DSR Vegas 2 Post-Race Recap

Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals
Presented by Pennzoil

Event 19 of 20
Countdown Event 6 of 7
The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nev. 
Oct. 29 - 31, 2021

DSR Elimination Highlights:

  • Funny Car point leader Ron Capps raced to a runner-up finish in Las Vegas at the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil
  • By advancing to the finals for the fifth time in 2021, and second time during the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, Capps extended his lead over No. 2 ranked Matt Hagan by 58 points
  • Despite his first-round loss, defending world champion Hagan remains solidly in the Funny Car title conversation as he enters the final showdown in Pomona, Calif. less than two rounds behind Capps
  • After four years of competing in the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown series, double-duty driver Leah Pruett closed out her FSS career with a runner-up performance – her third of the year – and a third place finish in the category
  • Mark Pawuk recorded a quarterfinal finish, and also secured a Top 10 ranking to close out his 2021 Factory Stock Showdown campaign

Top Fuel:
Driver of the Matco Tools 'Tools for the Cause' Toyota Top Fuel Dragster

Qualified: No. 8 (3.748 E.T. at 327.74 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.967 E.T. at 155.11 MPH defeated by Leah Pruett 3.752 E.T. at 318.32 MPH

Race Recap:
Antron Brown qualified the pinked-out Matco Tools ‘Tools for the Cause’ dragster eighth during its final outing of the 2021 season and drew DSR teammate Leah Pruett as his first-round competitor. Against Pruett, Brown was up in smoke early into the run, he gave it a quick pedal but his machine let go with a small fireball shortly after, denying the defending event champ any opportunity to chase his teammate down.
“We did pretty well in qualifying this weekend with the pink Matco Tools for the Cause colors making two good runs on Saturday. We just pushed too hard today. This certainly isn’t how we wanted to end this race given we won here a year ago, but we have two weeks to until Pomona. We have one race left to go out and show out. We have to lick our wounds and get ready for the Finals to end on a strong note.”

Driver of the Direct Connection Top Fuel Dragster

Qualified: No. 9 (3.769 E.T. at 314.61 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.752 E.T. at 318.32 MPH defeated Antron Brown 4.967 E.T. at 155.11 MPH
E2: Foul (red light); defeated by Brittany Force 8.087 E.T. at 82.88 MPH

Race Recap:
Flying the colors of the Direct Connection livery for the first time, Leah Pruett was looking for a long day of going rounds aboard her new-look Top Fuel dragster. By qualifying ninth for the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil, Pruett drew teammate Antron Brown as her E1 competitor. Pruett was quick on the throttle to beat her opponent off the line and clocked her quickest pass of the weekend (3.752 seconds) to defeat Brown who was up in smoke early into the run. In round two, Pruett was prepared to go head-to-head with Brittany Force, and knowing Force was going to be armed with an uber-quick machine, Pruett was set on giving herself every advantage possible. An amped-up Pruett staged her car, but it was immediate heartbreak for the double-duty driver as she stood on the throttle early and activated the red light, allowing her competitor the automatic round win.
“We had quite the Direct Connection facing Antron Brown, our teammate, this morning. We had a .044 light and I’ve been doing everything by the book that you should do as a driver from sleep schedule to eating right to preparing right to nutrition. You name it, I’ve been trying to refine it. We had a solid first round pass with that 3.75 to get the win. Before and after the first round of Top Fuel, we had Factory Stock. When you start your day at the track at 8 am it makes for a long day. We got wins in Factory Stock and Top Fuel to start the day and another round win in Factory Stock before the second round of Top Fuel. I felt in a good head space and we went up to repeat what we had just done the round before. I thought I had seen yellow and slapped the pedal and there was that bright red light right in my face. I’m sure the fans could probably hear the cuss words in the stands coming out of my mouth at the moment. It used to eat me and bog me down, but comparing it to other lights in that lane at that time of the day it shows me what I need to work on to really be at tip-top condition as a driver. It being the last Factory Stock race with DSR, I think I just expired myself mentally.”

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

Qualified: No. 8 (3.926 E.T. at 324.51 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.915 E.T. at 323.74 MPH defeated Tim Wilkerson 3.947 E.T. at 330.72 MPH
E2: 3.884 E.T. at 332.10 MPH defeated Alexis DeJoria 3.998 E.T. at 315.05 MPH
E3: 3.904 E.T. at 326.87 MPH defeated Robert Hight 5.520 E.T. at 130.85 MPH
E4: 6.854 E.T. at 80.86 MPH defeated by Cruz Pedregon 4.257 E.T. at 225.03 MPH

Race Recap:
Ron Capps is chasing his second Funny Car world championship and Don Schumacher Racing’s 19th series title, and by powering to a runner-up finish at the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil, Capps extended his lead to 58 points over his No. 2 ranked teammate, Matt Hagan, departing the penultimate event of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Series season.
The 2016 Funny Car world champ entered the weekend carrying a one-point advantage over Hagan but by the time qualifying wrapped up on Saturday night at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Hagan had reclaimed the No. 1 position and held a two-point margin on Capps heading into Sunday’s elimination rounds. While Capps sat strapped into the Pennzoil Synthetics/NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat ready to take on his round-one opponent, he watched as Hagan bowed out early, putting Capps in prime position to make a major move in his championship campaign.
As the No. 8 seed, Capps faced tough competition early in the day drawing fellow Top 10 contender, Tim Wilkerson in E1. Crew chiefs Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli and John Medlen used their NAPA Know How to tune Capps’ machine to low E.T. of the round, effectively defeating Wilkerson and allowing Capps to move back into the points lead in the process. Capps and the NAPA team continued their race day dominance in rounds two and three. After notching the holeshot advantage and rocketing to low E.T. of the session in both rounds, Capps defeated Alexis DeJoria and Robert Hight to set up a bid to the finals, his fifth of the season and second in the first six Countdown to the Championship playoff events.
The final round featured a showdown between Capps and championship-challenger Cruz Pedregon who placed himself solidly back into the title hunt conversation on Sunday after fellow top-five contenders J.R. Todd and John Force were defeated in the first round. The veteran drivers lined up, and Capps launched hard off of the starting line but his machine suffered an explosion shortly after, ending his chances at capturing a sixth Vegas Wally trophy.
One race remains in the 2021 NHRA Camping World Series season before a champion is crowned in Pomona, Calif., and with the NHRA Finals’ unique points-and-a-half format, the stage is set for what is sure to be an exciting showdown for the final prize. Capps will enter the event with a 58-point lead over Hagan, and an 83-point cushion between him and Pedregon.
“Being the Dodge//SRT Nationals Presented by Pennzoil, we were motivated to put this Pennzoil Dodge SRT Hellcat into the final round and winner’s circle. You look at qualifying and look around and we didn’t qualify as well as we’d liked. It was one of our worst positions all season and we still had lane choice. That tells you how good this NAPA team has been all season. Then you have Tim Wilkerson first round. And we’re the last pair of Funny Cars, the 16th pair of nitro cars and we’re sitting there waiting and listening to so many of the other contenders fighting for a championship, (Matt) Hagan, J.R. (Todd), (John) Force, go out. It’s Halloween, but you think ‘how strange of a day.’ And we had to wait and wait for our first round match-up with Tim. He beat us in the final at Indy and that’s such a tough car and team. We got by a close one there in that first round and that was huge. Then we had Alexis (DeJoria), the No. 1 qualifier, then Robert Hight, a three-time world champion, and Cruz Pedregon, another champion. That’s a ‘murderer’s row’ on race day. We had to fight every round and this Pennzoil/NAPA car was just so fun to drive. We had a lot of friends and folks from NAPA headquarters in Atlanta and from GearWrench and family members here all weekend, and that was huge to go rounds in front of all of them.

"We’ll take any amount of points and Pomona is a such an outlier with the points-and-a-half deal. There’s so many points up for grabs. I’m not even thinking about winning this thing. We’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing and it was unfortunate in the final round, but it was two Dodges battling it out and that makes our friends in Auburn Hills, Mich. proud and I can’t wait for Pomona. Two weeks cannot come soon enough.”

Driver of the Direct Connection Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye

Qualified: No. 4 (3.905 E.T. at 321.65 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 4.087 E.T. at 316.15 MPH defeated by Chad Green 4.009 E.T. at 321.12 MPH

Race Recap:
Three-time Las Vegas winner Matt Hagan has been battling atop the Funny Car standings throughout the 2021 Countdown to the Championship, jostling between the No. 1 and 2 positions with teammate Ron Capps. Hagan arrived at the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals just one point behind Capps, the category leader. The defending world champion retook the championship lead by two points after recording the quickest run of the final qualifying session and putting his Direct Connection Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat fourth on the eliminations ladder. 

Looking to maintain his lead and defend his back-to-back 2019 and 2020 wins at the event, Hagan staged his HEMI-powered machine next to No. 13 seed Chad Green for the opening round. While he had the quicker start, a dropped cylinder right at the hit of the throttle meant a disappointing early exit for the championship contender. Despite the setback and thanks to other contenders failing to advance, Hagan maintains his second-place standing with a 58-point deficit to Capps, heading into the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif. in two weeks for the conclusion of the NHRA Camping World series season.
"I don’t know how you put a positive spin on that. I haven’t put a hole out at the step in I don’t know how long. But, that’s the cards we were dealt here in Vegas. We wanted to perform well in front of our sponsors and fans, and keep things going in this championship chase, so, it’s incredibly disappointing. That’s going to be a tough one to get over. We’re not used to first-round losses like that but congrats to Chad Green and his team. They kept us honest and did a good job. It’s a major blow to us right now, but we’ll get over it and get back after it in Pomona."

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

Top Fuel

1 Steve Torrence   2694
2 Brittany Force   2589
3 Mike Salinas   2522
4 Justin Ashley   2506
5 Billy Torrence   2411
6 Leah Pruett   2343
7 Clay Millican   2302
8 Antron Brown   2285
9 Shawn Langdon   2260
10 Doug Kalitta   2211

Funny Car
1 Ron Capps   2585
2 Matt Hagan   2527
3 Cruz Pedregon   2502
4 J.R. Todd   2447
5 John Force   2430
6 Bob Tasca III   2417
7 Robert Hight   2412
8 Alexis DeJoria   2380
9 Tim Wilkerson   2282
10 Blake Alexander   2184

Factory Stock Showdown Series:
Driver of the D H Davies Racing Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 14 (8.039 E.T. at 172.47 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 8.015 E.T. at 174.39 MPH defeated by Jason Dietsch 7.913 E.T. at 176.81 MPH

Race Recap:
David Davies earned a bid into the Sunday show by driving the D H Davies Racing Dodge to an 8.039 E.T. during Q2 to qualify his machine 14th out of a competitive 21-car field. Against his first-round opponent, Davies nabbed the holeshot start but Jason Dietsch had the difference made up by the time they passed the tree and never trailed for the win, ending the rookie Factory Stock Showdown Series driver’s day early at the final event of the year.
“We had a great first season with the new Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak and crew. The crew hustled their butts off this weekend with some issues Leah (Pruett) and I had with the cars. I’m not happy with the early exit today. I’m not happy with the way I performed or the car performed. We had great momentum coming in. We’ve had some great progression, but you’re bound to hit some bumps in the road. The last Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown event in 2021 and we stumbled a little bit, but we’ll get into some off-season testing. We learned quite a bit and I expect us to come out and hit it hard next year. We absolutely had fun racing this year.”

Driver of the Empaco Equipment Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 5 (7.970 E.T. at 174.39 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 7.944 E.T. at 175.00 MPH defeated John Cerbone (Foul, red light)
E2: 7.998 E.T. at 177.44 MPH defeated by Leah Pruett 7.981 E.T. at 173.94 MPH

Race Recap:
Mark Pawuk qualified the Empaco Equipment Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak fifth to start race day with an E1 battle against John Cerbone where he took his machine on a winning 7.944-second ride while his opponent stood on the gas early, fouling out in the opposite lane. The quarterfinal round featured an intramural battle between Drag Pak stablemates Pawuk and Leah Pruett, who notched the advantage off of the line and led her teammate from start to finish.  
“Unfortunately, the Cowboy wasn’t on his game today on the tree. I gotta give my teammate credit, Leah (Pruett) is driving great in that Direct Connection Drag Pak. It’s great to see these Drag Paks running so well with Leah getting back to another final round. We’ll regroup over the winter and hopefully have a strong season in ’22. Overall, it was a good weekend at Vegas. We continue to improve and make progress and make consistent runs. We just need to go a little faster. We’ve made a lot of gains with the new car since its debut this summer, and next year should be fun.”

Driver of the Direct Connection Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak
Qualified: No. 4 (7.963 E.T. at 173.21 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 7.932 E.T. at 174.77 MPH defeated Ryan Priddy 10.179 E.T. at 92.86 MPH
E2: 7.981 E.T. at 173.94 MPH defeated Mark Pawuk 7.998 E.T. at 177.44 MPH
E3: 7.934 E.T. at 174.53 MPH defeated Stephen Bell 8.147 E.T. at 172.12 MPH
E4: 7.944 E.T. at 174.30 MPH defeated by Aaron Stanfield 7.903 E.T. at 173.49 MPH

Race Recap:
After four years of competing in both Top Fuel and Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown (FSS), Pruett kicked off her final ‘double-duty’ race day from the No. 4 spot on the eliminations ladder with the 2021 Direct Connection Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak. Working to close-out the FSS season with a Wally, the 2018 FSS champion began her final day of competition aboard her Drag Pak with a first round win over No. 13-seed Ryan Priddy. 

In the quarterfinals against No. 5 seed Mark Pawuk, Pruett had a quick start and recorded a 7.981-second run at 173.94 mph to beat her teammate’s 7.998 second pass. That set up a semifinal battle against No. 8 qualifier Stephen Bell in which Pruett laid down another stout effort at 7.934 seconds straight down the groove to turn on win lights and advance to her third final round appearance in eight FSS events this year.

Pruett readied herself for the final showdown against the No. 2 qualifier and 2021 FSS Champion Aaron Stanfield in the opposite lane and used another quick launch (0.036 seconds to 0.045 seconds) to give the Direct Connection Drag Pak an early lead. Despite a solid performance at 7.944 seconds at 174.30 mph, her hard-charging opponent made the pass at half-track and edged her at the finish to close out the 2021 FSS season.

“We got a win in Factory Stock to start our day, and then we had our teammate, Mark Pawuk in round two. We really threw it down from burnout to turnout and was able to advance to the final. Man, nothing would have been sweeter than winning in my last race in this Drag Pak with Direct Connection on the sides for Dodge and SRT, but we came up a little short against the current champion, Aaron Stanfield. Overall, what a roller coaster of a day. I’m disappointed in myself for the second round performance against Brittany Force in Top Fuel, but I’m not disappointed by the progress this Drag Pak team has made this year and we’re ready for the Top Fuel final at Pomona in two weeks.”

NHRA Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown Series Championship Standings (unofficial):
1 Aaron Stanfield   768
2 David Barton   484
3 Leah Pruett   461
4 Jesse Alexandra   456
5 John Cerbone   441
6 Stephen Bell   412
7 David Janac   377
8 Mark Pawuk   358
9 Leonard Lottig   315
10 Doug Hamp   312

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