Dodge Charger Funny Cars Dominate the NHRA Dodge Nationals
For the second year in a row, the Dodge Charger R/T teams from Don Schumacher Racing have dominated the NHRA Funny Car Class of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Championship. Dodge Charger funny cars won 10 of the first 18 races in 2016, but unlike 2015 – when the teams lost their momentum during the 6-race shootout for the title – the DSR Chargers are firing on all cylinders right now.
Tommy Johnson Jr lost the first Countdown to the Championship event to John Force, but the second event was an all-Dodge final, with Fast Jack Beckman beating Johnson. In the third event of the year, the DSR Chargers held all four of the semifinals spots, obviously leading to another all-Dodge final and this time – Johnson got the win.
Due to inclement weather early in the weekend, the funny car teams only got to make a single qualifying run, but three of the DSR Dodge Charger R/T teams made the most of their one run. Matt Hagan grabbed the top spot with a 3.873 at 333.99 miles per hour, followed by Tommy Johnson Jr in second with a 3.897 at 330.8mph. Del Worsham and his Toyota Camry were the third quickest with a run of 3.904 at 325.77mph and Ron Capps was fourth with a time of 4.192 at 326.06mph. Those were the only four cars in the funny car class that made a “good” qualifying run, with the other 12 cars all turning in times which normally wouldn’t get them into the field.
For example, Jack Beckman qualified eleventh with a time of 9.998 at 63.76 miles per hour, meaning that the quicker Hellcat Challenger and Charger road cars could have turned better times than the 11-16 positions in the NHRA funny car class. The 16th place qualifier got into the field with a run of 15.003 at 53.76 miles per hour, which is a touch slower than the truck I use to pull my horse trailer.
Those are all ridiculous comparisons, but that gives you an idea of how the qualifying process was impacted by the rain, so when the drivers hit the track for the first round of eliminations, many of them hadn’t made a good pass down the track. Three of the four DSR Charger drivers did, and that led to good things in eliminations.
In the first round, all four of the DSR Dodge Charger funny cars advanced, with Matt Hagan beating Jim Campbell, Ron Capps beating Alexis DeJoria, Tommy Johnson Jr beating Cruz Pedregon and Jack Beckman beating Chad Head. In that initial round, only Johnson and Beckman were able to run in the 3-second range and several races were won with 5-second ETs.
In round 2, Matt Hagan beat John Bojec, Ron Capps beat Tim Wilkerson, Tommy Johnson Jr beat Mike Smith and Jack Beckman beat Del Worsham – sending all four Dodge Charger DSR cars into the semifinals.
Although there were plenty of sloppy, slower runs in the first two rounds, the DSR Chargers put on an incredible show in the semifinals, with all four cars running times comparable to Hagan’s top qualifying time. Ron Capps got out to an early lead over Matt Hagan and that would be the difference, with the two Chargers running identical 3.983 ETs. The race was almost as close on the other side of the bracket, with Tommy Johnson Jr turning a slight starting line advantage into a similarly-slight win on the top end, with Johnson’s 3.982 beating Beckman’s 3.899. Beckman was the slowest car in the semifinals, with a speed of 327.51 miles per hour.
That is good racing…especially for Dodge fans. This is what happens when you have four cars on the same team fighting for a championship late in the season, and it is fantastic.
In the final round, Tommy Johnson Jr took on Ron Capps for the Wally, and after losing in the finals in each of the first two races of the Countdown to the Championship, he made sure not to waste this shot at a win. Johnson beat Capps out of the hole and never looked back – running a 3.895 at 330.63mph and beating Capps’ 3.911 at 324.12mph in another great drag race.
After Tommy Johnson Jr lost to John Force in the first event of the Countdown to the Championship and Jack Beckman in the second race of the Countdown, Johnson came back strong to win the third event. Thanks to three straight final round visits and a win at the Dodge Nationals, Johnson has jumped up into the second spot in the championship race, 24 points back of teammate Ron Capps. Jack Beckman is third (93 points back of Capps) and Matt Hagan is fourth (110 points back). The highest positioned non-Dodge is Toyota driver Del Worsham, who claimed the 2015 title thanks to a strong run down the stretch.
This year, it is the Dodge Charger drivers who have that strong run and right now, the odds look very good of Dodge bringing home the NHRA funny car title for 2016.