The very formidable DSR fuel Funny Car racing team are hitting their stride again to produce another all Mopar-brand NHRA final round….
Round 9 of 24 for the 2016 season of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing saw Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver Ron Capps square off with teammate and fellow Mopar Dodge Charger R/T pilot Tommy Johnson Jr., with Capps hoisting the trophy at the end of the racetrack.
Professional category wins at the rain-delayed Monday event finish to the 4th Annual NHRA New England Nationals also went to Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock).
Qualifying went off without a hitch for Capps, who was situated neatly on the pole for the second time this season and 19th time overall in his steadily charging Dodge following four 3-second passes – including the second-quickest run in the history of the category (3.865).
Capps was on a roll, but Mother Nature threw the NHRA teams a curveball as rain descended upon New England Dragway on Sunday and put a day-long hold on the action. Teams rallied and regrouped on Monday under sunny skies and with quite different air and track conditions.
Maintaining his stranglehold on the power of his Mopar beast, Capps drove to four consecutive 3.9-second passes en route to the 47th Funny Car win of a career which spans two decades. It was the second win of the year for Capps, who kicked off the season with a Winternationals victory, and a repeat performance of his 2014 triumph at New England Dragway. With the win, he pulled to within 22 marks of the Funny Car points lead.
In round one, Capps went head-to-head with Funny Car newcomer Dave Richards, and he handily disposed of his opponent with a strong 3.921-second pass at 322.19 mph. Capps clocked a 3.956/323.12 in round two to send Courtney Force home on a 3.999/323.04.
In the semi final round Capps advanced again with a 3.926/318.69 over John Force’s 3.966/319.14 mph.
The Epping event marked the second event in which Capps and Johnson would compete against one another for the title; they last met in the final round at the 1999 NHRA event at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading.
Although Johnson Jr., in his 34th final, left the starting line first in a meeting of powerful Mopar Dodge Funny Cars there at New England Dragway, Capps edged ahead at half-track and held on to take the win, 3.923/325.61 to 3.947/322.11.
“We were nearly perfect this weekend, and that’s the key,” said Capps, who is the second-most winning driver in NHRA Funny Car history and became the first driver in the category to make eight passes in the 3-second zone in a single race weekend. “We gathered a lot of [bonus] qualifying points, and if we had been able to gather them all, it would have been the perfect weekend.
In Top Fuel, another DSR team racer Antron Brown closed the gap on series points leader Doug Kalitta with a convincing victory over rival Steve Torrence in the final round. Brown powered his Matco Tools dragster to a winning performance of 3.769 seconds at 314.61 mph to hold off Torrence’s Capco Contractors machine, which trailed with a 3.778 at 325.30, in a very close finish.
It was Brown’s 56th career win and his first at New England Dragway. He earned an opening round bye as the No. 1 qualifier and then defeated Shawn Langdon and Tony Schumacher to advance to his fourth final round appearance of the season. With the victory, Brown cut Kalitta’s lead from 95 to 46 points.
“The car ran great all weekend,” said Brown, who is now 18-1 in head-to-head meetings versus Torrence. “We were fortunate to get the win. That Capco team over there is no joke. Steve is a real tough competitor and we like racing against those guys because you know they are going to give you a great race every time. We’re going home to Englishtown this weekend and we are ready for it. We’ve got to keep pushing.”
In Pro Stock, Anderson claimed his fourth win of the season and second straight at this event when he sped past final round opponent Allen Johnson. Anderson covered the distance in 6.598 at 210.44 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to hold off Johnson’s charging Marathon Petroleum Dodge Dart, which left the starting line first but finished second with a 6.673 at 208.71. It is the ninth straight final round appearance of the season for Anderson and series leader Jason Line’s KB Racing team and Anderson’s 82nd career victory.
“It’s been a great start to the year,” said Anderson, who defeated V. Gaines, Alex Laughlin and Line in early rounds. “This team is on fire. It’s a dream to drive that race car. I love racing here. It feels like racing back home in Minnesota. I had the best car on the grounds this weekend and only I could’ve screwed it up, and fortunately I got the job done today.”
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues next weekend ( June 9-12 ) with the NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Multiple winners were crowned at New England Dragway and the NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, New Hampshire. Doug Doll Jr., coming off a Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series divisional victory in Maple Grove Raceway, was victorious again in Comp Eliminator. Doll ran 7.462 seconds, 170.82 mph to best Al Ackerman, 8.033, 166.27.
Doll was not the only winner from Reading, Pa., to repeat as Allison Smyth cruised to victory in her Pontiac Firebird in the Stock Eliminator class. Smyth ran 10.487, 123.56 to surpass Jerry Hatch and his Plymouth Duster, 10.678, 122.64.
In the Super Stock class, John Santangelo went back to back to back, winning for the third time in a row at the New England Nationals. Santangelo ran his Camaro to a 10.318, 121.88 pass to defeat. Ray Knight, Olds Calis, 10.067, 131.46.
Matt Harper repeated his victory from 2014, winning in the Top Sportsman presented by RacingRVs.com. Harper, drove his Grand Prix to a 7.313, 187.26 mph lap to defeat Fred Perkins’ 6.732, 202.88.
Jay Turner ran 6.292, 223.32 defeating Tii Tharpe, 6.467, 198.03 to claim victory in the Top Fuel Harley class and the NHRA Harley-Davidson Drag Racing Series.
The other drivers visiting the winner’s circle were John Smith in Super Comp; Tom Stalba (9th National Event win) in Super Gas; Steve Sisko in Super Street, and Ricky Romano in Pro Stock Snowmobile.
Posted with files by Darren Jacobs, NHRA Communications, Keith Yazdanseta & Bruce Biegler
All photos by Dave DeAngelis