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NHRA at Norwalk, Ohio


Results compiled by Kay Burk

Photos by Ron Lewis, Chris Haverly and Steve Gruenwald

Matt Hagan


Matt Hagan capped off a win-filled weekend for Mopar Dodge//SRT at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals on June 24, muscling his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to his second victory of the season at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio. Mopar-powered Dodge NHRA Sportsman racers also brought home Wally trophies in the Factory Stock Showdown and Stock Eliminator classes.


Hagan’s triumph was the second consecutive and fourth overall this season for a Mopar Dodge Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Funny Car driver, and the sixth win of 2018 in the NHRA Nitro classes. Hagan also leapfrogged into a tie for second in the Funny Car standings with DSR Dodge teammate Jack Beckman.


Hagan, seeking a bit of redemption after first-round exits in the previous two events, began Norwalk eliminations with back-to-back battles against Mopar Dodge Funny Car DSR teammates.

First up was Tommy Johnson Jr., with Hagan’s quick reflexes helping to score a close holeshot win by an ultra-thin margin of less than one-thousandth of a second.


Hagan was again first off the starting line in an all-Mopar Dodge quarterfinals fight, pulling away to defeat Beckman with a 4.010/322.27 pass.


Hagan led from start to finish stripe in the semifinals, reeling off a 3.981/320.58 to defeat J.R. Todd and earn all-important lane choice against No. 1 qualifier Courtney Force in his fourth final round of the season and 51st of his career. Hagan saved his best reaction time for the money round, a .033-second mark that gave him a jump over Force that he would never relinquish, recording a winning 4.094/288.21 to his opponent’s losing 4.220/227.54 effort.


The victory was Hagan’s second of the season, 28th of his career and first-ever at Norwalk.

Leah Pritchett faced Doug Kalitta in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday morning. Kalitta had a slight advantage on the launch and led for nearly the entire span of the 1,000-foot stretch, but Pritchett charged hard in her Mopar-powered FireAde machine, chasing Kalitta down at the far end of the track to set off the win light. Her 3.794-second effort held up to be the second-best of the session. 


The six-time Top Fuel winner powered to her best run of the weekend in the quarterfinals to claim the upset win over No. 1 qualifier Clay Millican and earn lane choice over semifinal opponent Blake Alexander. Pritchett was first on the throttle but encountered issues just past halftrack. The 2018 Atlanta winner pedaled the throttle and harnessed her FireAde machine enough to recover before giving way to a fireball, enabling Alexander to claim the win with his clean pass.

Ron Capps


Ron Capps and his Mopar-fueled NAPA Dodge team entered Norwalk fresh off of a trip to the winner’s circle from the previous event. Picking up where they left off, the Rahn Tobler-led team dominated throughout qualifying. Two days of persistent rain showers meant nitro teams were permitted only two shots at the race track before race day fields were set. Capps collected bonus points during each session, running second-best in round one, and “best of class” in the second session.


Capps, a three-time runner-up at the venue, kicked off his 500th professional race day start with a matchup against No. 15 qualifier Jeff Diehl. Capps drove away with the immediate round win when Diehl stood on the gas early and fouled out. In round two, Capps faced J.R. Todd. The NAPA machine went up in smoke almost immediately, ending Capps’ chances at winning Norwalk’s coveted ice cream scoop trophy.

“Fast” Jack Beckman scored an upset in the opening round, taking his No. 11-qualified Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car past the higher-seeded No. 6 machine of Tim Wilkerson. Beckman, a three-time champion at Norwalk, easily claimed the round win with a 4.047/319.07 run after Wilkerson smoked the tires. The defending Norwalk event winner trailed off the starting line in an all-Mopar Dodge DSR quarterfinals matchup against Hagan, regained the lead briefly at the 60-foot mark but ultimately was unable to drive past his teammate for the round win. Beckman leaves Norwalk still ranked second in the standings (tied with Hagan) and as the winningest Funny Car driver in the facility’s history. 


Tony Schumacher qualified No. 4 in his Mopar HEMI-powered U.S. Army dragster, seeking to follow up his recent Bristol win with another Sunday celebration. “The Sarge” began eliminations by defeating Kyle Wurtzel with a 3.807/327.66 mark, but a slow start in the semifinals against Blake Alexander ended Schumacher’s day.


Beginning eliminations from the No. 14 position, Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T NHRA Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. faced off in an intra-squad battle with fellow DSR stablemate Hagan. Johnson overcame his teammate’s slight edge off the starting line (a .071 reaction time to Johnson’s .075) to put the nose of his Mopar Dodge out front at the 660-ft. mark, but Hagan surged ahead to beat Johnson’s quicker 3.990-second effort to the finish by a razor-thin margin of about five inches.

Jim Campbell drove Big Jim Dunn’s Dodge Charger Funny Car against John Force in the first round but his 4.140-second Elapsed Time could not overcome Force’s 4.066. 


Mopar Dodge//SRT NHRA Sportsman Spotlight

Following a historic qualifying performance in which four Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak drivers swept the top four starting positions, Mark Pawuk and Joe Welch made Factory Stock Showdown history again in the first-ever all-Mopar Dodge final round of the class, with Welch earning his second consecutive win in a close battle.

Welch qualified No. 1 and raced past David Barton, Scott Libersher and Stephen Bell before meeting Pawuk in a battle of Mopar Dodge Drag Paks. The two recorded nearly identical reaction times, with Welch holding a slight advantage on the way to a winning with an 8.107/168.07 run. 

DSR driver Mark Pawuk, making his first Factory Stock eliminations start in his Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, notched a holeshot victory in the quarterfinals against Chuck Watson. Pawuk was quicker off the starting tree with a .081 reaction time to Watson’s slower .098, giving enough margin to make Pawuk’s 8.091/169.19 run pay off with a round win. In the semifinals, Pawuk used his supercharged 354-cubic-inch HEMI to overcome a slight deficit at the start, recording a quicker and faster 8.104/169.02 to knock out Aaron Stanfield’s 8.178/166.66 and advance to the final.

Shortly after winning her first round of Top Fuel competition, Leah Pritchett quickly hopped in her Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak and switched into Factory Stock Showdown mode for round two eliminations. Qualified in the top three, Pritchett trailed Stephen Bell at the start and was unable to catch his quicker 8.137 ET with her 8.179/168.98 effort.  .

Former NHRA Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson is getting comfortable in the seat of his Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, qualifying No. 4 and earning his first career Factory Stock Showdown round win to advance to the quarterfinals. Johnson was a bit too quick on the trigger against Aaron Stanfield, leaving the line early and losing on a red-light foul.


A pair of 1965 Mopar HEMI-powered Dodge Coronet “A990” package cars ran fast and hard to claim the Dodge Top Finisher award in Stock Eliminator and Super Stock at Norwalk.

In the Stock Eliminator final, Todd Hoven from Milltown, New Jersey, drove his 1965 AA/SA Dodge HEMI® Coronet to the event victory. Hoven, who has a prior NHRA national event win and numerous divisional finals to his credit, was consistent all weekend.


Hoven has raced in the Stock Eliminator category since 1997 and has also competed in a Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak. In the final round, Hoven's Coronet had the starting line advantage over his opponent and ran right on his 10.08 ET dial-in. Hoven is also a first-time recipient of the Dodge Top Finisher award.

For the Super Stock category, lifelong Mopar racer Bob Marshall wheeled his 1965 SS/AA Dodge HEMI Coronet to the runner-up finish. The Columbus, Ohio, resident has been racing his “Dodge Material” HEMI Dodge Super Stockers for many decades and has earned numerous wins at the national event and divisional level. Marshall motored to his first Dodge Top Finisher award as he raced through six rounds of intense eliminations against some of the toughest drivers in the class.


The Dodge Top Finisher award, now in its second year, awards $500 to the Stock Eliminator and Super Stock drivers who advance the furthest behind the wheel of a Mopar-powered Dodge, Chrysler, or Plymouth race car. The honor is awarded in both Sportsman categories at all 24 NHRA national events. 



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