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Hagan wins in Texas but Hight’s lead grows

by Patrick Rall on

Matt Hagan and drove his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody funny car to win #3 on the season this past weekend at the Texas FallNationals, but the bigger news for Mopar racing fans is that with both Jack Beckman and Ron Capps losing in earlier rounds, John Force Racing Camaro driver Robert Hight has grown his first place lead to 70 points.

Slow Start in Texas

Qualifying for the Texas FallNationals started off fairly well for the Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger funny car drivers, with Jack Beckman sitting 4th after the first round while Ron Capps was 7th, Matt Hagan was 8th and Tommy Johnson Jr is 11th, but John Force in his Camaro held the top spot after Q1.

There was a big shakeup in the second round of qualifying, but John Force remained at the top of the list, followed by his teammate Robert Hight. Capps moved up to 4th, Hagan moved to 6th and Johnson got to 8th, but Beckman dropped to 11th.

Those positions remained unchanged in the third round of qualifying but in the final round, Bob Tasca III moved into 4th, which bumped Capps to 5th, Hagan to 6th, Johnson to 9th and Beckman to 12th heading into eliminations.

Eliminations are Much Better

The first round of eliminations went as well as it could, with three of the four Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody funny cars winning. Beckman and Capps went head-to-head in the first round of eliminations, so one of them had to lose and it was Ron Capps, as Beckman continued to the second round. Meanwhile, Tommy Johnson Jr beat Paul Lee and Matt Hagan beat Blake Alexander to advance, but they were joined by John Force, Bob Tasca III, Robert Hight, Shawn Langdon and JR Todd.

In the second round, top qualifier John Force beat Tommy Johnson Jr, Tasca beat Beckman while Hagan beat JR Todd, sending just one of the DSR Chargers into the semifinals, where he would face championship points leader Robert Hight.

In the semis, Hagan got the free pass when Hight redlit, but he pulled a .011 reaction time and ran a 3.900, which was one of the quickest round of all elimination rounds. On the other side of the bracket, Bob Tasca overcame a starting line disadvantage to beat John Force.

In the finals, Matt Hagan took an early lead (.063 to .092) and ran the quicker ET with a 3.909, beating Tasca’s 3.928.

Championship Standings

Coming into the Texas FallNationals, Robert Hight led Jack Beckman by 40 points, but with Beckman losing in the second round while Hight lost in the third round, Hight has extended his lead out to 70 points. Hight’s teammate, team owner and boss, John Force is 74 points back in third and Matt Hagan is now fourth, 112 points behind Hight. Ron Capps is now sixth, 135 points out of first and Tommy Johnson Jr is a distant eight, 194 points behind the leader.

The question here is whether or not the Don Schumacher Racing drivers can overcome their distance behind the leader with two events and the answer is yes, but they need Hight to lose early in both events.

Points Remaining in 2019

There are two events left on the NHRA Mello Yello Championship Series schedule for the funny car class and the points awarded breakdown as follow.

The second-to-last event is subject to the normal points system, meaning that the winner gets 100 points, second place gets 80, third-round losers get 60, second-round losers get 40 and first-round loses get 20. Making a qualifying run gets the driver 10 points, but the quickest driver gets 8 points, second gets 7, third gets 6, fourth gets 5 and the scale continues down to 16th with 1 point.

In other words, at the Dodge Nationals in Las Vegas, the winning driver could walk away with 118 points for qualifying first and winning the event.

At the Auto Club Finals, the last event of the season, there is a unique point system where the winner gets 150 points, second gets 120, third-round losers get 90, second-round losers get 60 and first-round losers get 30. Also, the top qualifier going into eliminations gets 10 points, but the top four qualifiers in each of the four qualifying rounds gets 4 points and attempting to qualify gets a driver 10 points, so in qualifying alone, a driver could rake in 36 points before eliminations begin.

In other words, qualifying first, being the quickest car in each qualifying round and winning the Auto Club Finals would lead to 186 points.

While it is highly unlikely for a driver to be the top qualifier in every round and to win both races, there are lots of points available with just two races left. The slightly more realistic scenario is that a driver could be the fast qualifier and win the Dodge Nationals, scoring at least 118 points, followed by qualifying first and winning at the Auto Club Finals, taking home at least 174 points. With a strong enough showing, one funny car driver could score nearly 300 points in the final two events.

On the other hand, if Robert Hight lost in the first round and didn’t qualify well at both of the final two events, he could get as few as 60 (or so) points. Even if he put together a mediocre effort at both events, scoring 50 in each, he would extend his current 70-point lead by that margin over Jack Beckman, but with Beckman, Hagan and Capps winning the final two events, that margin can still be overcome.

That being said, if Robert Hight can win a couple of rounds in each of the final two races, it will be very hard for any of the DSR funny car drivers to catch him.

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.

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