Leah Pritchett put the cherry on top of a dream weekend at the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Powered by Mopar, flying her Mopar Dodge 1320 “Angry Bee” Top Fuel dragster from the No. 1 spot to her first win at historic Bandimere Speedway. Her victory came in the first year with Dodge//SRT as headline sponsor and in the 30th consecutive season of FCA US event title sponsorship at the track near Denver.
The victory was Pritchett’s second of the year in three final rounds this season, the seventh overall of her career, and moved the Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver to third in the point standings. The Wally trophy was also the eighth of the season for a DSR Mopar Dodge driver in the NHRA Nitro classes.
Pritchett also carried a special 1320-themed livery on her Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster to help mark the unveiling of the new Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320, geared for grassroots Sportsman racers, and revealed with help from Pritchett during a press conference on Thursday, July 19.
Pritchett’s Denver domination began in qualifying, where she knocked out a 3.799-second elapsed time (ET) at 327.19 mph, the fastest ever at Bandimere Speedway, to lock down the pole, her second straight of the season and second consecutive at Bandimere. Pritchett also collected 11 out of 12 possible qualifying points.
The Mopar Dodge 1320 driver opened eliminations with a steady 3.857/322.81 to outrun Terry Totten, and then unleashed the “Angry Bee” to the tune of 3.806/321.96, the quickest of the round, to send home Scott Palmer. Pritchett ran a 3.826/312.93 in the semifinals, matched by her opponent Clay Millican’s identical 3.826 ET, but Pritchett’s sharper .043 reaction time earned her the starting line advantage and the round win.
In her second consecutive final-round appearance at Denver and 11th overall of her career, Pritchett trailed briefly against Doug Kalitta but quickly put her Mopar Dodge 1320 in the lead and never looked back, laying down a HEMI®-powered 3.831/316.45 pass to Kalitta’s losing 3.852/319.82 effort.
Ron Capps, winner in 2009 on “Thunder Mountain,” started race day in the seventh position. The DSR driver took his Mopar-powered NAPA Dodge to a first round win over J.R. Todd, leading off the starting line and carrying it to the finish. An all-Mopar Dodge matchup against DSR teammate Jack Beckman awaited Capps in the quarterfinals. The 2016 Funny Car champion had the advantage off the starting tree with a .072 reaction, and his 4.082/309.70 pass was more than plenty to beat Beckman, who lost a cylinder early.
In the semifinals, Capps earned the victory on the starting tree, taking the holeshot win thanks to a .036 reaction time compared to opponent Robert Hight’s slower .080. In the 115th final round of his career and third of the season, Capps and John Force, the two winningest Funny Car drivers in NHRA history, battled it out. Capps had won all three of their previous 2018 race day matchups, but despite a solid pass of 4.067-seconds, Force was able to snag the holeshot win with his 4.075 E.T. With his runner-up appearance, Capps moved to third in the Funny Car standings.
No. 12 qualifier Matt Hagan gave it his best shot at taking the new Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car body to its first round win on Sunday. Coming into Denver off back-to-back wins, Hagan left first against John Force with a quick-trigger .033 reaction time to Force’s slower .050. Both drivers dropped cylinders, with Force managing to beat Hagan and the Hellcat to the finish line. Hagan leaves the event second in the standings.
DSR driver Tommy Johnson Jr. has come oh-so-close to the winner’s circle at Bandimere Speedway, racing to the final round four times in four separate classes, including a Funny Car runner-up last year. Johnson qualified No. 6 and wheeled his Mopar-fueled Make-A-Wish Dodge down the track to defeat Bob Tasca in the opening round. Johnson and reigning world champion Hight both made clean runs in the quarterfinals, but Johnson’s 4.117-second pass wasn’t enough to overcome Hight’s quicker 4.052 run.
Three-time event winner and Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T driver Jack Beckman opened eliminations with a solo run after Todd Simpson was unable to make the call due to body damage. In the second round against DSR stablemate Capps, a dropped cylinder dashed “Fast” Jack’s hopes for a fourth Denver triumph.
Tony Schumacher squared off in his Mopar-powered U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster with Doug Kalitta in a monster opening round matchup. The veteran drivers were nearly identical leaving the starting line and were neck-and-neck the entire 1,000-foot stretch, but Kalitta surged ahead and took the win, ending the U.S. Army team’s day by a mere one inch.
Mopar Dodge//SRT NHRA Sportsman Spotlight
Craig Maddox drove his 2010 Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak to the Stock Eliminator semifinals, earning the Dodge Top Finisher award for the class. Powered by a GEN III 426 HEMI® engine and running in the FS/B class, Maddox’s Mopar Dodge Drag Pak qualified fourth in the field of 32 entries and his Dodge clicked off consistent 9.7 ETs all weekend. In round four, the weather and track conditions changed and Maddox dialed a 9.81. Unfortunately, his opponent had a better reaction time and got to the finish line first.
Marlin Bogner of Kearney, Nebraska, drove his 1968 SS/AH Plymouth HEMI Barracuda to the second round of eliminations at the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals, earning the Dodge Top Finisher award in Super Stock. Bogner, a long-time Mopar Sportsman racer and prior Dodge Top Finisher winner, had the starting line advantage over his opponent but took too much stripe at the end of the track and broke out by 0.023 of a second.
The Dodge Top Finisher award, now in its second year, awards $500 to Stock Eliminator and Super Stock drivers who advance the furthest behind the wheel of a Mopar-powered Dodge, Chrysler, or Plymouth race car at all 24 NHRA national events.
Mopar Dodge//SRT NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series: Notes & Quotes
Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA
“I can’t think of a better way for Mopar and Dodge to celebrate 30 years of support at Bandimere Speedway than with a win on Sunday. The win by Leah Pritchett at the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Powered by Mopar is just a little more special coming at our brand’s home-away-from-home.”
Steve Beahm, Head of Passenger Cars, Dodge//SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA North America
“The victory today by Leah Pritchett and the Don Schumacher Racing team puts a perfect ending on our brand’s first year as title sponsor of the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Powered by Mopar. From the reveal of our new Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320 for grassroots racers, to the competition debut of the new Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car body to the winner’s circle on Sunday, this was a dream weekend for the Dodge and Mopar brands.”
Leah Pritchett, Mopar Dodge 1320 Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 1 Qualifier – 3.799 ET)
Rd.1: (.068-second reaction time, 3.857 seconds at 322.81 mph) beat No. 16 Terry Totten (.125/4.156/276.18)
Rd.2: (.084/3.806 /321.96) beat No. 10 Scott Palmer (.092/3.890/317.34)
Rd.3: (.043/3.826 /312.93) beat No. 4 Clay Millican (.087/3.826/320.36)
Rd.4: (.075/3.831/316.45) beat No. 10 Doug Kalitta (.056/3.852/319.82)
“This is all because I have a phenomenal team and an incredible racecar. We have some incredible, stiff competition but, from Friday to Saturday to today, nobody had a better racecar because, in my opinion, nobody has a better team. To do it in this fashion, it’s a couple ways – this is the Dodge Mile-High Nationals powered by Mopar and Pennzoil, and we’re the 1320 Scat Pak R/T car and, on top of that, I was here in 1997 and got my very first Wally.
“I didn’t win the national championship in a Junior Dragster but my team did. And it is no different today – this team got me my first Wally here on The Mountain. To me, this win is bigger than winning the U.S. Nationals. Winning on The Mountain is doing something. The glory goes to God, it goes to Don Schumacher for giving me an incredible team, and everybody at Don Schumacher Racing who build these racecars giving me something so safe, so solid. There’s a reason I always dreamed of driving for Don Schumacher Racing and this is it.”
On winning her sponsor’s race:
“I think there is something different about pressure. You can look at it as, you have to do well at your sponsor’s race, or you have a partner who believes in you, and all the people there bring that vibe and that energy. Like I said, we have our own zip code on the Mopar midway, and pitting with Hagan and his new (Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) body. You can look at it two ways, as pressure or positive momentum, and that’s what happened this entire weekend.”
Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 7 Qualifier – 4.007 ET)
Rd.1: (.064-second reaction time, 4.101 seconds at 312.93 mph) beat No. 10 J. R. Todd (.081/4.133/311.27)
Rd.2: (.072/4.082/309.70) beat No. 2 Jack Beckman (.083/4.528/214.25)
Rd.3: (.036/4.052/313.88) beat No. 3 Robert Hight (.080/4.035/314.31)
Rd.4: (.057/4.067/308.71) lost to No. 5 John Force (.037/4.075/315.42)
“You can say all you want about him deep-staging, but he turned the win light on and that’s why he’s John Force. We’ll get a crack at him again soon, I’m sure. It was a great weekend to represent Dodge, Pennzoil and everyone on the mountain. My NAPA AutoCare guys were on it. We had some very quick turnarounds today, and they just kept plugging away. It was one of those days. You live and die by the sword. We won on a holeshot against Robert (Hight) and then we lost in the final. Both close races, but it was fun to watch (crew chief) Rahn Tobler incrementally make these changes to make the car quicker and quicker all day.”
Matt Hagan, Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
(No. 12 Qualifier – 4.279 ET)
Rd.1: (.033-second reaction time, 4.279 seconds at 265.69 mph) lost to No. 5 John Force (.050/4.158/285.77)
“It was nice to shake the new Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat body down some more. Obviously, the mountain has been brutal for us. It doesn’t show us much love up here but it’s one race out of the whole series, and it’s totally different from any of the other conditions we see. We come up here and we try some new things every year, some of it works, some of it doesn’t. We still have a phenomenal race car. We’re coming up at a point where things are starting to click at the right time. I don’t think this race is a reflection of what we’re capable of.
“We’ll get back down to sea level where we’ve been running good and strong. I’m excited for these next two races on the swing. Should be having a brand-new baby when I get home. We’re going to induce my wife on Monday night if she doesn’t have it before then, so it’s going to be a super exciting week for me. I’m looking forward to holding the baby for a little bit before we head back out. Things are just really good right now.”
Tommy Johnson Jr., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 6 Qualifier – 4.003 ET)
Rd.1: (.077-second reaction time, 4.094 seconds at 308.28 mph) beat No. 11 Bob Tasca III (.044/4.998/167.99)
Rd.2: (.066/4.117/313.58) lost to No. 1 Robert Hight (.050/4.052/318.09)
“I told the guys, even though losing second round I feel like this was one of our better races that we’ve had in a while. The car was very consistent, ran very well, no parts damage and it kind of gives us some momentum for the rest of the swing. I think we are starting to figure the new track prep out, the car seems to be turning the corner and it gives me a lot of confidence going into the next two.”
Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 2 Qualifier – 3.973 ET)
Rd.1: (.085-second reaction time, 4.689 seconds at 182.21 mph) beat No. 15 Todd Simpson (No time)
Rd.2: (.083/4.528/214.25) lost to No. 7 Ron Capps (.072/4.082/309.70)
“Coming into Denver is always an anomaly. The tune-up is just so, so different here. We go up against our teammate (Ron Capps) second round, do our burnout and I’m starting to backup and I see a rain drop on the windshield. Not long after that, the starter gave us the signal to kill the car and that’s always a crap shoot. Whenever you have to shut the car off on the starting line and restart it, you just don’t know how much heat is in the clutch. Now both of us had to do it, but obviously our clutch just didn’t like it. The car went out there and dropped a cylinder and we lost. Qualifying second, we should be doing better than this on race day. We’ll come off the mountain, we’ll go back to our standard tune-up in Sonoma. We’re starting to wind up for Indy and the Countdown and I think we’re going to be peaking at the right time.”
Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 7 Qualifier – 3.834 ET)
Rd.1: (.064-second reaction time, 3.852 seconds at 321.12 mph) lost to No. 10 Doug Kalitta (.067/3.849/320.43)
“It was a phenomenal race – there’s no other way to look at it. You could be upset that the race is over, but you can’t be upset with what we did. It would’ve beat every other car but one with the reaction time and the ET (elapsed time) and we lost by one 10,000th of a second. The car ran what we wanted it to run, I left like I wanted to leave, it was a phenomenal race.”
Up Next: NHRA Sonoma Nationals
Next on the schedule for the Mopar and Dodge//SRT squad is the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals, scheduled for July 27-29 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
Dodge Garage: New Digital Hub for Drag Racing News
Fans now have a new one-stop destination for Mopar and Dodge drag racing news. Dodge Garage (http://www.dodgegarage.com) is a digital content hub and premier destination for drag racing and muscle car enthusiasts.
Fans can view daily updates and get access to an online racing HQ, news, events, galleries, available downloads and merchandise. Dodge Garage features include exclusive content, such as a three-part video series “Chasing the Title,” that offers fans a unique, behind-the-scenes glimpse at Pritchett and her DSR team in action.
For information on Mopar on and off the track, check out the Mopar brand’s official blog, http://blog.mopar.com.
2018 NHRA Championship — Point Standings After Round 14 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)
NHRA Funny Car
1. Courtney Force — 1156
2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger R/T (3) — 946
3. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger R/T (1) — 930
4. Robert Hight — 911
5. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger R/T (1) — 906
6. J.R. Todd — 832
7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger R/T — 746
8. John Force — 735
9. Shawn Langdon — 647
10. Bob Tasca III — 596
NHRA Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence – 1132
2. Clay Millican — 959
3. Leah Pritchett, Mopar Dodge HEMI (2) — 949
4. Tony Schumacher, Mopar Dodge HEMI (1) — 930
5. Doug Kalitta — 893
6. Antron Brown — 750
7. Terry McMillen — 696
8. Brittany Force — 658
9. Richie Crampton — 576
10. Scott Palmer — 544