There is beautiful wine country surrounding Sonoma Raceway in California, but Dodge and Mopar® drivers will not be sorry to leave. Jack Beckman set the pace for Mopar this weekend at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, turning in a valiant effort in his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car with a semifinal appearance.
Yet, despite Beckman’s best attempt, the Sonoma event ended a streak of 11 consecutive final-round appearances by Mopar Dodge Funny Cars in 2017. It was also the first time this year that neither a HEMI®-powered Funny Car nor Top Fuel dragster from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) appeared in at least one category final round.
However, Mopar Funny Cars still have claimed 12 of 15 event wins on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule this season, while Mopar Top Fuel machines have four wins to their credit.
At Sonoma, Beckman first drove his Mopar Dodge from DSR past Jonnie Lindberg on a clean pass in the first round when the young Swedish driver had issues at the hit of the throttle. Beckman next took down Del Worsham in round two, despite an explosion as the car crossed the finish line. Beckman gave up lane choice to J.R. Todd in the semis, but still looked like he had the race won when Todd smoked the tires at the starting line. Beckman’s car slowed as he worked his way down the track though, allowing eventual event winner Todd to make a come-from-behind pass for the win and end Beckman’s march.
Also in Funny Car, Tommy Johnson Jr. and his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T team from DSR began their day by defeating teammate Ron Capps in the first round for the second week in a row. Johnson next matched up against Courtney Force in round two, where each driver struggled to find traction at the starting line. Both pedaled but Force ultimately turned on the win light.
Matt Hagan, meanwhile, went out in the first round after smoking the tires in his Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car. He fell to Del Worsham even as Worsham also struggled to get down track.
In the Top Fuel ranks, Leah Pritchett set a track record during qualifying to earn No. 1 honors. She defeated Terry Haddock in her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil dragster from DSR during round one, but dropped cylinders forced her to bow out in the second round to Terry McMillen.
Pritchett’s Mopar-powered Top Fuel teammate, eight-time champion Tony Schumacher, smoked the tires in his U.S. Army car when the light turned green in the first round. He tried to pedal but eventually was forced to give up and was upset by Scott Palmer. Even with the team’s recent struggles, Schumacher still secured a spot in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs during the weekend.