July 9, 2017, Joliet, Ill. – Mopar® driver Ron Capps continued his dream season during the NHRA Route 66 Nationals this weekend, picking up his sixth win of 2017 in his NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule kicked off its second half. It was an all-Dodge final featuring the Dodge Charger of teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.
Funny Cars featuring Mopar HEMI® power from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) have now won an amazing 12 of 13 events this year and 10 in a row.
Mopar has also now claimed wins in 14 consecutive events across the Funny Car or Top Fuel categories, dating back to last year’s NHRA Finals at Pomona. In addition, John Force is the only non-Mopar driver to have won an NHRA Funny Car event since last September’s U.S. Nationals.
Yet, despite the team’s success, it was an emotional weekend for DSR and the entire NHRA community at Route 66 Raceway as it mourned the loss of Terry Chandler. Chandler funded both DSR Mopar driver Tommy Johnson Jr.’s and teammate Jack Beckman’s teams, but put charities Make-A-Wish and the Infinite Hero Foundation on their cars as a way to give back.
The beloved sponsor succumbed to brain cancer after a valiant fight earlier in the week.
“It’s been a season you can’t even dream about,” said Capps. “It may have looked on the outside like maybe we were struggling (this weekend) . . . This weekend, on top of everything else with Terry (Chandler), the fans were just crazy. You already knew how much she was loved, but people that had never met her before were wanting to give their respects. Then to be lined up with one of her cars (in the final), I saw her standing outside my car because I guess you just get so used to it and I had to shake my head for a second. You’re not used to her not being here. So it was a very emotional weekend.”
During Sunday’s final round at Route 66 Raceway, Capps bested his motivated teammate Johnson from the left lane with a pass of 4.026 seconds at 319.67 mph after a .059-second reaction time. Johnson made a lap of 4.047 at 319.90, but was just late on the Christmas Tree with a reaction time of .155.
The win was the 55th of Capps’ career. The defending Funny Car champion has now won six of the last nine races this year, while having advanced to a total of eight final rounds on the season. He also extended his already large points lead on Sunday after improving to a staggering 35-7 record. Dodge Funny Cars hold the top three spots in the points standings.
Capps began his day by knocking out Jonnie Lindberg in round one, and then took on fellow Dodge driver Jim Campbell, who had bested No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight. Capps turned in a come-from-behind, second-round win against Campbell, getting away first but with a cylinder out at the hit of the throttle. He lost ground but came back to defeat his opponent when Campbell lost traction at half-track. Capps then beat teammate Matt Hagan on a clean, side-by-side run to reach the final round against Johnson.
Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T team first dispatched of John Force on a clean pass as the 16-time champion smoked his tires and lost traction. Johnson then improved his record to 3-0 against J.R. Todd with a solid lap to set up a semifinal matchup with Tim Wilkerson, where Johnson advanced to the final on another textbook run as Wilkerson immediately went up in smoke.
The final member of the DSR contingent, Jack Beckman, qualified best among his teammates with a No. 2 effort and pushed his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T past fellow Dodge driver Bob Bode on a solid pass in the first round when Bode crossed the center line. Beckman next took on Wilkerson but had to pedal and lost cylinders, putting an end to his bid for two consecutive wins in 2017 and his second in a row at Route 66 Raceway.
Both of the Mopar-powered Top Fuel cars from DSR, meanwhile, had their days ended early.
No. 2 qualifier Leah Pritchett drove her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil dragster past Troy Coughlin Jr. in round one when Coughlin suffered an explosion. Pritchett then struck the tires early against Antron Brown in round two, ending her day.
Chicago-area native Tony Schumacher and the Mopar-powered U.S. Army Top Fuel team were upset by Blake Alexander in round one on a holeshot.