Capps Wins All-Mopar Dodge Funny Car Final at Bristol, Pritchett Runner-up in Top Fuel
Bristol, TN – Ron Capps is making a habit of visiting the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series winner’s circle this season. On Sunday afternoon, Capps drove his Mopar HEMI®-powered Dodge Charger R/T from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) to his fifth win of 2017 and his 54th Funny Car win overall during the Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. He defeated his teammate Jack Beckman in an all-Mopar final round.
Leah Pritchett meanwhile put her Mopar-powered dragster from DSR in the Top Fuel final, meaning a HEMI machine has advanced to the final round in that category on eight occasions this year.
Capps’ win was the 10th for Mopar in the Funny Car category out of 11 events contested thus far in 2017. It also extended to a dozen the number of consecutive races won by a HEMI Nitro car, dating back to the end of last season. All four Mopar-powered DSR Funny Cars advanced to the semifinals at Bristol.
In the Funny Car final, Capps defeated Beckman on a holeshot from the left lane. Capps turned in a lap of 4.054 seconds at 317.05 mph to reach the finish line before his opponent, despite Beckman making a 4.040-second pass at 319.29 mph. Capps’ reaction time was .026 compared to Beckman’s .044.
The win broke an all-time tie between the two drivers, with Capps now leading Beckman 5-4 in final rounds. The final was a re-match of last week in Englishtown, where Beckman got his first win of the season.
Capps first powered past Alexis DeJoria in round one to set up a showdown with the stout Robert Hight. Capps got by Hight in a side-by-side race and then squared off with Mopar and DSR teammate Matt Hagan. Hagan hazed the tires early and Capps, the 2016 Funny Car champion, advanced to his seventh final round of the season and won for the fifth time. It was also his fourth Bristol win, tying John Force.
With the win, Capps extended his already large points lead even further, despite the team deciding to change cars before the Saturday qualifying sessions.
Beckman began his run to the final by racing his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T past Cruz Pedregon in round one as both cars had cylinders out. Beckman next matched up against Courtney Force in a re-match of last week’s Englishtown semifinal, with Beckman again coming out on top after Force lost cylinders and she fell into Beckman’s clutches at the finish line. Beckman next defeated his DSR stablemate Tommy Johnson Jr. on a side-by-side run in the semis to reach the final for the second week in a row.
The remaining two Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars from DSR also had successful days despite being bested by their teammates.
Hagan and the Mopar/Sandvik Coromant Dodge Charger R/T team first knocked off fellow Dodge driver Jim Campbell as Campbell smoked his tires early, while Hagan dropped cylinders late and was forced to back off near the finish line. He then defeated 16-time champion John Force on a clean pass while Force crossed the center line to set up the semifinal with Capps. Hagan, a native of Christiansburg, Virginia, won at Bristol in 2015, which lies less than two hours from his hometown.
Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T driver Tommy Johnson Jr. dispatched of Jonnie Lindberg in the first round on a solid run while Lindberg struggled to find traction. Johnson next knocked out No. 1 qualifier Tim Wilkerson to reach the semifinal against Beckman where he was finally defeated. Johnson had previously won the Thunder Valley Nationals in 2014 and 2016.
In Top Fuel, Mopar driver Leah Pritchett narrowly missed claiming her fourth win of 2017.
She escaped with a win in the first round over rookie Troy Coughlin Jr. as both cars had issues and Pritchett coasted to the stripe. She next defeated Scott Palmer when her opponent went red as she smoked the tires off the starting line. That set up a semifinal contest against Shawn Langdon, who had uncharacteristically qualified No. 15. Pritchett dispatched of the Langdon machine to reach the final round where she narrowly lost to Clay Millican, who won his first NHRA national event.
Tony Schumacher represented the only Mopar driver in the Nitro categories to not advance to at least the semifinal round. The eight-time champion’s bid for his sixth Thunder Valley Nationals win was ended early, as his U.S. Army team was upset in the first round by Palmer.
The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals were primarily contested on a very hot and slick track under humid conditions throughout the weekend. However, rain before the final qualifying session on Saturday and two rain delays Sunday afternoon forced both drivers and teams to make adjustments quickly in rapidly changing atmosphere as they attempted to get down the track.