DSR St. Louis Post-Race Recap

NHRA Midwest Nationals
Event 16 of 20
Countdown Event 3 of 7
World Wide Technology Raceway
Madison, Ill. 
Sept. 24 - 26, 2021

DSR Elimination Highlights:

  • Three-time and defending Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan drove the New Holland Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye from the pole to the winner’s circle on Sunday
  • Hagan’s triumph, his first at World Wide Technology Raceway and third of the year, allowed him to move into the Funny Car points lead
  • The New Holland Dodge Hellcat Funny Car team picked up its third win in five events, and fourth victory in 2021 (with Tommy Johnson Jr. earning the event win in Reading, Pa.)
  • Hagan’s triumph was No. 365 for Don Schumacher Racing, drag racing’s winningest organization
  • Ron Capps occupies the No. 2 spot in the Funny Car standings after a quarterfinal finish and is within three rounds of Hagan
  • Leah Pruett led the DSR Top Fuel tandem by advancing to the semifinals 
  • Mark Pawuk reset his career-best speed on Sunday, and powered to a semifinal finish to move into the Factory Stock 'top 10'

Hagan Captures first St. Louis Victory; Moves into the Points Lead
MADISON, Ill. (September 26, 2021) – Three-time and defending Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan drove the New Holland Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat straight from the pole to the NHRA Midwest Nationals winner’s circle on Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway. Hagan’s triumph was his first at the suburban St. Louis venue, third of the year, and allowed him to surpass teammate Ron Capps and take over the Funny Car point lead.
Hagan’s Midwest Nationals campaign began when he recorded the best E.T. of both Q2 and Q3 in addition to Friday night’s second-seeded Q1 effort, which allowed him to capture eight out of nine available bonus points during the weekend and the coveted No. 1 qualifying position. Starting from the top of the timing sheets for the third time in 2021, and 43rd time of his career, Hagan’s race day began with a Bye run where he posted a 3.940-second E.T. He then faced two fellow Countdown-contenders in rounds two and three, soundly defeating J.R. Todd and Cruz Pedregon by powering the Dickie Venables-tuned Dodge Hellcat to its 16th-consecutive sub-four second pass in the semifinals, a streak that dates back to Reading Q2. 
In the final round, Hagan rocketed the New Holland Dodge to another stout lap, lighting up the scoreboard with a 3.933 at a top event-speed of 333.49 mph to outrun Bob Tasca’s 3.967-second effort. 
“When you’ve got a combination and a package like we do, it’s hard to beat. The way Dickie’s got this car running, as long as I do my job, it’s going to turn the win light on,“ said Hagan of his team’s stellar performance, which includes three wins over the last five events, including the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa. where former teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. filled in as a stand-in driver while Hagan was recovering from COVID-19. 
By capturing the Midwest Nationals hardware, his 39th Wally trophy, Hagan put a margin of 59 points between him and his teammate, No. 2 ranked Ron Capps, heading into the upcoming Texas NHRA Fall Nationals, the NHRA’s fourth of seven Countdown to the Championship events where he returns as a three-time event winner.
“You try not to focus too much on the points because it changes so fast from day to day, and race to race out here,” said Hagan of taking over the point lead for the first time in the 2021 Countdown. “You can be on top of the points one day and then you go out first-round the next day, so we take it in stride. Over the years, the championships that I won, I’ve really just tried to focus on what I can control, and everyone else has to do their job, and I’m fortunate in that I’m in a situation where I truly can depend on my team. 
“We only have four more races left after this, so the pressure is there, but I’ve been there before, I understand the hunt, and I know that our car is going to be a really serious contender. I honestly really think we can win this championship with the way Dickie’s got this thing running. Capps is going to be tough, (John) Force is going to be tough, all of them, really. These crew chiefs are throwing down, it’s like a slugfest out there.”

Qualified: No. 1 (3.868 E.T. at 333.25 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.940 E.T. at 234.90 MPH defeated Bye
E2: 3.894 E.T. at 332.18 MPH defeated J.R. Todd 4.571 E.T. at 182.21 MPH
E3: 3.922 E.T. at 328.30 MPH defeated Cruz Pedregon 3.954 E.T. at 323.58 MPH
E4: 3.933 E.T. at 333.49 MPH defeated Bob Tasca 3.967 E.T. at 329.99 MPH 


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

Qualified: No. 11 (3.765 E.T. at 323.97 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.708 E.T. at 330.39 MPH defeated Spencer Massey 3.845 E.T. at 273.50 MPH
E2: 4.445 E.T. at 190.35 MPH defeated by Steve Torrence 3.709 E.T. at 331.36 MPH

Race Recap:
Antron Brown qualified 11th for the NHRA Midwest Nationals to set up a rematch of last week’s round-one race versus Spencer Massey. In the opening pairing of eliminations, Brown moved first and drove the Matco Tools Toyota dragster from A to B in 3.708-seconds at 330.39 mph to avenge last week’s E1 defeat and set off the first win light of race day. In round two, Brown was once again the first to stomp on the throttle, but his machine lost traction near the 330-foot cone and Steve Torrence was able to drive away with the win.

Brown departs World Wide Technology Raceway ranked seventh in the Top Fuel point standings.
“Today we had a great first-round lap with that 3.70 and we’re looking at today as a day where we made some big strides. I’m very confident heading into Dallas and I wish we were going to the Texas Motorplex next weekend. We’re excited to get there early for the Stampede of Speed and take some batting practice swings on Wednesday. All-and-all, I’m proud of these Matco Tools guys. We wanted to take (Steve) Torrence out and keep fighting for that Camping World championship. We pushed a little bit and the track didn’t hold what we were trying to throw down. That being said, we’ll get it back together and bring out the ‘Tools for the Cause’ pink Matco dragster in two weeks. We’re excited about the activities and the 15 grand up for grabs on Friday night in Ennis.”

Driver of the Okuma Top Fuel Dragster

Qualified: No. 4 (3.714 E.T. at 326.00 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.701 E.T. at 326.16 MPH defeated Clay Millican 3.883 E.T. at 253.80 MPH
E2: 3.769 E.T. at 316.01 MPH defeated Billy Torrence 6.575 E.T. at 122.59 MPH
E3: 20.077 E.T. (speed not recorded) defeated by Mike Salinas 3.713 E.T. at 328.06 MPH 

Race Recap:
Double-duty driver Leah Pruett started race day from the No. 4 position after recording the third-quickest pass of Q3 aboard the Okuma Top Fuel dragster. Against her round-one competitor, Pruett moved first and powered her machine to the win in 3.701 seconds to defeat Clay Millican’s 3.883-second effort. In round two, Pruett once again had the starting line advantage and drove straight down the groove, never trailing, as Billy Torrence lost traction early and was forced to give up on the run. The semifinals pitted Pruett against No. 1 qualifier Mike Salinas. Pruett stood on the throttle and immediately went up into tire smoke. She gave it a quick pedal but her machine quickly let go with a fireball, ending Pruett’s chances at a first Midwest Nationals Top Fuel triumph.
Pruett occupies the No. 6 spot in the Top Fuel standings heading into the Texas NHRA Fall Nationals.
“Reaching the semifinals is always a plus, and some of those ahead of us went out early so that helps bunch up the points a bit. We had some big match-ups today. The first round against Clay (Millican), you never know what they’re going to throw out there, that’s a fast car. Our Okuma machine laid down a solid 3.70 pass. That second round was big and that was a fun race against Billy (Torrence) and he’s right ahead of us in the points and that’s an opportunity to be the giant killer and pass them. Getting that win from burnout to turnout was great. We had to swap blowers before the semis and that changed the tune-up a little bit. I wish I could put my thumb on what happened and why it smoked the tires at the hit, but we don’t have any data from that run. It shows the clutch was charged during staging and then nothing. Disappointed, slightly. Heartbroken, absolutely not. Something about this weekend and this team just resonates, and it’s really hard to beat a team who never gives up. That’s exactly who we are. We’ll keep going with this momentum in Dallas.”

Funny Car:
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Qualified: No. 2 (3.876 E.T. at 333.82 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.854 E.T. at 333.41 MPH defeated Chris King 6.016 E.T. at 123.07 MPH
E2: 3.929 E.T. at 326.56 MPH defeated by John Force 3.970 E.T. at 328.70 MPH

Race Recap:
Championship-contender Ron Capps scooped up five out of nine possible bonus points during qualifying by recording the best run of Q1 and second-best run of Q3 to qualify second for the NHRA Midwest Nationals, the third of seven playoff races.
In the opening round of eliminations, Capps powered the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car to a stout 3.854-second pass at 333-mph, which held up to be low E.T. of the event, and easily defeated Chris King’s 6.016-second run. In round two, Capps faced fellow top-half-seeded Countdown challenger John Force. The two winningest drivers in the Funny Car category lined up side-by-side, and in true Force fashion, he opted to deep stage. While Capps is used to Force’s starting line antics, even the most ‘cool, calm, and collected’ driver can fall victim, and Capps clocked an out-of-character 0.121-second reaction time to Force’s 0.039. Capps tried to overcome Force’s starting line advantage, driving the NAPA Dodge to the stripe in 3.929 seconds, but wasn’t able to catch up with Force who crossed the beams in 3.970 seconds.   
Capps closes out the NHRA Midwest Nationals ranked second in the Countdown to the Championship point standings, trailing teammate Matt Hagan by less than three rounds.
“It definitely threw me off. Add me to the list, we saw it happen with Robert Hight earlier and he’s as good as it gets out here as a driver. You know Force is going to do it, it’s a possibility. When the light went off on the last second, you’re so focused on your ambers, you do see it out of the corner of your eye, and most of the time I run him I’m laughing in the car because he tries to do that to me. I’ve been driving for 27 years, I don’t think I’ve ever had a light that bad in eliminations, especially with the pressure like we have right now. I let my guys down, and it hurts bad right now, but we have a great hot rod, that’s the good thing. I’m better than that. We don’t have the luxury of making another lap and trying to make up for it like NASCAR or IndyCar guys when they have something go wrong. This is it; it happens, and you have to live with it and I’ve got two weeks to think about it.”

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

Top Fuel

1 Steve Torrence   2373
2 Brittany Force   2337
3 Billy Torrence   2247
4 Mike Salinas   2239
5 Justin Ashley   2235
6 Leah Pruett   2222
7 Antron Brown   2188
8 Shawn Langdon   2164
9 Clay Millican   2157
10 Doug Kalitta   2096

Funny Car
1 Matt Hagan   2354
2 Ron Capps   2295
3 John Force   2282
4 Cruz Pedregon   2255
5 J.R. Todd   2239
6 Bob Tasca III   2234
7 Robert Hight   2194
7 Tim Wilkerson   2194
9 Alexis DeJoria   2163
10 Blake Alexander   2120

Factory Stock Showdown Series:
Driver of the D H Davies Racing Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 7 (7.829 E.T. at 177.79 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 7.825 E.T. at 177.63 MPH defeated Joseph Welch 7.818 E.T. at 183.10 MPH
E2: 7.839 E.T. at 178.02 MPH defeated by Mark Pawuk 7.829 E.T. at 178.80 MPH

Race Recap:
At the Midwest Nationals, David Davies enjoyed his best Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown Series outing to date by posting a qualifying effort in the top half of the field and capturing his first FSS round win on Sunday. Starting from seventh, Davies was first on the gas against his round-one opponent, Joseph Welch, and drove the D H Davies Racing Dodge Drag Pak to a career-best 7.825-second run to snag the holeshot win over Welch. Round two pitted DSR Dodge versus DSR Dodge with Davies lining up against stablemate Mark Pawuk. Both drivers made solid 7.8-second runs but it was Pawuk who came out on top, ending Davies day after the quarterfinals.
“We’re very excited about the weekend. St. Louis is a great track and I’ve always had good luck here. Once again, even though we didn’t race to the win, the cars are just about dialed-in and if we’re going to lose, why not to a teammate so one of us goes through. Mark (Pawuk) did a great job on the tree and the suspension changes we made to the car got us what we needed this weekend. The 60-foot times were fantastic and we are running 178, 179 mph. The Bilstein suspension system is really working well on these Drag Paks, and we’re ready for the last race at Vegas. Look out!”

Driver of the Empaco Equipment Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 2 (7.772 E.T. at 179.14 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 7.816 E.T. at 182.50 MPH defeated Lee Hartman 7.987 E.T. at 173.83 MPH 
E2: 7.829 E.T. at 178.80 MPH defeated David Davies 7.839 E.T. at 178.02 MPH
E3: 7.871 E.T. at 177.88 MPH defeated by Leonard Lottig 7.809 E.T. at 176.01 MPH

Race Recap:
Mark Pawuk led the DSR Dodge Challenger Drag Pak trio in St. Louis by earning a second-seeded qualifying position when he reset his career-best E.T. and speed on Saturday evening, and advanced deep into the elimination rounds on Sunday.
Pawuk’s race day began with an E1 match-up versus Lee Hartman who nabbed the early lead, but Pawuk had chased him down by halftrack and powered the Empaco Equipment Dodge through the finish line beams in 7.816 seconds at 182.50 mph to earn the round win and reset his career-best speed yet again. In round two, Pawuk was machine-like, using a stout 0.008 reaction time to outrun teammate David Davies who posted a 7.839 to Pawuk’s 7.829 E.T. Pawuk was perfect on the tree in the semifinals, ripping off a ‘trip-zip’ 0.000-second reaction time, but despite his efforts, his machine couldn’t keep pace with Leonard Lottig’s 7.809-second run.
“We’re very happy with the performance of the race car this weekend at St. Louis. We ran very well all weekend with this Empaco Dodge Drag Pak. The driver did his job, but unfortunately, there was a malfunction in the semis after I cut a triple-0 light when the car shifted from first to third, and that slowed us down and I lost by seven thousandths (of-a-second). That was really disappointing. I thought this could be my weekend to get back into the NHRA winner’s circle. We have a fast hot rod. Everybody on the team did a great job. We’ll keep fighting. We need to get this shifter thing figured out because it happened twice this weekend. We’ll get it fixed and I’m looking forward to finishing out the season at Vegas on a high note.”

Driver of the Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 5 (7.821 E.T. at 174.64 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 7.982 E.T. at 169.04 MPH defeated by John Cerbone 7.883 E.T. at 177.72 MPH

Race Recap:
Leah Pruett qualified her Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak fifth to earn lane choice over fellow ‘top 10’ ranked driver John Cerbone in round one. Cerbone got the jump on the starting line and never trailed, powering his machine to a 7.883-second pass to outrun Pruett’s 7.982-second effort, ending her day early.
“Talk about a phantom. We’ve nicknamed this beauty ‘phantom’ and we had phantom issues with our Mopar Drag Pak. We lost boost on a qualifying run and swapped superchargers and compressors and then for E1 we put a new adjuster on it and it lost boost earlier in the run. There’s something plaguing us with a really good running Dodge. We do plan to test before Vegas as we want to finish strong. Our team, as a whole, is very strong going rounds with Mark (Pawuk) to the semis and Dave (Davies) getting his first round win. I’m having a great time driving. It does hurt not going rounds, but this team has been through a lot, and we have shown what it needs to push forward and make the right calls.”

NHRA Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown Series Championship Standings (unofficial):
1 Aaron Stanfield   651
2 David Barton   430
3 John Cerbone   409
4 Jesse Alexandra   403
5 David Janac   367
6 Leah Pruett   366
7 Stephen Bell   339
8 Mark Pawuk   304
9 Leonard Lottig   283
10 Doug Hamp   281

Note: Stanfield clinched the 2021 FSS championship during the St. Louis event 

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