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NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville, Florida


Photos by Steve Gruenwald and Adam Cranmer

Jack Beckman (near lane) got past Matt Hagan for the Funny Car win.


Jack Beckman capped off an amazing weekend for Mopar Dodge//SRT drivers by racing from the pole to defeat teammate Matt Hagan and take the victory in an all-Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car final round at the 49th Annual NHRA Gatornationals.


Beckman’s victory on March 18 was the second for a Mopar Dodge//SRT driver this year, as well as the second from the No. 1 spot. Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Mopar Dodge Funny Car pilots also claimed three of four spots in the semifinals, and own the top two spots in the Funny Car standings, as well as three of the top four positions.


En route to his 27th career win and his first at historic Gainesville Raceway, Beckman got down the track to make eight solid runs in his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T during qualifying and eliminations, including a 3.911-second elapsed time to claim the No. 1 spot.

Jim Campbell 


He kicked off eliminations by leaving first and leading all the way against fellow Dodge driver and No. 16 qualifier Jim Campbell. In round two, Beckman’s 3.973-second run at 318.54 mph helped him quickly overcome a slight starting line advantage by opponent Del Worsham. Beckman was slower in the semifinals but his 4.478-second pass was enough to hold off Shawn Langdon, who smoked the tires.


The all-DSR Mopar Dodge battle between Beckman and Hagan was a thriller, with Beckman off the line first but with Hagan closing the gap. In the end, Beckman was able to hold off the hard-charging Hagan, taking the holeshot win with a quicker .051 reaction time paired with a 4.035/323.58 pass to his teammate's slower .062 reaction time and 4.034/322.04 mark. His performance this weekend also moved Beckman into the second spot in the point standings.

Hagan’s run to the final round in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge included a first-round win over Tim Wilkerson and then a wild, fiery ride against Robert Hight in the quarterfinals. Hight’s engine exploded near the 660-ft mark, with his Funny Car body flying apart. As Hagan raced by in the right lane his engine did the same, sending the car body flying high in the air, but Hagan was able to cross the line at 4.027/291.26 to earn a hard-fought round win. 


The Mopar Express Lane Dodge team and crew chief Dickie Venables thrashed and dug deep to get a backup car ready for Hagan to face DSR teammate and Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T driver Ron Capps in the semifinals. The hard work paid off as Hagan, the Funny Car points leader, posted a solid 4.056/310.91 to advance to his 49th career final round and reach a remarkable milestone, his 500th career round of racing.

Capps’ road to the semifinals included a first-round victory over Bob Tasca III that earned him lane choice in round two versus Courtney Force. In the quarterfinals, the 2016 Funny Car champion was first off of the starting line and never trailed for the win with a 4.060-second pass.

The fourth DSR team member, Tommy Johnson Jr., the most recent Funny Car runner-up, defeated Cruz Pedregon in round one, but in the quarterfinals Johnson’s opponent Shawn Langdon was able to pull ahead early and take the win against Johnson's tire smoking effort. 


Mopar-powered NHRA Top Fuel dragster DSR teammates Leah Pritchett and Tony Schumacher were dealt similar fates on Sunday at Gainesville Raceway, as both bowed out in round two.

Pritchett clocked a 3.735/321.50 in her Papa John’s/Mopar Dodge dragster to knock out Terry Haddock to open eliminations, and also showcased her quick trigger reflexes with a .053 reaction time at the starting tree, quickest of the round. Pritchett’s day ended in the quarterfinals with a 3.779/327.51 that was second-quickest of the session but wasn’t enough to overcome teammate Antron Brown’s even quicker and faster 3.793/324.20 run. 

After resetting the Gainesville Raceway speed record earlier in the weekend and running low E.T. of the first qualifying session, defending event champion Tony Schumacher looked primed for a repeat. The U.S. Army dragster driver took down Brittany Force in round one with a 3.717/329.26 pass. In the quarterfinals, Schumacher’s starting line advantage quickly evaporated after he smoked the tires, preventing the “Sarge” from chasing down round winner Shawn Reed. 


Leah Pritchett’s busy schedule at the NHRA Gatornationals included an entry in the NHRA Sportsman Factory Stock Showdown category in the seat of a supercharged Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, along with her usual Top Fuel duties.

Leah Pritchett’s Drag Pak in Factory Stock.


The DSR star drove to the No. 7 qualifying spot and a victory in the first round of eliminations. Pritchett was first off the starting line with a .038 reaction time in round two against Randy Taylor (.110), but was unable to beat her opponent to the stripe, posting a 8.353/163.91 pass to Taylor’s 8.189/165.99 run.


A pair of Mopar-powered NHRA Sportsman racers came away with Dodge Top Finisher awards at the NHRA Gatornationals.

Jim Nichols from Centerburg, Ohio, drove his high-flying AA/SA HEMI-powered 1965 Plymouth Belvedere to the second round at the NHRA Gatornationals, earning the award and $500 bonus in Super Stock. 


In the Stock category, Richard Kay of East Meadow, New York, raced his small block Mopar engine-powered SS/BM 1969 Plymouth Valiant to a third-round finish. Kay, who claimed a Dodge Top Finisher award in 2017, scored his second at Gainesville. 



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