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Countdown fields set at U.S. Nationals

by Bill Cawthon on

It was a good weekend in Indianapolis for Mopar, Dodge and Don Schumacher Racing. Two Mopar wins at the Big One – the U.S. Nationals. Three more Mopar drivers earned a place in the Countdown to the Championship and Dodge added a tenth Funny Car Wally to its regular-season take.

NHRA-Hagan-Countdown-Web

Top Fuel Dragster

Tony Schumacher drove his Mopar-powered U.S. Army car all the way to the Top Fuel dragster Wally with a hole shot win over Steve Torrence just two days after picking up $100,000 for winning the Traxxas Nitro Shootout. The Top Fuel win was a record tenth at the U.S. Nationals for Schumacher, who has the No. 4 spot in the Countdown.

Leah Pritchett got her spot in the Countdown to the Championship, the six-event series that kicks off with the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMay Raceway on September 16. She lost her first-round race with Shawn Langdon, but Terry McMilan, who was vying with Pritchett for the final spot, jumped the gun, turned on the red light and gave Pritchett the Countdown berth by a single point.

Fuel Funny Car

Matt Hagan came away with the Funny Car Wally after being the top qualifier and setting a new track ET record. Hagan got a hole shot win over Del Worsham to take the final victory in the 2016 Mello Yello regular season. Hagan secured the No. 3 spot in the Countdown with the win.

Hagan’s third win this season put him second only to Ron Capps, who picked up five victories. With one apiece for Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge’s season take was ten Wallys: Chevrolet was in second place with four and Toyota and Ford collected two each.

Jack Beckman was upset by Dave Richards in the first race of the day. Richards and his Prestig Mustang were making their first appearances in the U.S. Nationals while Beckman was the defending champion and had set a new track speed record. Beckman got the better start but lost traction almost immediately. Beckman is fifth in the Countdown order.

Ron Capps, who goes into the Countdown in the top spot, made it all the way to the semifinals where engine trouble cost him the win over Worsham.

Tommy Johnson Jr. also made it to the semifinals where he lost to Hagan. Johnson had already clinched his spot in the Championship series in the No. 7 position.

Pro Stock

Allen Johnson rode three hole shots to the final round of Pro Stock eliminations. He beat Drew Skillman, Greg Johnson and Shane Gray before facing off against Chris McGaha. This time, McGaha got the quicker start and the Marathon Dodge Dart couldn’t catch the Harlow Sammons Camaro.

Johnson, who has more semi-final and final round appearances than any other Dodge driver, has the fourth position in the Pro Stock Countdown.

It all came down to the wire for Erica Enders and Jeg Coughlin Jr. They entered the Big One with small leads over Alex Laughlin, driver of the GasMonkey/360 Wraps Camaro. Both Enders and Coughlin lost in the opening round, but Laughlin fell to Shane Gray in the quarterfinals and couldn’t make up the difference. Enders, the 2015 World Champion, secured the No. 9 spot, and Coughlin got the final berth.

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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