The dominance continues for Ron Capps, Dodge and Mopar® as Capps took home the NHRA Heartland Nationals Funny Car title for the 53rd time in his career and fourth race in a row, driving his Dodge Charger R/T to the win over his Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammate Matt Hagan. Hagan, meanwhile, became the quickest and fastest driver in Funny Car history during event qualifying. Capps’ win is the seventh for Mopar HEMI® power in the Funny Car category this season.
Capps defeated Hagan’s Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T from the left lane with a pass of 3.924 seconds at 321.42 mph after a .054-second reaction time. Hagan turned in a pass of 3.985 at 318.92 with a .057 reaction time off the starting line. Capps and team had lane choice for the final, and made a last-second decision to move to the left lane just before the cars were fired. The race was a re-match of this year’s Funny Car final round at the Arizona Nationals, which represents the only final round in which Capps has appeared but not won in 2017.
Capps’ win, his fourth at the Topeka track, also extends a streak of at least one Mopar HEMI car winning a Nitro category at nine consecutive events, dating back to the season-ending event at Pomona to end 2016.
Capps, the reigning Funny Car champion, moved his HEMI machine past Cruz Pedregon in the first round, despite needing to shut off at half-track, as Pedregon struggled at the starting line. Capps went on to knock out Courtney Force in a clean, side-by-side race in the second round, setting up a showdown with Robert Hight, who had been quick and fast throughout the weekend. Hight lost traction early in the run as Capps made another clean pass, putting him in the Funny Car final for the fourth consecutive event.
Matt Hagan, the quickest and fastest driver in Funny Car history after Topeka qualifying with a lap of 3.802 seconds at 338.85 mph, began his march to the final with a defeat of Jack Wyatt in the first round. Wyatt had a cylinder out and drifted toward the center line during his run.
Hagan next drove his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T past J.R. Todd as Todd was forced to pedal when the light turned green. Hagan next defeated his DSR Mopar teammate Jack Beckman in the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T. The race was a rematch of last year’s Topeka final, won by Hagan, and also broke a head to-head tie between the two drivers with Hagan now leading 19-18. Hagan’s victory set up the final round match-up with Capps.
Beckman began his day with a holeshot win over Chad Head, despite smoking his tires down track and just defeating Head’s car at the line, which had a cylinder out. Beckman next turned on the win light against Del Worsham to set up an all-Mopar matchup against Hagan, where Beckman’s day ended as he again smoked the tires just past half-track.
Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T represented the fourth Mopar-powered Funny Car from DSR. Johnson suffered an explosion near the 660-foot mark in the first round, however, and was bested by Worsham.
In the Top Fuel category, Leah Pritchett drove her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster to a win over Rob Passey in the first round as Passey had trouble off the line. Pritchett next matched up against Doug Kalitta and turned in a come-from-behind win to just best her opponent at the finish. She was then narrowly defeated by eventual event winner Antron Brown in the semis. Pritchett’s win-loss record is still stellar this season, currently standing at 21-5.
Also in Top Fuel, No. 1 qualifier Tony Schumacher and the Mopar HEMI-powered U.S. Army car snuck past Pat Dakin in the first round to avoid the upset as both cars smoked the tires at the hit. Schumacher was forced to step on the gas half a dozen times to get the car down the track. He was then defeated by Clay Millican in the second round as Schumacher again had mechanical issues while Millican slalomed to the finish line.
Both Pritchett’s and Schumacher’s defeats meant that at least one Mopar Top Fuel dragster didn’t reach the final round for the first time in 2017, but Pritchett maintained her position atop the point standings.