Jack Beckman and 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T earn national title at the 31st annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Keystone Nationals with a holeshot win
Beckman drives 2015 Dodge Charger R/T to another national record run at 3.897 seconds in the semi-finals against teammate Ron Capps
Beckman’s seventh title win of the year and bonus earned for the national elapsed time record puts him second in NHRA “Countdown to the Championship” and within 16 points of the lead
Beckman’s 22nd career victory was the 15th Funny Car title for Don Schumacher Racing with the 2015 Dodge Charger R/T in 21 national events this year
All four DSR Mopar drivers remain in the top-five positions to battle for Funny Car world championship with three playoff events left
Allen Johnson and Magneti Marelli HEMI®-powered Dodge Dart still in contention with fifth place position in Pro Stock standings despite first round loss
A dramatic holeshot victory by Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) pilot Jack Beckman aboard his 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car in the final elimination round of the 31st annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Keystone Nationals, the third of six “Countdown to the Championship” playoff events, brought to a close a challenging race day that saw the Mopar driver set a national elapsed time (e.t.) record, and earn a career-best seventh title this season. The win was also the 15th Funny Car title for DSR with the new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T since it made its debut 21 national events ago.
“On behalf of everyone at Mopar I would like to congratulate Jack Beckman on his seventh victory this year and an important playoff win,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO — Mopar Brand Service, Parts and Customer Care, FCA. “To see Don Schumacher’s team take the 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to the winner’s circle for a 15th time this year and battle for another championship is a testament to the amount of time, investment and hard work that has gone in to building this fantastic and competitive new vehicle.”
After wet weather and cold temperatures limited competitors to just one qualifying session in preparation for eliminations, Sunday’s first two rounds were made even more challenging by track conditions dipping into the low 60 degree Fahrenheit range and resulted in an unusual amount of pedal-fests; a battle between racers to regain traction by lifting on and off the throttle in an attempt to reach the finish line first.
Seeded third, Beckman began his drive for the Wally trophy by winning such a pedal-fest against Alexis DeJoria with a 6.625-second elapsed time run at 254.90 miles per hour against his competitor’s 7.468/122.56 effort. He then won an all-Mopar quarterfinal fight against teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. with a 3-second run.
The sun finally peaked out behind the clouds for Beckman’s semifinal match-up with his other DSR stablemate, No. 2 qualifier Ron Capps, where fans were treated to never before seen 3.897-second run (326.87 mph) to reset the NHRA Funny Car national record and earn a 20-point bonus. It is the third time this year that Beckman has reset the record after lowering the bar at Sonoma Raceway and Brainerd International Raceway.
Beckman went on to earn his 22nd career title on a holeshot against Chad Head in the final elimination with a 0.077-second reaction time and 3.910/326.79 pass to his opponents 0.115 start and 3.903/326.16 lap. It was his third consecutive 3-second run and it marked the 58th time that the new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T has powered its way to sub four-second pass since its debut and the 70th time a Dodge Funny Car has done it since Matt Hagan broke the barrier in 2011.
“When we got out here to qualify yesterday, it was horrible,” said Beckman. “We ran a 5.44 and qualified third. Then we go out there first round and run a 6.62 and it turns on the win light. But you can’t give (crew chiefs) Jimmy (Prock) John (Medlen) and Chris (Cunningham) too many shots at the racetrack. We went on to run 3.925, 3.897 and 3.91 second passes. They got us the win. They got us the national record. It was as good a weekend as we could have hoped to have.”
With the trip to the winner’s circle at Maple Grove Raceway, Beckman moves into second place in the playoff standings and within 16 points of the lead in the Countdown.
“We went from a nine round lead over Matt Hagan to a six round behind Del Worsham wondering how the wheels fell off of our Infinite Hero Dodge,” Beckman said. “People asked what we would do different and I said “nothing”. We would be idiots not to look at what bit us in Charlotte and what went wrong in St. Louis but why would we change the set up on the most successful Funny Car this season and maybe in the last 20 years? We just had to figure it out.”
All four DSR Mopar drivers remain in the top-five positions to battle for the NHRA Funny Car world championship with three playoff events left. Johnson Jr. played a big part in helping to cut down the deficit to the top spot when he won a marquis first round match-up against the winner of the first two Countdown races and points leader Del Worsham with a 3.944/324.44 to a 4.799/208.39 pass.
“Extremely harsh conditions and a rough weekend for everybody but to win a big first round like that and keep the points leader from running away gave not only ourselves but everyone else in the Funny Car class a shot at keeping this thing alive,” said Johnson Jr. who lost to Beckman in the next round and sits fourth in points. “The track is so tricky and it was starting to shake and a lot of cars did that round. It is frustrating when we could of have a great weekend but at the same time, it will make the points chase really interesting now.”
The Keystone Nationals didn’t quite work out as the defending winner and reigning world champion Hagan had hoped after qualifying his Mopar Express Lane Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T fifth. He smoked the tires right off the start in the opening round against John Bojec and was unable to recover well enough to join his opponent in a pedal-fest down the track.
“It was a very disappointing day and weekend for our Rocky Boots/Mopar team,” said Hagan who remains third in points with three races left to defend his crown. “This was not what we hoped for coming into Reading, a race we won last year. We just can’t have these first round loses and expect to win the championship. At least we didn’t lose any ground on Del (Worsham). That was helpful to our team. There are still a lot of points out there to grab, but there weren’t any for us today.”
“We have 12 rounds of racing left starting at Dallas in a few weeks and we need to win rounds,” Hagan added. “We did well there last year and we need to repeat that result. It’s time to get it done. We can’t have any more first round exits if we want to challenge for this championship again.”
In Pro Stock action, Allen Johnson, who had the “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart third in the NHRA “Countdown to the Championship” heading into race day, was hoping to make some gains despite getting only one run in to prepare when cold wet weather cancelled three of the four qualifying sessions at Maple Grove Raceway. That run gave the Mopar team a tenth place seeding but also necessitated an engine change for his first round pairing with Jonathan Gray.
The HEMI®-powered Dodge Dart and Johnson came ready to battle, posting a 0.030-second reaction time on the tree, but a 6.524 second elapsed time run at 212.86 mph wasn’t enough to counter his opponent’s 0.022 second start and 6.512/212.73 pass.
“It’s the kind of weekend that leaves you shrugging your shoulders because there really was no way to properly prepare for race day with just one run in these difficult conditions,” said Johnson who remains in contention for the championship with a fifth place position in Pro Stock standings despite the first round loss. “We did the best we could and made a good run but we just got whooped. We took this one on the chin and it hurt. What softens the blow a little is that we only lost 20 more points to the leader. We need to go rounds in the final three events and steal at least a win to be able to make things interesting and that is what we are planning to do. There is still a lot of bite left in this dog and we’re not ready to give up the hunt for that prize.”
Fellow Dodge Dart racer V. Gaines drove his 16th seeded hot rod to a first round upset win over No.1 qualifier Drew Skillman. Gaines had a clean 6.527/212.23 run to the finish line while Skillman’s ride shook and made a move towards the wall to shorten his run. Gaines advanced to the quarterfinals to face Larry Morgan. Both were impressive on the tree but Gaines’s 0.014 second reaction time was outdone by Morgan’s 0.010 second start, and the Mopar driver wasn’t able to challenge at the finish after drifting out of the grove and giving up the fight to avoid crossing the centerline.
Rookie Pro Stock racer Alan Prusiensky had the starting line advantage aboard his 14th seeded Dodge Avenger (0.34 second reaction time) and posted a 6.679/207.40 pass in a losing effort against Bo Butner’s (0.55 second reaction time) 6.478/213.77 pass. The Pro Stock title was won on a hole shot by Chris McGaha over Greg Anderson.
Mopar drivers will now have a one week break to prepare for the fourth event in the six NHRA “Countdown to the Championship” playoff series with the next battle to take place from Oct. 15-18 at Texas Motorplex for the 30th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals.
About Mopar Brand
Mopar (a simple contraction of the words MOtor and PARts) was trademarked in 1937 with the launch of an antifreeze product, but it truly made its mark in the 1960s during the muscle-car era. From Mopar Performance Parts to enhance speed and handling for both road and racing use, the brand soon expanded to include technical service and customer support.
Today, Mopar is FCA’s service, parts and customer-care brand and distributes more than 500,000 parts and accessories in over 150 markets around the world. With more than 50 parts distribution centers and 27 customer-contact hubs globally, Mopar integrates service, parts and customer-care operations in order to enhance dealer and customer support worldwide. Mopar is the source for genuine parts and accessories for FCA brands.
Mopar parts are engineered together with the same teams that create factory-authorized specifications for FCA vehicles. This offers a direct connection that no other aftermarket parts company can provide. A complete list of Mopar accessories and performance parts is available at mopar.com.