BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Oct. 25, 2017) – With the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series concluding in less than a month, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Terry and Doug Chandler’s Make-A-Wish Funny Car team set their focus on finishing the season strong.
“We’ve struggled a little bit lately and hopefully this is where we can turn the corner,” said Johnson who currently is seventh in the NHRA points standings. He finished third in both 2014 and 2015 and was second in 2016.
Johnson and the Make-A-Wish team led by crew chief John Collins with assistant Rip Reynolds, stayed very consistent throughout the regular NHRA season, advancing to four of five final rounds during July and August.
Their Countdown to the Championship playoff efforts have been less than stellar with only two quarterfinal appearances.
“We won our only race so far this year in Vegas in the spring so I’m looking forward to getting back there and getting back on track.”
Johnson’s win in Funny Car in April was Don Schumacher Racing’s 299th and it was followed that weekend by Top Fuel teammate Antron Brown earning DSR its 300th.
This weekend’s 17th annual NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the penultimate event of the 2017 season.
“We’re going to do some testing on Monday at Vegas and begin working toward next year’s program.
“Hopefully at the same time, we can get our program back on track and go some rounds. We’d love nothing more than to go out with two wins at the end of the season.”
Antron Brown clinched his last two world championships for Don Schumacher Racing at Las Vegas and was able to celebrate two weeks later at the Pomona finale in Southern California.
That won’t happen for Brown or any other driver in the nitro categories this year, largely because NHRA enhanced the points value for the season-ending NHRA Finals by about 150 percent.
At Las Vegas this weekend, like 22 of the previous 23 events in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, the most a driver can earn with a perfect weekend is 130 points; at Pomona, 191 can be earned.
No Top Fuel or Funny Car driver can leave Las Vegas with a 192-point lead and clinch a championship, and any driver 192 or more points out of first after Sunday’s final round at Las Vegas will be eliminated from contention.
The seven DSR drivers and 19 of the 20 in the Countdown remain alive in championship contention but most are likely to be mathematically eliminated after Las Vegas.
In Funny Car, DSR’s Ron Capps (NAPA AUTO PARTS) is atop the standings but just 24 points ahead of hard-charging Robert Hight of John Force Racing. The drivers each have won twice through the first four Countdown playoff races. Jack Beckman (Infinite Hero) is fourth, 186 back while Matt Hagan (Pennzoil/Mopar) is fifth (-226) and Tommy Johnson Jr. (Make-A-Wish) is seventh (-271).
In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence leads Brittany Force and Doug Kalitta by 57 and 76 points, with DSR’s three-time world champion Antron Brown, winner of the last two championships for Matco Tools, ranked fourth and 105 behind Torrence. Leah Pritchett (Pennzoil) is fifth (-180) and eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher is sixth (-192).
TOMMY JOHNSON JR., Terry and Doug Chandler’s Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T
Crew chief: John Collins; Assistant: Rip Reynolds
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2017 7th 22 1 4 5 5 7 1 0 31-21
CAREER 420 16* 28 58 102 171 15 44 367-360
*14 FC/2 TF
Career best time, speed: 3.837 sec. (Phoenix 2017); 332.02 mph (Sonoma 2017)
BY THE NUMBERS
Last event, Oct. 15, Dallas: Qualified No. 7, lost in first round to John Force
A year ago at Las Vegas 2: Qualified No. 10, lost in first round to Del Worsham
This spring at Las Vegas 1: Qualified No. 6. won in championship round over Jonnie Lindberg
Career at Las Vegas 2: Wins 0, Runner-ups 2 (2015-16), Poles 1 (2015)
Career at Las Vegas: Wins 1 (2001), Runner-ups 3 (2002, 2015-16) , Poles 1 (2015)
1. RON CAPPS (8) 2495 —–
2. Robert Hight (4) 2471 -24
3. Courtney Force 2324 -171
4. JACK BECKMAN (2) 2309 -186
5. MATT HAGAN (3) 2269 -226
6. John Force (1) 2252 -243
7. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1) 2224 -271
8. Tim Wilkerson 2206 -289
9. J.R. Todd (2) 2199 -296
10. Cruz Pedregon 2128 -307
About Don Schumacher Racing
Don Schumacher Racing, headquartered in Brownsburg, Ind., fields seven professional NHRA teams. In Top Fuel, the U.S. Army dragster driven by eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, the Matco Tools dragster driven by three-time world champion Antron Brown and the Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Top Fuel dragster driven by Leah Pritchett; and in Funny Car, 2016 world champion Ron Capps in the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T; 2011 and 2014 world champion Matt Hagan in the 80th anniversary Mopar/ Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T, and 2012 NHRA world champion Jack Beckman in the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge and the Make-A-Wish Dodge driven by Tommy Johnson Jr., both of which are funded by the late Terry Chandler.
DSR has won 316 NHRA national event titles and 16 world championships.
Follow Don Schumacher Racing at ShoeRacing.com, on Twitter at @shoeracing and Facebook.com/shoeracing.