This past weekend, the NHRA funny cars headed to the Texas Motorplex for the 2021 Texas FallNationals with Don Schumacher Racing team drivers Matt Hagan and Ron Capps holding the top two spots in the championship battle. It was already looking good for Team Mopar before the 20th event on the 2021 schedule, but the situation got even better after the FallNationals were over.
Ron Capps beat Matt Hagan in an all-DSR, all-Dodge Charger Hellcat funny car final round that helped Capps pull closer to Hagan in the championship battle, but more importantly, the two Mopar drivers put distance between themselves and the rest of the drivers in the Countdown to the Championship program. With just three events left on the schedule, Hagan is now 115 points ahead of John Force – the first non-Mopar in the championship race.
Mopar is Fast in Qualifying
The first round of qualifying didn’t go so well for Team Mopar. Cruz Pedregon was the quickest Mopar, running a 4.008 at 319 miles per hour, but Hagan and Capps were both off the pace on their first pass. Hagan ran a 4.108 at 286 and Capps ran a 4.604 at 179. Meanwhile, Camaro racer Robert Hight was the top qualifier with a 3.97 at 324.98 miles per hour.
Fortunately, things got much better in the second round. Capps jumped into second with a 3.882 at 329, Hagan moved into fourth with a 3.897 at 332 and Pedregon stayed third with a 3.892 at 325. However, Hight’s Camaro ran a 3.878 at 331 to stay in the top spot. Those times would all carry through to the end of qualifying, with the top spots going unchanged in the third and fourth qualifying rounds.
For those wondering, John Force, who was the closest competition to Capps and Hagan coming into the Texas FallNationals, struggled in qualifying, settling for the eleventh place on the ladder.
Dodge Charger Hellcats Dominate Eliminations
In the first round of eliminations, all three of the Dodge Charger drivers in the championship chase won as Capps beat Jack Wyatt, Hagan beat Dale Creasy and Pedregon beat Terry Haddock. Camaro drivers Hight and Force both won as well, as did Bob Tasca III in his Mustang and JR Todd in his Toyota Camry. Todd had the quickest E.T. of eliminations with a 3.867.
In the second round, Todd knocked out top qualifier Hight and a slow pass by both drivers, but each of the other three races in this round of funny car competition went to a Dodge Charger. Hagan ran a round-best 3.918 to beat Tasca, Capps beat Paul Lee and Cruz beat Force, severely damaging John Forces shot at the championship.
The semifinals saw a Toyota-Dodge race and a Dodge-Dodge race. In the Toyota-Dodge race, JR Todd had a great reaction time, but ran into problems as Hagan went on to win with the quickest E.T. of the round. In the Dodge-Dodge race, Pedregon slept on the tree, so even though he ran quicker, Capps got the win on the tree.
In the final round, Ron Capps went slower, but won on the tree for the second race in a row. Capps pulled a .042 reaction time to Hagan’s .065, so while Hagan ran a 3.919 at 328, Capps’ 3.930 at 326 took the win. That was Capps’ second win on the season and the fifth for Don Schumacher Racing.
Hagan and Capps Pull Away
With Hagan and Capps both making it to the final round, they both pulled away from the rest of the field. Coming into the FallNationals, Hagan was 59 points ahead of Capps and 72 points ahead of third place driver John Force, with Pedregon 99 points back in fourth.
Due to his strong effort in Texas, Pedregon has jumped over Force to take the third spot, but Cruz is still 113 points out of the lead, with Force 115 out in fourth. Meanwhile, Capps is now just 33 points behind his DSR teammate Hagan with just three races left on the schedule. For Force or anyone else to make a real run at the 2021 NHRA Funny Car Championship title, they will have to win a couple of the final races and they will need for Hagan and Capps to have a few early exits.
The next race on the schedule is the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals on the weekend of October 15-17.
Complete 2021 NHRA Funny Car Standings at Event 20 of 23
(Position- Driver Name- Point Total- Points Behind Leader – Race Car) Mopar Drivers in Bold
1 – Matt Hagan – 2449 – 0 – Mopar/Pennzoil/Sandvik Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
2 – Ron Capps – 2416 – 33 – NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
3 – Cruz Pedregon – 2336 – 113 – Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
4 – John Force – 2334 – 115 – PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS
5 – J.R. Todd – 2315 – 134 – DHL Toyota Camry
6 – Bob Tasca III – 2291 – 158 – Ford Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang
7 – Robert Hight – 2261 – 188 – Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS
8 – Tim Wilkerson – 2211 – 238 – Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang
9 – Alexis DeJoria – 2197 – 252 – ROKiT/ABK Beer Toyota Camry
10 – Blake Alexander – 2153 – 296 – Head Inc./Pronto Auto Parts Ford Mustang