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Las Vegas II Pre-Race Report

NHRA Toyota Nationals 
Event 23 of 24 (Las Vegas II)
NHRA Countdown, Event 5 of 6
The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nevada
October 26-28, 2018

Noteworthy:

  • Ron Capps enters the race weekend as the most recent Funny Car winner on the NHRA tour (Charlotte II), putting him back in championship contention
  • Matt Hagan returns as the defending Funny Car event champion 
  • Tommy Johnson Jr. has earned the pole at the previous two NHRA events (Dallas, Charlotte II)
  • DSR dominated qualifying at the 2017 event with Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Jack Beckman (Funny Car) earning the pole in their respective categories
    • Beckman has started from the No. 1 position the past two years in a row 
  • Schumacher earned the No. 1 qualifying spot at the 2018 Spring Las Vegas event 
  • Schumacher leads the Top Fuel category in number of victories (eight) at The Strip:
    • Spring: 2004, 2009, 2013, 2014 
    • Fall: 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 
  • Schumacher leads the class in number of No. 1 qualifiers (ten) at The Strip:
    • Spring: 2003, 2006 - 2008, 2012, 2013, 2018 
    • Fall: 2006, 2007, 2008 
  • Fans should be on the lookout for a special 'Vegas inspired' Pennzoil livery reveal when Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett pull up to the starting line for Q1
  • Antron Brown will pilot a one-race-only Matco Tools Maximus 3.0 paint scheme in support of Matco's launch of their newest diagnostic tool, the Maximus 3.0

DSR Driver Information:
 
Top Fuel:

ANTRON BROWN
Driver of the Matco Tools Maximus 3.0/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster

Countdown to the Championship Ranking: No. 5

Las Vegas II Event Highlights: 
  • 2013 event champion  
  • 2001 runner-up 
  • 2015 No. 1 qualifier 
2017 Las Vegas II Recap:
Qualified tenth; First round exit (defeated by Shawn Langdon in E1)

Last event (Charlotte II):
Qualified eleventh; First round exit (defeated by Tony Schumacher in E1)

2018 Season Statistics:
26 round wins; ranked fifth in points
 
Career Statistics:
404 races; 66 wins (16 Pro Stock Motorcycle); 49 No. 1 qualifiers (11 PSM)

Noteworthy:
  • Antron Brown will pilot a one-race-only Matco Tools Maximus 3.0 paint scheme in support of Matco's launch of their newest diagnostic tool, the Maximus 3.0, now available
    • The Maximus 3.0 is the fastest, strongest and most intuitive member of the Maximus diagnostic tool family
    • The Maximus 3.0 bridges the gap between diagnosis and repair utilizing the MaximusFix repair database. Once a technician scans a vehicle, they will have full information to help them get to the fix faster. With MaximusFix, they gain instant access to technical service bulletins, wiring diagrams, flow charts and more to complete the job at hand.

Quotable:
"When I go to Las Vegas at The Strip it's like a winner-take-all type of feel. The stakes are big, it's the second-to-last race of the year. We want to show up and get another win before the season is over. We want to close out the season strong. That's what motivates us. We want to go out there and do it at the Toyota Nationals. We basically go in with the tag line 'Let's Go Places' and the place we want to go is the Winner's Circle."


 
LEAH PRITCHETT
Driver of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster 
Countdown to the Championship Ranking: No. 4

2017 Las Vegas II Recap:
Qualified eighth; Semifinal finish (defeated T.J. Zizzo in E1, Tony Schumacher in E2; defeated by Brittany Force in E3)
 
Last event (Charlotte II):
Qualified seventh; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Richie Crampton in E1; defeated by Steve Torrence in E2)

2018 Season Statistics:
30 round wins; ranked fourth in points
 
Career Statistics:
116 races; seven wins; ten No. 1 qualifiers

Quotable:
“Vegas! For most, it’s the land of luck and bright lights, but for us heading back to the high desert with just two races left means betting it all. All the chips on the table, playing our best cards and taking chances, all with a new Pennzoil livery. We’re going hard, so much so that we have some new internals and externals for this race. TF4 and the DSR fab shop men went hard to work after Charlotte with yet another front-half pipe on our dragster. Not a move most teams make during the Countdown, but it was necessary.
 
“The fans will have something to look forward to as we reveal a never-before-seen Pennzoil livery that matches the current national campaign. We’ve never had anything like this. I look forward to revealing our new look, but most importantly, putting our eye-catching digger in the winner’s circle. The focus at this point continues to be getting a solid first qualifying hit so we can put it down in Q2 and build on that to go for low (E.T.) every time. We need to gain qualifying points, and ultimately, go four rounds deep into eliminations on Sunday. 
 
“It’s been almost two weeks since our last race, and I know for me it’s felt like a month, with ten airport stops and non-stop travel. I am so incredibly ready to be back racing with my guys and putting on our own Vegas win lights.”
 

 
TONY SCHUMACHER
Driver of the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Countdown to the Championship Ranking: No. 3

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)  
 
2017 Las Vegas II Recap:
Qualified No. 1; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Troy Buff in E1; defeated by Leah Pritchett in E2)

Last event (Charlotte II):
Qualified No. 6; Semifinal finish (defeated Antron Brown in E1, Clay Millican in E2; defeated by Steve Torrence in E3)

2018 Season Statistics:
31 round wins; ranked third in points
 
Career Statistics:
502 races; 84 wins; 87 No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:
  • Leads the Top Fuel category in number of victories (eight) at The Strip:
    • Spring: 2004, 2009, 2013, 2014 
    • Fall: 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 
  • Leads the class in number of No. 1 qualifiers (ten) at The Strip:
    • Spring: 2003, 2006 - 2008, 2012, 2013, 2018 
    • Fall: 2006, 2007, 2008 

Quotable:
“As slim of a chance as it might be at the moment, the reality is that we still have a shot at the championship and that’s been the goal from day one. It would take two perfect weekends on our part, which we know this U.S. Army team is certainly capable of pulling off, especially with the gains we’ve made the last couple of race weekends with our outright speed, but we would also need a whole lot of help and I’m not sure if that would even be enough. It’s a huge longshot, for sure, but all we can do is control our part of it and hope for some help this weekend. There is no quit in this U.S. Army team and I’ve always said we perform our best when we absolutely have to – backs against the wall in the bottom of the ninth. I’ve been part of some incredible moments with the U.S. Army team and we’re just hoping to keep the dream alive. The first part of doing that is being fast right off the trailer. I know Mike (Neff, crew chief) and Phil (Shuler, assistant crew chief) and the guys have been working hard to make sure that happens. We’ve had so many good weekends racing at The Strip and, despite not having the success we were aiming for so far in the Countdown, we still have the chance to do something special here at the end of the season.” 



Funny Car:
 
JACK BECKMAN
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Countdown to the Championship Ranking: No. 9

Las Vegas II Event Highlights: 
  • 2006 event winner 
  • Two-time runner-up (2009, 2012) 
  • Two-time No. 1 qualifier (2016, 2017) 
2017 Las Vegas II Recap:
Qualified No. 1; Semifinal finish (defeated Jim Campbell in E1, Tommy Johnson Jr. in E2; defeated by Matt Hagan in E3)
 
Last event (Charlotte II):
Qualified tenth; First round exit (defeated by Robert Hight in E1)

2018 Season Statistics:
25 round wins; ranked ninth in points 
 
Career Statistics:
298 races; 28 wins; 24 No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:
  • Has started from the No. 1 spot at the Fall Las Vegas event the past two years in a row (2016, 2017)

Quotable:
“Realistically, the hopes for the Infinite Hero team aren’t pointed towards a world championship this year. We’re too far back in the points and too many things would have to happen. With two races left, our goal is pretty simple: turn an otherwise good year into a very successful year. We’ve already won twice; there’s two more trophies available, and we would very much like to get back into the ‘top five’ in the final point standings.”


 
RON CAPPS
Driver of the Pennzoil Synthetics/NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T
Countdown to the Championship Ranking: No. 3

Las Vegas II Event Highlights: 
  • Four-time event champion (2001, 2005, 2011, 2012) 
  • 2011 No. 1 qualifier 
 
2017 Las Vegas II Recap:
Qualified sixth; First round exit (defeated by John Force in E1)
 
Last event (Charlotte II):
Qualified second; Event champion (defeated Dale Creasy Jr. in E1, Robert Hight in E2, Tim Wilkerson in E3, J.R. Todd in E4)

2018 Season Statistics:
33 round wins; ranked third in points
 
Career Statistics:
529 races; 61 wins (one Top Fuel); 21 No. 1 qualifiers

Noteworthy:
  • Enters Las Vegas as the most recent Funny Car winner on the NHRA tour (Charlotte II)

Quotable:
"This is the time of year when everything you've worked for all season comes to this. Thankfully for me, our NAPA team is always in the hunt for a championship, and nothing is better than to go into the Las Vegas race and be in that conversation. A lot of great stories have been written in the past at this Fall Las Vegas event. It's where championships have been won and lost. We go to Vegas this year with some great momentum after winning the Carolina Nationals two weeks ago. While we're not as close as we would like to be, that win put us into third and in a position to have a run at the championship.
 
"One of the coolest things about this coming weekend in Las Vegas is that we get to run our Pennzoil/NAPA Funny Car paint scheme that we won the Seattle race with back in August. As soon as we brought that car out, our fans loved it, and we would love nothing better than to put it right back in the winner's circle in Vegas.

"We're also doing a lot of fun things around and leading up to the race. I have a special appearance on Thursday where I will change somebody's oil for free with our Pennzoil brand and NAPA AutoCare Centers. We have the NHRA Fan Fest down on Fremont Street on Thursday night, which is always a great event to hang with our NHRA fans. Looking at the weather forecast, it looks like it's going to be a great weekend for drag racing. You combine good weather with a great track like we have in Vegas, and that means great side by side racing."


 
MATT HAGAN
Driver of the Pennzoil Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Countdown to the Championship Ranking: No. 8

Las Vegas II Event Highlights: 
  • 2017 event champion  
  • 2010 runner-up  
  • Two-time No. 1 qualifier (2009, 2014) 
 
2017 Las Vegas II Recap:
Qualified fourth; Event champion (defeated Gary Densham in E1, Del Worsham in E2, Jack Beckman in E3, Courtney Force in E4)

Last event (Charlotte II):
Qualified sixth; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Shawn Langdon in E1; defeated by Tim Wilkerson in E2)

2018 Season Statistics:
28 round wins; ranked eighth in points 
 
Career Statistics:
238 races; 29 wins; 34 No. 1 qualifiers

Quotable:
“Going to be in Vegas for eight days. I’m coming in early and staying after for the SEMA show. A lot going on but, it’s exciting. We’re running a new Pennzoil scheme this weekend. It’s going to be bright, it’s going to be shiny, and we’re looking forward to fans catching their first glimpse of it.
 
“We’re pretty far out of the championship hunt at this point, but Capps is in it and we really want to take out some of our competitors to help our teammate and put him in a better position to win the championship. But, it’s drag racing, it’s fuel Funny Car. You never know what’s going to happen. That’s why we race on Sunday. Nothing is a sure thing out here. It’ll be a fight to the end, and our goal is to win these next two races. We want to pull down a trophy or two before it’s all said and done. That’s what we’re here to do.”


 
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger R/T 
Countdown to the Championship Ranking: No. 5

Las Vegas II Event Highlights:
  • 2006 runner-up  
  • 2015 No. 1 qualifier  

2017 Las Vegas II Recap:
Qualified ninth; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Jonnie Lindberg in E1; defeated by Jack Beckman in E2)
 
Last event (Charlotte II):
Qualified No. 1; First round exit (defeated by Dave Richards in E1)

2018 Season Statistics:
25 round wins; ranked fifth in points 
 
Career Statistics:
443 races; 17 wins (two Top Fuel); 16 No. 1 qualifiers (one Top Fuel)

Noteworthy:
  • Has started from the pole at the past two events (Dallas, Charlotte II) 

Quotable:
“Vegas is one of my favorite tracks, we always seem to have success there. I’m especially looking forward to getting back there after the four-wide event earlier in the season. We felt like we let one get away from us because we should’ve won that race, so we definitely want redemption.
 
“Now that we’re pretty much out of the championship hunt, the pressure is off. I think we have a car that’s capable of winning races, and we’re going to go out there and try and screw it up for another team by winning the last two.”

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