a different perspective. We have a little bit of freshening up to do but overall this has been an incredible weekend of just straight teamwork all the way around, and the Mopar power just continues to show through and we continue to want to show up."

Qualified: No. 2 (7.936 E.T. at 172.98 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 7.948 E.T. at 172.70 MPH defeated Allen Johnson 16.672 E.T. at 68.78 MPH
E2: 8.031 E.T. at 172.12 MPH defeated Pete Gasko Jr. 8.812 E.T. at 165.58 MPH
E3: 8.011 E.T. at 171.88 MPH defeated Arthur Kohn 8.079 E.T. at 168.47 MPH
E4: 8.001 E.T. at 172.36 MPH defeated Stephen Bell, Broke

Driver Information:

Top Fuel:
Driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 7 (3.750 E.T. at 320.58 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.728 E.T. at 328.86 MPH defeated Doug Kalitta 3.792 E.T. at 323.58 MPH
E2: 3.842 E.T. at 323.66 MPH defeated by Clay Millican 3.803 E.T. at 323.04 MPH

Race Recap:
The winningest NHRA Mello Yello series driver in Gateway Motorsports Park history qualified in the top half of the field to match up against Doug Kalitta in round one of eliminations on Sunday morning. Kalitta’s 3.792-second pass was no match for the three-time Top Fuel world champion’s session-best 3.727-second winning run.
Against his round two opponent Clay Millican, Brown was first out of the gate but Millican pulled ahead near the 330-mark and never trailed, ending Brown’s chances at picking up a sixth St. Louis trophy. Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army team enter the next event rounding out the top half of the Top Fuel standings, sitting in fifth.

“We felt real confident coming into today. We’ve been working hard and we’ve just been getting better each run. We’ve even been finding the small little things that have been nipping at our heels, so we felt good that we could bring it home today. The day started off great for our Matco Tools/U.S. Army/Toyota. We ran low E.T. of first round. In round two, we just backed it off too much. At Reading, we didn’t back it off enough and then in the second round today we backed it off too much. Now we’ve got a game plan for the next race that we’re just going to go in the middle. There are still four races left, so there’s a lot of racing still to go. We wanted to take a step up in the points, but we’ll maintain where we are at. We just need to keep building.”

Driver of the Papa John's Pizza Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 5 (3.718 E.T. at 330.96 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 5.568 E.T. at 125.37 MPH defeated Bye
E2: 3.802 E.T. at 322.73 MPH defeated Blake Alexander 8.032 E.T. at 80.82 MPH
E3: 3.809 E.T. at 322.11 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.772 E.T. at 325.22 MPH

Race Recap:
Leah Pritchett was the last DSR Top Fuel driver standing Sunday, tying her career-best Countdown result by reaching the semifinals. She was on a solo run in round one when a broken throttle cable on her opponent Scott Palmer’s machine ended his day before the run.
Blake Alexander was the seven-time Top Fuel winner’s next opponent, and the two met for the fourth time this season. Pritchett had the starting line advantage and never trailed with her run of 3.802 seconds at 322.73 mph. In the semifinals, Pritchett gave it her best effort to take down the points leader, Steve Torrence. The Papa John's Pizza pilot had a slight advantage at the start, but Torrence powered around her and took the win with his pass of 3.772 seconds compared to Pritchett’s 3.809 E.T.

“Going to the semifinals in the Countdown against some of the stiffest competition is definitely nothing to hang our heads about. We weren’t the quickest or fastest this weekend, but we made great improvements. We made wholesale changes that we had to commit to, and there was no turning back. We nipped away at them, but it just wasn’t quite enough.
“The points are still tight, we still have a shot and this team errs to the side of positivity. We’ve got a couple of things in our back pocket that I can’t wait to try out at our next race. Overall, it was a successful weekend and we’re going to build on this.”

Driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 6 (3.731 E.T. at 330.72 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.067 E.T. at 257.73 MPH defeated Richie Crampton 5.641 E.T. at 115.95 MPH
E2: 4.115 E.T. at 270.43 MPH defeated by Pat Dakin 3.946 E.T. at 286.13 MPH

Race Recap:
Tony Schumacher entered his 500th event with his sights set on advancing from second to the No. 1 spot in the Top Fuel points ranking.
Schumacher qualified his Mike Neff/Phil Shuler-led U.S. Army dragster sixth for race No. 2 of the Countdown to the Championship and drew non-Countdown contender Richie Crampton in round one. “The Sarge’s” 11,000-horsepower machine lost traction near halftrack before giving way to an engine explosion, but Schumacher was able to hang on for the win against Crampton’s tire smoking attempt.
In round two, Schumacher had the starting line advantage but early tire smoke allowed his opponent Pat Dakin to claim the upset win. Schumacher leaves St. Louis ranked third in the Top Fuel standings.

“I’ve been around for 500 races. I understand that you don’t make it to the finals every time like I did in my first race. If you would have asked me after my first race, I would have said, ‘Gee, this is easy. I always get to the final.’ But after doing it for a long, long time, you realize this is a competitive sport with some incredible teams. Today was simply proof of that. Pat Dakin beat me today. He competes in about 10 events a year and has a quality team. He brings good stuff and knows how to race a car. When you get beat by him, you don’t hang your head. We need to regroup. A car can’t win the race smoking the tires. That’s what we’ve done four out of the last six elimination rounds. We can make some rounds, but can’t get away with it that many times. We’ve got to come up with a different plan.”

Funny Car:
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 8 (3.929 E.T. at 326.00 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.523 E.T. at 185.28 MPH defeated by John Force 4.025 E.T. at 322.96 MPH

Race Recap:
Two-time St. Louis winner Jack Beckman, driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, qualified in the top half of the field in the eighth position, drawing John Force in the opening round. “Fast” Jack quickly put his Hellcat’s nose out front and began to add to his lead before his momentum abruptly came to a halt around the 600-foot mark due to a broken blower drive shaft, allowing Force to drive around for the win. Beckman is now ninth in the standings.

“Broken blower drive shaft. It’s the shaft behind the upper pulley that spins the rotors in the supercharger, and it snapped. Wow. We’re finding a lot of ways to lose right now and that’s the problem with the Countdown, you can’t have these stumbles. We had a wonderful first round car even when we were struggling in the middle part of the season, and now three first round losses in a row. Barring a miracle, we’re not going to be running for a championship, we’re going to be running for trophies at the next four races. We are going to stay and test tomorrow. This is devastating, there’s no way to spin this and say ‘gee we’re going to make the best of this.’ We’re going to do the best we can from here on out, but it’s a gut punch to get two first round losses to open up the Countdown. We’ll run our car tomorrow, we’ll try some things that we think might give us a benefit and now we’re in a situation where not only do we have to win the next couple of races, we have to rely on four or five other cars losing first or second round. It’s not impossible, but we’re going to just control our own destiny at this point.”

Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 2 (3.873 E.T. at 327.19 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.978 E.T. at 316.23 MPH defeated by Cruz Pedregon 3.992 E.T. at 317.05 MPH

Race Recap:
Defending event champion Ron Capps returned to Gateway Motorsports Park looking to add to his category-best four NHRA Midwest Nationals Funny Car titles.
Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team were nearly flawless throughout qualifying, making the second quickest run of each round and earning bonus points during all four sessions. The 2016 Funny Car world champion’s 3.873-second Q4 pass, which held up to be the second quickest E.T. of the event, enabled Capps to start from the No. 2 position on race day.
Capps’ round one matchup found him squaring off against ‘Countdown spoiler’ Cruz Pedregon. Capps powered the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge cleanly down the track in 3.978-seconds, but his opponent’s starting line advantage (0.067 vs. Capps’ 0.101-second reaction time) enabled Pedregon to claim the holeshot round win.

“We talked about these non-Countdown cars being dangerous. They have a lot to prove and nothing to lose. Like I said at driver intros, you can’t take a driver and team like that lightly. Cruz has won two championships.
“I didn’t feel like I missed the light. Sometimes, as a driver, you feel like you didn’t hit the light as good as you normally do. I try to be consistent. The worst part is that it hurts so bad because we had the best car on the ground. We were so consistent and good in qualifying with (crew chief Rahn) Tobler and this NAPA AutoCare team. Run after run, in different conditions, we ran great.
“We still have four races left and it seems like there will be first round losses by a lot of the Countdown hitters. It’s a letdown. I feel like I let down this entire team and everyone at DSR, and on top of that, we have to sit for almost two weeks. I can’t wait to get into the car on Friday at Dallas. These guys are my brothers and they’ll lift my spirits up. We’ll go on to Dallas and try to win the next four.”

Driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 11 (3.967 E.T. at 320.13 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.585 E.T. at 201.19 MPH defeated by Tim Wilkerson 4.348 E.T. at 251.67 MPH

Race Recap:
Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driver and No. 11 qualifier Matt Hagan faced No. 6 Tim Wilkerson in first-round eliminations at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Hagan, a three-time runner-up at St. Louis, jumped to a small starting line advantage, but was unable to hold the lead. Both drivers hazed the tires around the 300-foot mark, but Hagan had to work overtime to keep his car away from first the wall and then the centerline, while Wilkerson was able to recover and collect the round win. Hagan, a two-time NHRA Funny Car world champion, exits St. Louis seventh in the Countdown quest.

"We're going to test tomorrow and change some stuff up. We've been up against it a little bit with what we've been trying to do, so we're going to make some different changes and start moving forward with some things. At the end of the day, this is the same group of guys that I won a championship with, I runnered-up with, and won a bunch of races with. It's a fuel car; stuff changes, things happen, you make adjustments and you bounce back from adversity. Like (crew chief) Dickie (Venables) said, we're going to grab this thing by the horns and wrestle it to the ground and come out with the best opportunity and chance we can for the next four races to turn on win lights for our sponsors, and obviously try to win some races and try to win this championship. It's not over. I've seen crazy, crazy stuff happen, but I've also seen stuff come together and click, and you're like, 'Wow! Where's that been all season.' I'm really looking forward to tomorrow and making some runs here, making some test hits and hopefully get a handle on this race car."

Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 4 (3.896 E.T. at 327.11 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.925 E.T. at 325.22 MPH defeated Del Worsham 4.003 E.T. at 321.50 MPH
E2: 3.950 E.T. at 323.50 MPH defeated Bob Tasca III 9.014 E.T. at 82.83 MPH
E3: 4.008 E.T. at 320.13 MPH defeated by Robert Hight 3.945 E.T. at 323.04 MPH

Race Recap:
Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T driver Tommy Johnson Jr. came to Gateway Motorsports Park seeking his first victory at the track where his father earned his only national event win. The fan-favorite qualified No. 4 and started eliminations against No. 13 Del Worsham with a perfect run straight down the groove for the win.

Johnson faced Bob Tasca III in the quarterfinals and recorded a textbook 3.950 run, quickest of the round, for the win. Johnson would come up short in the semifinals against No. 1 qualifier and eventual race winner Robert Hight, his solid 4.008 at 320.13-mph pass not enough to beat Hight’s 3.945-second effort to the stripe.

"We had a really good car. We're doing really well in the Countdown, it's just that Robert Hight is becoming a real pain, but that's a good motivator. I feel the four best cars in the Countdown were in the semis and I'm glad we're one of them. We just need to pick it up one more notch and I think we'll be the car to beat."

NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Points Standings:
Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence - 2346
2. Clay Millican - 2276
3. Tony Schumacher - 2225
4. Leah Pritchett - 2192
5. Antron Brown - 2169
6. Doug Kalitta - 2135
7. Mike Salinas - 2119
8. Terry McMillen - 2093
9. Scott Palmer - 2085
9. Brittany Force - 2085

Funny Car
1. Robert Hight - 2270
2. J.R. Todd - 2240
3. Courtney Force - 2200
4. Tim Wilkerson - 2196
5. Ron Capps - 2182
6. Tommy Johnson Jr. - 2166
7. Matt Hagan - 2144
8. John Force - 2116
9. Jack Beckman - 2113
10. Shawn Langdon - 2086

Factory Stock Showdown Series:
Driver of the Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 1 (7.929 E.T. AT 171.77 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 8.764 E.T. at 111.85 MPH defeated Bye
E2: 8.048 E.T. at 167.49 MPH defeated by Stephen Bell 8.028 E.T. at 172.83 MPH

Mark Pawuk made the second official sub-eight second run to reset the national FSXX E.T. record and qualify No. 1 in his Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak. The Pro Stock driver turned Factory Stock Showdown shoe’s top seed awarded him with a Bye run in the opening session of eliminations.
In the quarterfinals, Pawuk faced Stephen Bell. The drivers were nearly even leaving the starting line but Bell moved to a slight lead early into the run and maintained his pace for the round win, ending Pawuk’s day early.

“It was a great weekend for our Don Schumacher Racing Factory Stock team. Unfortunately, I wish I would have gone a little farther. Would’ve loved to race (teammate) Leah (Pritchett) in the finals. It was great to see her win again. Her car is really fast, mine was also. Setting low E.T. of the race was pretty awesome, and I think it might have been a little bit of driver error second round. I should’ve won the round, but I need to catch up on my driving a little bit. I’m a little rusty still after being away for almost 12 years, but our team is running great. Glad to see my teammate in the winner’s circle, and hopefully maybe in Dallas I can get a shot to get back in it.”

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