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NHRA Arizona Nationals


Results compiled by Kay Burk

Photos by Ron Lewis

Matt Hagan raced to victory in his Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat at the 35th NHRA Arizona Nationals near Phoenix on February 24, capturing the milestone first win for the Charger SRT Hellcat body and his third victory at Wild Horse Motorsports Pass in the last five years.


Hagan and his Sandvik Coromant/Mopar crew led by crew chief Dickie Venables were on a mission in the second race of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello campaign. The Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) team earned the provisional pole Friday when conditions were extremely difficult (and rain curtailed the session) and continued getting stronger with every run over the course of the weekend, including in his 55th career final appearance which resulted in the two-time NHRA Funny Car champion defeating reigning NHRA champion J.R. Todd.


Earning the historic triumph for the Charger SRT Hellcat has been the goal for Hagan since first making laps using the new Hellcat body last season. Two weeks ago in the season opener, Hagan qualified fourth and lost in the first round, but in Phoenix he wasn’t going to be denied. Hagan defeated Phil Burkart, Shawn Langdon and Bob Tasca III to reach his fourth career Phoenix final where he stormed down the track for the seventh consecutive time and his run of 3.890 ET was more than enough to defeat the tire-smoking Todd. The victory was the 30th of Hagan’s career.


“This is huge because it’s the first win with the new Hellcat body,” Hagan said. “Mopar put so much into designing this new body, and it’s great to be able to put it in the winner’s circle for them.


“Hats off to (crew chief) Dickie Venables. The guy won the race, that’s for sure. He had a race car underneath me that was going down the race track every lap. That gave me a lot of confidence. He gave me the car to win; this Wally goes to him for sure, as well as my entire team. To be able to drive for Don (Schumacher) for 10 years and be able to win 30 races is awesome. It’s pretty cool, out of DSR’s 150 Funny Car wins, I have 30 of them. It just goes to show you I’ve been put around really good people, and talented crew chiefs that work hard. Dickie is one of the best out here and I’m really glad to have him in our corner.”

Hagan wasn’t the only Dodge//SRT Mopar driver that made a run to the finals in Phoenix, as Leah Pritchett continued her success at the track. The driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster for DSR was seeking her third NHRA Arizona Nationals triumph in the last four years. After qualifying seventh, Pritchett was business-like early in eliminations, posting three consecutive runs in the 3.70’s, taking out Cameron Ferre, Terry McMillen and Antron Brown to reach her 14th career final and first-ever matchup with Billy Torrence. Unfortunately, her shot at career win number eight went up in smoke when her machine lost traction just after launch and she coasted to the finish line.


Tommy Johnson, Jr. was celebrating the 30th anniversary of his NHRA nitro debut in Phoenix during the event. The driver of the Mopar-powered DSR Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat qualified fourth, but had trouble in both his first- and second-round appearances. His team overcame a broken axle in the first round, but Johnson lost a cylinder early in his second run and was knocked out by Todd.

Tommy Johnson’s car exploded in the first round of competition. He actually won the round after opponent Jim Campbell crossed the center line, automatically losing. Johnson’s crew made a valiant effort to rebuild the car with a second body and got to the starting line just in time for the second round. 

Here is Tommy Johnson’s second “boomer” of the day. Opponent J.R. Todd made a clean run to get the win.

You can see the damage to Johnson’s second car body.


“It was a rough day. Two separate back-to-back problems happening in the same day,” Johnson said. “I thought we had a really good Hellcat today. It was actually running well before the axle broke. It shows you what kind of team we have. To come back from that and make it back up for second round. It just a shame we had a totally unrelated issue and were not able to make the run we were hoping to. We’ve got two weeks off. We’ll head back to the shop, regroup and come out in Gainesville swinging.”

Jack Beckman bounced back from a tough qualifying effort by racing the DSR Infinite Hero Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to a first-round victory over Tim Wilkerson before coming up short against Bob Tasca III in the quarterfinals.

Ron Capps narrowly lost his opening round match-up with John Force, despite making his second-best run of the weekend in the Pennzoil Synthetics/NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.


Mopar Dodge//SRT NHRA Sportsman Spotlight

In Stock Eliminator, Jon Irving from Boulder City, Nevada, drove his 1971 D/SA Dodge Demon 340 to a semifinal finish at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. In a tight matchup, Irving left the starting too early by 0.041 seconds and red-lighted his chances away to his opponent. For advancing the furthest in competition, Irving took home the Dodge Top Finisher honors in Stock Eliminator.

Darcy Clarke from Alberta, Canada, drove his 1964 SS/EA Plymouth Savoy to the quarterfinals in Super Stock at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. During this round eliminations, Clarke had dialed a 9.74 ET but ran a 9.737 and lost on a breakout by a mere 0.003 seconds. Powered by a Mopar 426 cubic-inch Max Wedge V8, Clarke collected the Dodge Top Finisher in Super Stock.


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



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