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Pritchett, Johnson make it to finals (updated)

by Bill Cawthon on

For the first time this season, Mopar came away winless in Pro-Class competition in an NHRA Nationals event. Ironically, the event was the Mopar Mile-High Nationals in Bandimere, Colorado.

Mopar didn’t come away entirely empty-handed: Kevin Helms took the Stock Eliminator trophy in his 2013 Dodge Challenger.

Kevin Helms brought home Mopar’s sole Wally with his Stock Eliminator win at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals.

Mopar-sponsored Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett and Dodge driver Tommy Johnson Jr. both made it to the finals on Sunday. Pritchett lost to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown, who tripped the lights 0.0363 seconds, or about 17 feet, out front. Brown took his third Wally of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello season and leapfrogged over Pritchett into second place with a 16-point margin.

The end of the season is beginning to take shop. After the recent Route 66 Nationals, Pritchett, along with Brown and current points leader Steve Torrence clinched their berths in the Countdown to the Championship, the season-ending, six-event competition that will determine the 2017 Mello Yello champion.

Tony Schumacher’s Mopar-powered dragster was doing well right up to his meeting with Pritchett in the semifinals. Pritchett got the better start and was able to hang on for the holeshot win. He remains fourth in the Top Fuel points race.

With Brown’s victory, Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) has collected a win at every Nationals race this season. DSR has 19 Wallys in Top Fuel and Funny Car competition.

In Funny Car, Robert Hight’s Auto Club Camaro was 0.1136 seconds and 50 feet ahead of Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Make-A-Wish Charger at the finish. It was the second win of the season for John Force Racing (JFR). The JFR Camaros had been running well all the way through qualifying, taking the top three spots in the order. Apparently they liked the high altitude more than the Dodges, which struggled at times during qualifying. Points leader Ron Capps was the top Mopar driver, qualifying fifth.

With the win, Hight moved up to third place, overtaking Jack Beckman by three points.

Capps ended his race day early with an opening-round loss to Johnson. Johnson had a much better start and held on to take the holeshot win.

Capps was also among the first to lock in a Countdown spot at the Route 66 Nationals. Even with the early exit, he retains a large lead in the point totals.

Matt Hagan and Beckman were both casualties of the quarterfinals. Hagan lost to Cruz Pedregon in the first matchup of the round but secured his own spot in the Countdown. Beckman lost traction about 200 feet after the start; he was 0.1757 seconds and 75 feet behind Hight. With his first-round win over John Force, Hagan became the second Funny Car driver to lock up a spot in the Countdown to the Championship.

Jim Campbell, driver of the Jim Dunn Racing/7-11 Dodge Charger, had a great weekend, making it to the semifinal round before losing to Johnson.

Allen Johnson, who is tied with Bob Glidden for the most Migh-High National Pro Stock victories, only made it as far as the first round on Sunday. Matched up against Bo Butner, he ran an identical ET, but Butner had the quicker start and got a holeshot win. Butner went on to the finals, losing to Drew Skillman.

Matt Hagan really had a tough weekend. In addition to qualifying fifteenth, blowing two bodies and only making it to the quarterfinals, he lost both of the Demon races. Leah Pritchett, who won the first race on Friday, switched cars with Hagan and won again in a photo finish on Saturday. Hagan’s one bright spot was reserving his own berth in the Countdown.

Top Fuel Standings
1. Steve Torrence (5) – 1,253 – 5 wins
2. Antron Brown – 1,199 – 3 wins
3. Leah Pritchett, Mopar HEMI – 1,183 – 3 wins
4. Tony Schumacher, Mopar HEMI – 974 – 1 win

5. Doug Kalitta – 873
6. Brittany Force – 871 – 1 win
7. Clay Millican – 826 – 1 win
8. Terry McMillen – 541
9. Scott Palmer – 528
10. Troy Coughlin Jr. – 496

Funny Car Standings
1. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger R/T – 1,244 – 6 wins
2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger R/T – 1,058 – 3 wins

3. Robert Hight – 973 – 1 win
4. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger R/T – 970 – 2 wins
5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger R/T – 925 – 1 win

6. Courtney Force – 793
7. John Force – 757 – 1 win
8. Tim Wilkerson – 634
9. J.R. Todd – 612
10. Cruz Pedregon – 538

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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