The amazing winning record for DSR Dodge Charger Funny Cars this season continued after yet another dominating performance at NHRA Bristol last weekend….
In a terrific all-Mopar final round showdown, Matt Hagan defeated his Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammate Ron Capps at the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Thunder Valley Nationals, giving the reigning Funny Car world champion his fourth victory of the season in the Mopar Express Lane/ Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T and his first national title at Bristol Dragway. It was also an eighth victory for the New 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T this year and its tenth final round appearance in 11 national events.
“On behalf of everyone at Mopar, congratulations to Matt Hagan on this title win at Bristol,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO — Mopar Brand Service, Parts and Customer Care, FCA. “To have another all-Mopar final with new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, see it in the winner’s circle for an eighth time this season and watch Matt and the team vie for another championship is fantastic and testament to the amount of time, investment and hard work that both Mopar and DSR have put in to building this fantastic and competitive new vehicle.”
The No.2 qualifier, Hagan, advanced through the ladder to his fourth final round appearance of the year and posted an elapsed time run of 4.164 seconds at 303.23 miles per hour (mph) to defeat Capps’ 4.186/307.02 pass.
“The competition in Funny Car is phenomenal right now,” Hagan said. “I pinch myself knowing we’ve won four races out here already this year and there’s still so much racing left. It’s so tough. We have a great team and a great group and I just can’t say enough about (crew chief) Dickie Venables. The guy has taken it to another level. I’m very, very proud to have him as a crew chief. Our guys get along great and we have a great chemistry and we look like we’ve got another shot at hunting this championship this year.”
The victory was the 18th of Hagan’s seven year Funny Car career and puts him on the all-time win list in a tie for tenth with NHRA legend Ed “Ace” McCulloch, Mark Oswald and Tim Wilkerson. It also extended the Mopar driver’s lead in the championship points by 87 points over teammate Capps in second place.
The win also held special significance for the Hagan, not only because he considers this a home event, but also because he was able to do it on Father’s Day and share it with those closest to him.
“This is just such a special race for me, I’m two hours down the road and I have so many friends, so many family members out there,” said Hagan who lives in nearby Christianburg, West Virginia. “My mom and dad came out, my wife brought my two kids Colby and Penny so it is so, so special. Honestly this is up there like winning Indy for me. I care that much about it. I wanted to win it that bad. It gives me chill bumps talking about it. This is a huge race for me and to have my family out here on Father’s Day, it piles on top of each other. It’s something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”
For Capps, who posted wins in Gainesville and Houston, this was his third runner-up finish and fifth final round appearance so far this year.
Aussie Racer Shines Again!
On a hot, steamy Sunday at Bristol Dragway, Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster driver Richie Crampton and crew chief Aaron Brooks stayed cool, and Crampton scored a triumphant victory at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
Crampton made a string of 3.8-second passes in 90-degree weather in east Tennessee, driving by Top Fuel’s best to secure his third victory of 2015, the fifth of his young career and his first in Bristol.
He knocked off past Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon in the final round for the third time this season.
“It’s huge to win at this historic racetrack,” Crampton said. “This has always been one of my favorite racetracks to come to as a crewmember and now as a driver. In all honesty, it’s never been that good to Morgan Lucas Racing. We’ve struggled here in the past with Morgan (Lucas), so to get a win here and turn all that around is just huge.”
Crampton had a bit of a secret weapon Sunday: Daughter Emma came to the track with Crampton’s partner Stephanie Laski and was around to celebrate in a soggy winner’s circle.
Dixon has had success on Father’s Day in the past, but this was Crampton’s day.
“I told (Dixon) earlier today that we have our little secret weapon, Emma,” Crampton said. “That was pretty special to me to get that Father’s Day trophy with our kid in the winner’s circle.”
Three of the four drivers Crampton beat en route to the Bristol title were past Top Fuel champions: Antron Brown in the first round, Shawn Langdon in the second, and Dixon in the final.
“I can’t say enough about Aaron Brooks,” Crampton said. “We struggled a little bit in qualifying and lost the night run Friday night and had an issue in Q4, so we started from No. 11. That was a little daunting to begin with, especially when you’ve got to race Antron in the first round, but obviously it all worked out.”
Brown, the No. 6 qualifier, smoked the tires and slowed to a pass of 4.242 seconds at 224.62 mph as Crampton sped to a 3.863-second pass at 314.39 mph.
No. 3 qualifier Langdon was next, and as he slowed with a run of 4.219 seconds at 254.33 mph, Crampton went straight down the track with a pass of 3.885 at 315.12 mph.
Doug Kalitta, the No. 2 qualifier, was Crampton’s next opponent, and while he made a good run of 3.906 seconds at 316.97 mph, Crampton was better with a 3.859 at 319.14 mph.
That put Crampton against Dixon in the final for the third time this season. Crampton beat the three-time champion in Las Vegas and Topeka, Kan., so the odds favored Dixon. But Crampton’s run of 3.884 seconds at 321.04 mph overcame Dixon’s slowing 4.004-second pass at 250.41 mph.
“To have a winning record over a former world champion is pretty exciting for me,” Crampton said. “I can’t believe we keep racing each other in final rounds. They are a great group of guys. The law of averages says he is going to get me back real soon.”
Perhaps, but Brooks and the Lucas Oil team has been up to the task in 2015, winning three times to match Brown for the most in the class. Plus, Crampton moved into third place in the points standings after 11 races.
“We all know Aaron Brooks can swing for the fence when the weather’s cool,” Crampton said. “You saw that earlier this year in Topeka. He’s been working on this hot-track race car package, and obviously it’s been working out really good.”
Back-to-Back at Bristol!
No one has been hotter at Bristol Dragway than Erica Enders, and no one was hotter than Enders on Sunday at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
Enders won her second race in a row in Bristol and reached her fourth final round in the last five races. Yes, the 2014 Pro Stock champion likes Bristol Dragway.
“It’s always been good to me,” Enders said. “I guess every driver has tracks where they go that no matter what you do wrong, it ends up right. But today we earned it. We made really good runs for the heat; it was really hot and tricky out there.
“My crew chiefs were stressing, but they have this cool, calm, collected attitude, and their confidence comes over the radio in my ears. That in turn gives me the confidence I need to go out there and drive to the best of my ability.”
With temperatures in the low 90s on Sunday, conditions weren’t the best for the recalcitrant Pro Stock cars, but crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll guided Enders to four quick passes, and she was sharp behind the wheel.
“My guys are absolutely incredible,” Enders said. “They never cease to amaze me. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. This is the first team I’ve ever worked for where we’ve had a unified front and they have my back. I’m blessed to have an incredible group of men, and the chemistry is there. It’s always a positive environment.”
Enders scored her 16th career victory and her fourth this season, taking over the Pro Stock points lead in the process. She had reaction times of .027, .017, .007, and .025 in another brilliant driving display under pressure.
Her .027 light was second off the line in the opening round against John Gaydosh, but her pass of 6.695 at 206.51 mph was more than enough to overcome Gaydosh’s 6.787-second pass at 196.27 mph.
She then had a .017 light against Jason Line, whose red-light handed her the victory. She still made a solid pass of 6.698 seconds at 206.64 mph to put her in the semifinals against Shane Gray.
Gray had a .020-second reaction time but left behind Enders, who was .007 on the Tree and got the win with a 6.703-second pass at 206.45 mph. Gray’s run was 6.724 seconds at 206.20 mph.
Enders had a close race with Chris McGaha in the final, but after a .025 light and a 6.685-second pass at 206.95 mph, she got the win over his .055 reaction time and 6.689-second run at 207.46 mph.
“You have to learn to win, and that’s something I never understood until we did it,” Enders said. “Greg Anderson and Jason (Line) had mentioned that to me when I was first starting, and I didn’t get it until we finally did it. You just learn how to handle yourself in those high-pressure situations. It’s a challenge, for sure, and you’ve got to remain positive in your thoughts, and that’s been a huge part of our success.”
Rickie “Rounds Up” Pro Mods
Rickie Smith claimed his first win of the season in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. This weekend’s Pro Mod competition, presented by the Will Kinzer Foundation for Autism Research in association with the Autism Society of East Tennessee, was the fifth of 10 events in the season.
Smith, the two-time and defending world champ, powered his IDG 2015 Chevy Camaro to a winning performance of 5.944-seconds at 244.52 mph over Gainesville winner Bob Rahaim’s TLC Waste Management 2015 Corvette. The win was the King, N.C. native’s eighth career victory and third at Bristol Dragway. He is now fifth in points.
“It was a good time to start making rounds,” said Smith of the switch to his new Camaro. “There are still a lot of races left. We gave up on it a couple of races ago but this may get a little fire back in the old guy’s eyes again.”
Rahaim, the No. 1 qualifier with the ninth fastest Pro Mod run ever in qualifying, fouled out with a red-light during the final, negating his 5.962 at 230.72. He was searching for his second career win. Rahaim is second in points.
The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series next heads to Norwalk, Ohio for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, July 2-5th
Lucas Oil Lowdown
Some untimely wet weather late on Sunday has delayed some of the conclusions to the scheduled NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing action for the Thunder Valley Nationals.
A consequence of that extreme weather has resulted in a postponement of the remainder of the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series competition.
These completions will be contested at upcoming NHRA national events.
Prior to cancellation, Ken Ellison won his first National event title as Tim Weise was unable to make it to the line for the Top Sportsman final. Ellison went five rounds in his ’12 Camaro from the No.22 qualifying position to take the trophy back home to Moore, S.C.
The Stock Eliminator final between Dan Fletcher and Michael Brand will be contested at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio over Fourth of July weekend.
The Top Dragster final will have Steve Cohen vs. Marco Abruzzi at the NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Chicago.
Three categories will be contested in September at the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway. Super Stock reached the semifinals in which the winner of Monty Bogan vs. Mike Saye will square off against Emily Volkman in the final thanks to a bye. No.1 qualifier David Anspach vs. Ray Connolly and John Taylor vs Dean Mathauser will meet in the semifinals in search for the Super Gas title. The Super Comp final will pair up Michelle Furr vs. Jeff Burns.
Posted with files from Pat Caporali, Rob Geiger, Brett Lyons & NHRA Communications
Photos courtesy of NHRA & Auto Imagery