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Hagan wins in Vegas; Capps drops to second

by Bill Cawthon on

Matt Hagan picked up his fourth Funny Car Wally of the 2017 Mello Yello drag racing season this afternoon. Hagan got a faster start in his race with Courtney Force and posted an ET of 3.942 seconds at 329.42 mph, 0.078 seconds quicker and 9.37 mph faster, giving Dodge its 15th win of the season.

Crew chief Dickie Venables (left), Mopar Motorsports Marketing Manager Dale Aldo (center) and driver Matt Hagan celebrate after winning at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Ron Capps held a slim lead coming into the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but saw it literally go up in smoke when his engine let go in his first-round matchup with John Force. Capps’ nemesis, Robert Hight, was eliminated in the semifinals but that was enough to give him a 15-point lead in the driver standings. With just one event left on the calendar, Capps and Hight are the only two drivers still in contention for the top spot.

Jack Beckman set new track ET and speed records on his last qualifying pass at the 17th annual NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, reaching a career-best top speed of 335.57 mph.

Jack Beckman reset both ends of the track record and clinched the top spot in the qualifying order with a hot fourth-round pass of 3.854 seconds at 335.57 mph. That’s a career top speed for Fast Jack.He then held on until the semifinal round where he started hazing the tires almost at the start, losing to Hagan. Since Beckman racked up some points during qualifying, he managed to hold on to fourth place but Hagan’s victory trimmed the margin to just nine points.

Tommy Johnson Jr., the fourth member of the Don Schumacher Racing contingent, shared Beckman’s fate, barely getting out of the gate before losing traction. Ironically, he lost to Beckman, who would do the same thing a round later. Johnson remains seventh in the Countdown.

Jim Campbell, driver of the Jim Dunne Racing Charger, also lost to Beckman when Campbell toasted the tires at about the 300-foot mark.

Leah Pritchett made it all the way to the Top Fuel semifinals before losing in her race with Brittany Force. Force gave Terry McMillan his first career win in the final round.

Tony Schumacher set a new track ET record to claim the top spot in the Top Fuel qualifying order but only made it to the quarterfinals where his engine started dropping cylinders and he lost to Pritchett, his DSR teammate.

Pritchett and Schumacher remained fifth and sixth in the Countdown.

Allen Johnson eliminated former Dodge Dart driver Erica Enders in today’s opening round but lost to Bo Butner in the quarterfinals. Butner was runner-up to Greg Anderson in the Pro Stock finals. Johnson, like the Johnson in Funny Car, remains seventh in the points race.

Johnson (and most likely Dodge) have just one event left before Johnson retires, leaving Alan Prusiensky as the sole possibility for the 2018 season. Reversing a statement from earlier in the month that Pro Stock elimination might be trimmed to as few as eight cars for some events, the NHRA now says Pro Stock will run a full 16-car field in all 24 events next year. If Prusiensky doesn’t campaign his Dart, it will be an all-Camaro class.

All three Pro Class championships will be decided on Sunday, November 12, at the Auto Club finals in Pomona, California. With a new scoring system that awards a point-and-a-half, it should be interesting.

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, 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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