September 24, 2017, Mohnton, Pa. – Dodge and Mopar® HEMI® power claimed their 13th NHRA Funny Car win of 2017 on Sunday at Maple Grove Raceway, as Ron Capps drove his Dodge Charger R/T from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) to the winner’s circle at the Dodge NHRA Nationals. Capps beat Courtney Force in the final round at the Reading-area track to pick up his seventh victory of the season and the 18th for HEMI power from DSR in both Nitro categories overall.
“What a deal today,” said an obviously elated Capps. “We fell behind a little bit, we got lucky a little bit in the first round, but we feel like we make our luck. The harder we work, the luckier we get for sure.”
Capps had plenty of reasons to be happy. The win in the Dodge-branded event also put Capps, the defending NHRA Funny Car champion, back in the points lead after the second of six events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Capps won from the right lane in the final round with a pass of 3.968 seconds at 326.48 mph to Force’s 3.993 at 311.70. Capps left the starting line with a .043-second reaction time, while Force had a reaction time of .067. The cars were side-by-side for the length of the drag strip when Force’s parachutes deployed just before the finish line.
Capps defeated three Mopar Dodge drivers on his march to the final, starting with Jim Campbell in a wild first round. Campbell had a cylinder out while Capps’ car went up in smoke at the finish, but still turned on the win light. Capps next took on DSR teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. and won on a clean pass as Johnson lost traction near half-track. Capps then defeated another DSR teammate, Matt Hagan. The cars were close until Hagan’s chutes came out down track, allowing Capps to pull away and reach the final round for the 10th time this season, where he collected the 56th win of his Funny Car career and his first at Maple Grove. It was also the 17th time at least one Mopar Dodge Funny Car has reached the final round through 20 events this year.
Matt Hagan, whose team has struggled recently, won his first-round matchup over Jeff Diehl as Hagan powered his Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T to the finish line when Diehl smoked his tires at the 330-foot mark. Hagan next defeated Tim Wilkerson to set up a matchup with DSR teammate Capps, where his day came to an end.
Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team narrowly defeated Cruz Pedregon in round one, which also served as Beckman’s 600th elimination round. He next took down Jonnie Lindberg on a clean pass when Lindberg immediately smoked the tires. Beckman then raced Courtney Force in the semis, but was late leaving the starting line and could never catch up.
Defending event winner Johnson beat Alexis DeJoria in round one when both cars smoked the tires, but Johnson made it to the finish line first in the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car from DSR. His day was then ended by Capps in round two.
In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett raced her specially wrapped Mopar 80th Anniversary dragster past Terry McMillen on a clean, side-by-side pass in round one, setting up a showdown with Steve Torrence. Pritchett left the starting line first but suffered a massive engine explosion down track, giving the win to her opponent.
Tony Schumacher and the Mopar-powered U.S. Army Top Fuel team from DSR defeated Scott Palmer in the first round when Palmer had clutch issues and was unable to make a pass. Schumacher was ultimately defeated in round two by event winner Brittany Force.
The 33rd annual Dodge NHRA Nationals took place under sunny skies and very warm conditions, forcing teams and drivers alike to learn on the fly as the event has had cool, overcast and rainy weather for several years. Massive crowds were on hand each day, setting a four-day attendance record.