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Charger dominates Funny Car regular season

by Bill Cawthon on

With Jack Beckman’s Funny Car victory in the NHRA U.S. Nationals, the Dodge Charger and Don Schumacher Racing completed the 18-event 2015 Mello Yello NHRA regular season with 14 wins, a 78% ratio.

The win at Lucas Oil Raceway brought Beckman’s first Funny Car Wally at the prestigious U.S. Nationals, called the “Big One” in drag racing circles.

NHRA-Dodge-14Wallys-Web

“It’s hard to enjoy what just happened because you are worn out,” said Beckman, who enters the Countdown to the Championship as the No. 1 seed. “Yesterday after the Traxxas Shootout I was thrashed. It was a hot day that ended up wonderful. Getting through today was the key. I think surviving this is an effort unto itself. I’ve got to let that trophy sit on the office shelf and stare at it for a while to realize that we actually did it.”

Over the course of the regular season, Beckman’s Infinite Hero Charger R/T collected six Wallys, two national ET records and the $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Funny Car Shootout, not to mention lots of donations for the Infinite Hero Foundation. Beckman made the finals in seven races; his only final-round loss was to fellow DSR teammate Ron Capps at the Spring Nationals.

Matt Hagan racked up four wins in five final round races. Through the first 18 races, neither Beckman nor Hagan ever lost in a final round to anyone but another DSR Racing driver in a Dodge Charger.

Only one event, the Summitracing.com Nationals in April, didn’t have a Dodge in the final round. In 18 finals, DSR drivers won 67% of the time; John Force Racing drivers lost 67% of the time.

Beckman’s final regular season win came with a holeshot: Beckman was 0.29 seconds faster at the start and ran a 4.058-second ET at 310.77 miles per hour. Robert Hight’s Auto Club Camaro posted a 4.045-second time at 309.77 mph but was 0.0167 seconds, about eight feet, behind the Dodge at the finish line.

Hight almost missed the final round: in the semifinals, Tommy Johnson Jr. had a huge 0.173-second starting line advantage, but smoked the tires almost at the start and couldn’t pedal his way through.

Beckman turned a small starting line advantage into a big lead in his race with Del Worsham. The Infinite Hero Dodge tripped the timing lights 0.1365 seconds, around 60 feet, before the DHL Camry.

The semifinals were noteworthy in that this was the first time since 1991 that the four top Funny Car qualifiers made it to the semifinals.

In the opening round of today’s eliminations, Tommy Johnson Jr. shut down John Hale and the ALO Drink Charger.

The last matchup of the first round was a wild pedalfest between Ron Capps and Matt Hagan. Capps was first away from the start but the NAPA Charger and the Mopar/Rocky Boots Charger are dead even at the 60-foot mark. By the 330-foot lights, Capps is slightly ahead but both cars are going up in smoke. Capps and Hagan pedal through and keep going. At the 660-foot mark, Hagan’s car has a big fireball underneath, but he keeps on going. By this time, both cars are heading toward the centerline but Capps arrives at the finish line 0.0475 seconds – 17 feet – ahead of Hagan.

In the first race of the quarterfinals, Johnson ended Courtney Force’s hopes of being in the Countdown to the Championship. In the next race, Beckman ended Capps’ race day, tripping the lights 0.4618 seconds, almost 100 feet, before Capps, whose car was having trouble.

Over in Pro Stock, it was four-up, four-down as all four Dodge Darts were eliminated in the first round. Deric Kramer was first out, losing to Jason Line; Allen Johnson was five feet back when Larry Morgan crossed the finish line; V. Gaines had teh better reaction time, but couldn’t keep up with Erica Enders and Aaron Stanfield eliminated himself by taking too long to stage for his meet with Greg Anderson.

Going into the six-race Countdown to the Championship, Dodge drivers hold the top three spots and the No. 6 position in the Funny Car driver standings. Allen Johnson’s Team Mopar Dart will be the sole Dodge in Pro Stock.

2015 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRIVER STANDINGS AFTER U.S. NATIONALS
FUNNY CAR
Rank Driver Car Wins Points Behind Move
1 Jack Beckman* Dodge Charger 6 1458 Leader Unch.
2 Matt Hagan Dodge Charger 4 1280 -178 Unch.
3 Tommy Johnson Jr. Dodge Charger 2 1271 -187 Unch.
4 Del Worsham Toyota Camry 1149 -309 +1
5 John Force Chevrolet Camaro 2 1143 -315 -1
6 Ron Capps Dodge Charger 2 1102 -356 Unch.
7 Robert Hight** Chevrolet Camaro 1 1069 -389 +1
8 Tim Wilkerson Ford Mustang 1 1022 -436 -1
9 Cruz Pedregon Toyota Camry 908 -550 Unch.
10 Alexis DeJoria Toyota Camry 905 -553 Unch.
PRO STOCK
Rank Driver Car Wins Points Behind Move
1 Erica Enders* Chevrolet Camaro 6 1563 Leader +1
2 Greg Anderson Chevrolet Camaro 4 1499 -64 -1
3 Chris McGaha Chevrolet Camaro 2 1304 -259 Unch.
4 Jason Line Chevrolet Camaro 2 1275 -288 Unch.
5 Allen Johnson Dodge Dart 1 1060 -503 Unch.
6 Larry Morgan Chevrolet Camaro 2 1035 -528 Unch.
7 Shane Gray Chevrolet Camaro 999 -564 Unch.
8 Drew Skillman** Chevrolet Camaro 957 -606 Unch.
9 Vincent Nobile Chevrolet Camaro 927 -636 Unch.
10 Jonathan Gray Chevrolet Camaro 1 909 -654 Unch.
*Event winner **Runner-up

The Countdown to the Championship playoffs begin September 18 at the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina. The 2015 champions will be named after the Auto Club Finals November 12-15 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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