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Last win of the season goes to Dodge (Updated)

by Bill Cawthon on

Tommy Johnson Jr. grabbed the last Funny Car Wally of the 2017 Mello Yello NHRA season with a victory over Robert Hight.

This is Johnson’s second win of the season; the first was in early April in Las Vegas. He was the runner-up at four events. Johnson’s victory bumped him up a spot to finish the year in sixth place.

Johnson dedicated his win to the memory of Terry Chandler, who had sponsored both his Make-A-Wish Foundation car and Jack Beckman’s Infinite Hero Dodge for two seasons. Chandler passed away in July after a battle with brain cancer.

Johnson’s journey to the winner’s circle began by shutting down Bob Bode Jr.’s 2014 Dodge Charger in the opening round. In the quarterfinals he ended Alexis DeJoria’s final race day (DeJoria is retiring after this season) but wound up in the sand pit when his chute got fouled in his Charger’s wheelie bar. In the semifinal round, Johnson’s Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman got the quicker start but Johnson made up the difference, arriving at the finish line about ten feet ahead of Beckman.

After securing the top spot in the qualifying order on Saturday, Beckman scored an easy win over Jeff Arend and his Monte Carlo in his first matchup on Sunday and went on to eliminate John Force in the quarterfinals. Beckman finished fifth in the final points count.

Matt Hagan sent Gary Densham to the showers in the opening round but was about 15 feet behind Robert Hight through the timing lights. Hagan ends the season at fifth in the rankings.

Jim Campbell, driver of the Jim Dunne Racing Charger, gave DeJoria her one win of the day. Campbell’s tires were smoking almost from the start and his engine may have backfired, leaving him unable to complete the pass.

This was the 16th Victory of the season for Dodge as Ron Capps collected eight wins; Matt Hagen picked up four and Jack Beckman and Johnson took home two apiece. Chevrolet was a distant second with five and Toyota got three.

Sadly, even with all the wins, it wasn’t enough. Capps came into today’s races just eight points behind Robert Hight. But Capps struck the tires in his first-round race with Del Worsham, allowing Hight to clinch the season championship. Capps, who was the defending champion, finished the season in second place.

Leah Pritchett made a quick first-round pass to eliminate Scott Palmer but fell to Shawn Langdon in the Top Fuel quarterfinals. Langdon went on to the final round where he lost to Brittany Force, who not only won the Wally but the Top Fuel championship, as well. Pritchett’s teammate Tony Schumacher ended his race day in the first-round with a hole-shot loss to Langdon.

Pritchett was fifth and Schumacher was eighth in the final standings.

Allen Johnson’s Pro Stock career ended in his first-round race with Erica Enders. Johnson’s Dodge Dart started drifting toward the centerline and he had to push in the clutch. Johnson is retiring and was eighth in the 2017 standings.

Alan Prusiensky lost his first, and only, race of the day, making his quickest pass of the weekend which wasn’t enough to catch Greg Robinson.

Bo Butner defeated Tanner Gray in the finals and locked up the Pro Stock Championship.

Texas Austin Williams took his eighth national event Wally in Stock Eliminator in his G/SA 1972 Plymouth Duster 340. In the final he turned in a pass of 11.080 seconds at 109.61 mph, his exact 11.08 dial-in.

Troy Johnston of Keyport, Washington and his 1972 Plymouth Duster collected the 2017 Sportsman ET championship, defeating Jake Howard, from Lavon, Texas, and his 1970 GTO.

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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