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World champ Capps wins fourth straight with Tobler, NAPA Dodge, combines with Matco’s Brown to sweep Topeka nitro titles for DSR

The Funny Car final round Sunday in the NHRA Heartland Nationals was going to be “déjà vu all over again” for Don Schumacher Racing’s Ron Capps or Matt Hagan.

Hagan was trying to replicate what he did a year ago at Topeka, Kan., when he set both NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world records and concluded his visit to Heartland Park by winning the Wally Trophy.

Instead, Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS 2017 Dodge Charger R/T Powered by Pennzoil won their fourth consecutive event title to ruin his teammate’s perfect weekend.

And DSR teammate Antron Brown with the Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster team kept Steve Torrence from reliving his recent winning history when the three-time world champion defeated Torrence, who arrived at Topeka riding a two-race winning streak. 

The wins by Capps’ NAPA AUTO PARTS team led by crew chief Rahn Tobler and assistant Eric Lane along with the effort by Brown and the Matco Tools team with crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald enabled DSR to sweep both nitro titles at the same Mello Yello event for the fifth time in eight races this year and for the 66th time since 2004. 

DSR also swept the No. 1 qualifying positions when eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team, which lost in the second round, joined Hagan as pole winners marking the third time the seven-team operation has done it in eight Mello Yello events this season and the 31 times since 2002.

 The 54th Funny Car win by reigning world champion Capps enabled him to extend his points lead to 119 over Hagan.

 “Unbelievable,” said Capps, whose top speed of the weekend was 325 that paled compared to 338-mph runs by teammate Hagan, Courtney Force and Robert Hight. “We couldn’t go toe to toe with those guys in qualifying but no one is better that (crew chief) Rahn Tobler on race day.”

 Capps, who qualified seventh, was surprised when he arrived at the track Sunday morning and Tobler was having his NAPA AutoCare crew change the fuel pump.

 “To change a fuel pump on Sunday is incredible,” he said. “It took a lot of guts for him to do that and look what happened.”

 Brown’s second win of the year and 63rd of his career, which includes 47 in Top Fuel, is his first at Topeka and leaves only the travel in Bristol, Tenn., where he has not been in the winner’s circle.

 “It was just an incredible race, and I’ve got to hand it to my team,” Brown said. “They worked so hard. It just feels so good to get back in the winner’s circle again.

 “That was absolutely great. I’ll tell you what, the competition’s been so tight that you have to run these cars on the edge every lap. My hat’s off to our whole team, we just kept our heads down and kept our poise. We went out there and we raced our hearts out and it feels really good to get a win here at Topeka. We’ve been wanting to win this race for so long. We weren’t really thinking about not having won it. We just went out and attacked every round like we do every weekend.”

 Brown and the Matco team were able to move up one spot to third in points and within 41 of teammate and points leader Leah Pritchett and the Papa John’s Pizza dragster that they beat in the semifinals.

 In addition to winning the 305th and 306th Mello Yello titles for DSR, Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane team reclaimed the world records they lost early in the weekend when the team led by Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen posted at time Saturday of 3.802 at 338.85.

 “Obviously boss man (Don Schumacher) is happy when two of his cars go to the finals,” said Hagan, who raced in his third final in which he has won twice. “Hats off to NAPA and those guys, Ron Capps and Tobler, they’re killing it man. Four-in-a-row – how do you not respect that? They laid the hammer down and they’re getting it done.”

 The Mello Yello Series will be off next weekend to honor Memorial Day and returns the following week to begin the four-race Eastern Swing in June that begins at Epping with races following at Englishtown, N.J., Bristol, Tenn., and Norwalk.

 The following are official results and standings after the NHRA Heartland Nationals:

 TOP FUEL

Event winner: Antron Brown (Don Schumacher Racing)

No. 1 qualifier: Tony Schumacher (Don Schumacher Racing), 3.660 sec.-career best, 327.90 mph

 ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tool/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster

Crew chiefs: Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald; assistant: Brad Mason

Qualified: No. 3

SUNDAY ELIMINATIONS

First round: BROWN (3.691 sec., 332.34 mph) def. Kebin Kinsley (3.790, 322.73)

Second round: BROWN (4.026, 275.90) def. Shawn Langdon (4.736, 179.21)

Semifinals: BROWN (3.715, 330.15) def. Leah Pritchett (3.718, 329.34)

Final: BROWN (3.709, 332.75) def. Steve Torrence (3.836, 256.70)

QUALIFYING RESULTS

FRIDAY: 3.748 sec., 326.87 mph, (Session 1); rained out, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 3.671-track record, 333.16-world record, (Session 3); 3.677, 332.92, (Session 4)

Best time, speed: 3.667 (2017 Phoenix); 333.16 mph-world record (2017 Topeka)

Career at Topeka: Wins 1; Runner-ups 1 (2016); Poles 3 (2012, 2010, 2009)

LEAH PRITCHETT, Papa John’s Pizza Top Fuel dragster

Crew chief: Todd Okuhara; assistant: Joe Barlam

Pro Qualified: No. 2

SUNDAY ELIMINATIONS

First round: PRITCHETT (3.707 sec., 326.87 mph) def. Rob Passey (14.850, 35.15)

Second round: PRITCHETT (3.708, 325.92) def. Doug Kalitta (3.731, 330.96)

Semifinals: Antron Brown (3.715, 330.15) def. PRITCHETT 3.718, 329.34)

QUALIFYING RESULTS

FRIDAY: shut off at starting line, (Session 1); rained out, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 3.687, 330.23-personal best , (Session 3); 3.667, 329.83, (Session 4)

Best Time, Speed: 3.658 sec.-world record ( 2017 Phoenix); 330.23 (2017 Topeka)

Career at Topeka: Wins 1 (2017); Runner-ups 0; Poles 0

 TONY SCHUMACHER, U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster

Crew chief: Mike Green; assistant: Phil Shuler

Qualified: No. 1

SUNDAY ELIMINATIONS

First round: SCHUMACHER (5.895 sec., 193.85 mph) def. Pat Dakin (10.012, 71.62)

Second round: Clay Millican (5.428, 148.41) def. SCHUMACHER (8.413, 64.85)

QUALIFYING RESULTS

FRIDAY: 8.744 sec., 74.20 mph, (Session 1); rained out, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 3.697, 319.82, (Session 3); 3.660-career best, 327.90 (Session 4)

Best Time, Speed: 3.660 sec. (2017 Topeka); 332.51 mph (2016 Brainerd)

Career at Topeka: Wins 1 (2010); Runner-ups 1 (2013); Poles 2 (2011, 2017)

FUNNY CAR

Event winner: Ron Capps (Don Schumacher Racing)

No. 1 qualifier: Matt Hagan (Don Schumacher Racing), 3.802 sec.-world record, 338.85 mph-world record

RON CAPPS, NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T

Crew chief: Rahn Tobler; assistant: Eric Lane

Qualified: No. 7

SUNDAY ELIMINATIONS

First round: CAPPS (4.606 sec., 179.02 mph) def. Cruz Pedregon (9.778, 81.34)

Second round: CAPPS (3.866, 325.45) def. Courtney Force (3.902, 330.00)

Semifinals: CAPPS (3.908, 323.97) def. Robert Hight (6.168, 118.16)

Final: CAPPS (3.924, 321.42) def. Matt Hagan (3.985, 318.92)

QUALIFYING RESULTS

FRIDAY: 3.870 sec., 325.22 mph, (Session 1); rained out, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 7.296, 88.35, (Session 3); 3.861, 321.88, (Session 4)

Best Time, Speed: 3.839 sec. (2017 Phoenix); 333.58 mph (2017 Phoenix)

Career at Topeka: Wins 4 (2017, 2009, 2006, 1998); Runner-ups (2012, 2000); Poles 0

MATT HAGAN,  Mopar Express Lane 2017 Dodge Charger R/T

Crew chief: Dickie Venables; assistant: Michael Knudsen

Qualified: No. 1

SUNDAY ELIMINATIONS

First round: HAGAN (3.852 sec., 333.99 mph) def. Jack Wyatt (5.699

Second round: HAGAN (4.016, 273.94) def. J.R. Todd (5.288, 148.27)

Semifinals: HAGAN (3.918, 330.55) def. Jack Beckman (4.434, 195.65)

Final: Ron Capps (3.924, 321.42) def. HAGAN (3.985, 318.92)

QUALIFYING RESULTS

FRIDAY: 3.885 sec., 332.51 mph, (Session 1); rained out, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 3.801-world record, 338.85-world record, (Session 3); 3.806, 335.98 (Session 4)

Best Time, Speed: 3.801 sec.-world record, (2017 Topeka); 338.85 mph-world record (2017 Topeka)

Career at Topeka: Wins 1 (2016); Runner-ups 1 (2017); Poles 2 (2016, 2017)

JACK BECKMAN, Terry Chandler’s Infinite Hero  Dodge Charger R/T

Crew chiefs: John Medlen, Dean Antonelli, Neal Strausbaugh

Qualified: No. 4

SUNDAY ELIMINATIONS

First round: BECKMAN (4.218 sec., 217.70 mph) def. Chad Head (4.172, 247.97)

Second round: BECKMAN (3.883, 328.54) def. Del Worsham (4.012, 324.36)

Semifinals: Matt Hagan (3.918, 330.55) def. BACKMAN (4.434, 195.65)

QUALIFYING RESULTS

FRIDAY: 3.899 sec., 324.59 mph, (Session 1); rained out, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 8.595, 74.38, (Session 3); 3.844, 331.77, (Session 4)

Best Time, Speed: 3.825 sec., (2016 Pomona 2); 334.15 mph (2016 Seattle)

Career at Topeka: Wins 1 (2012); Runner-ups 1 (2016); Poles (2011)

TOMMY JOHNSON JR., Terry Chandler’s Make-A-Wish  Dodge Charger R/T

Crew chief: John Collins; assistant: Rip Reynolds

Qualified: No. 5

SUNDAY ELIMINATIONS

First round: Del Worsham (3.968 sec., 326.97) def. JOHNSON (4.456, 190.83)

QUALIFYING RESULTS

FRIDAY: 3.990 sec., 323.43 mph, (Session 1); rained out, (Session 2)

SATURDAY: 3.882, 325.61, (Session 3); 3.847, 331.61, (Session 4)

Best Time, Speed: 3.837 sec. (2017 Phoenix); 331.61 mph (2017 Topeka)

Career at Topeka: Wins 0; Runner-ups 2 (2005, 1999); Poles 1 (2007)

2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS                    

(Official after Topeka; 8th of 24 events; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)

Top Fuel                                                                                                                              

  1. LEAH PRITCHETT (3)            721     —–

  2. Steve Torrence (2)                   691       -30

  3. ANTRON BROWN (2)             680       -41 

  4. TONY SCHUMACHER (1)       673       -48

  5. Doug Kalitta                              539     -182

  6. Clay Millican                             433     -288

  7. Brittany Force                           405     -316

  8. Terry McMillen                          333     -388

  9. Troy Coughlin Jr.                      327     -394

10. Scott Palmer                             276     -445

Funny Car                                                                                                       

  1. RON CAPPS (4)                       748      —–

  2. MATT HAGAN (2)                    629      -119

  3. John Force (1)                          524      -224

  4. Robert Hight                             518      -230

  5. JACK BECKMAN                    502      -246

  6. Courtney Force                        464       -284

  7. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1)     461      -287

  8. J.R. Todd                                 378       -370

  9. Tim Wilkerson                          360       -388

10. Jonnie Lindberg                       318       -430

  

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