Johnson, Make-A-Wish Dodge win to pay tribute to Terry Chandler

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Johnson, Make-A-Wish Dodge win to pay tribute to Terry Chandler, soften blow to DSR after Capps, NAPA lose chance to repeat

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 12, 2017) – Tommy Johnson Jr. with Terry and Doug Chandler’s Make-A-Wish team defending its title at the NHRA Finals was the only accomplishment that could have salvaged an otherwise disappointing race day for Don Schumacher Racing.

Johnson and the team led by crew chief John Collins and assistant Rip Reynolds defeated new Mello Yello world champion Robert Hight in the final round at Pomona.

The team’s only other Wally Trophy was won at Las Vegas in April but their mentor and friend, the late Terry Chandler, wasn’t able to attend that race. The following week, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and lost her valiant battle on July 4.

The last time she joined her team in a winner’s circle was a year ago, and Sunday was the team’s first win since her passing.

“We’ve tried several times to win another one for her, and I knew this was our last time this year,” said Johnson, who raced in the final round of the season three straight years.

“She was a great lady, and we miss her.”

Johnson and the Make-A-Wish team might not have been able to finish the season had her husband, Doug, not decided to continue funding the team to finish this season and committed to funding both the Make-A-Wish and Infinite Hero teams for at least three years.

While DSR continues to feel the loss of its biggest fan, Collins’ tuning and Johnson’s driving certainly softened the blow.

The first disappointment came Saturday when DSR’s Antron Brown and the Matco Tools team watched their two-year run as world champions end.

And on Sunday, reigning world champion Ron Capps and the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T started the day trailing Robert Hight of John Force Racing by eight points but Capps’ goal of being the first Funny Car driver to repeat as champion since 2001 was thwarted when he lost traction in the opening round. He had to win one round more than Hight to repeat.

In the opening round, Capps was paired against longtime friend Del Worsham but Capps’ Dodge went into tire smoke and despite a near perfect effort at regaining traction was enough for his 4.177-second run at 316.52 mph to catch Worsham’s subpar run (4.045 at 306.19) to the finish line.

“It rattled and I gave it a pedal,” said Capps, who is runner-up for the championship fifth time. “I saw Del out there. I love racing him, I get up to race him.

“Just I guess it wasn’t meant to be. We had a great season with (Crew chief) Rahn Tobler, Eric Lane and our NAPA AutoCare guys. To end anything, win or lose here in Pomona is special with all these fans and our NAPA Auto Parts, Dodge, Mopar, Pennzoil and USA Compression family here.”

Capps had a remarkable season by winning six of 18 events in the Mello Yello regular season and two of six in the Countdown to the Championship playoff.

Ironically, Steve Torrence dominated the season with eight event titles but his championship hopes were dashed when two-time reigning world champion Antron Brown in DSR’s Matco Tools dragster beat Torrence in the second round in one of the day’s best races. Brown’s 3.691 at 328.30 edged Torrence’s 3.695 at 328.46.

“Stevie and I are best friends but he knows we all have to race to win,” said Brown, who lost in the semifinals to new world champion Brittany Force.

Despite winning 25 Mello Yello titles this year, it marks the first time DSR has not won a world championship in the past four years and only the third time in the past seven seasons when it did not have a champion crowned.

2017 NHRA world champion: Brittany Force (John Force Racing)
Event winner: B. Force
No. 1 qualifier: B. Force, 3.667 sec.-track record, 330.31 mph

Crew chiefs: Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald; Assistant: Brad Mason
First round: BROWN (3.710 sec., 329.91 mph) def. Mike Salinas (3.795, 324.90)
Second round: BROWN (3.691, 328.30) def. Steve Torrence (3.695, 328.46)
Semifinals: Brittany Force (3.674, 326.63) def. BROWN (3.677, 329.34)
Qualified: No. 4
FRIDAY:6.302 sec., 105.999 mph, (Session 1); 3.696, 326.00, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 4.740, 3.708, 326.87, (Session 3); 3.708, 326.87, (Session 4)

LEAH PRITCHETT, Papa John’s Pizza
Crew chief: Todd Okuhara; Assistant: Joe Barlam
First round: PRITCHETT (3.712 sec., 329.50 mph) def. Scott Palmer (7.901, 104.87)
Qualified: No. 3
FRIDAY: 3.712 sec., 326.32 mph (Session 1); 7.775, 85.31, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.674, 325.61, (Session 3); 5.134, 129.89, (Session 4)

Crew chief: Mike Green; Assistant: Phil Shuler
First round: Shawn Langdon (3.725 sec., 326.16 mph) def. SCHUMACHER (3.724, 328.38)
Qualified: No. 6
FRIDAY: 5.987 sec.,111.74 mph, (Session 1); 6.119, 117.35, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.757, 326.00, (Session 3); 3.721, 328.54, (Session 4)

2017 NHRA world champion: Robert Hight (John Force Racing)
Event winner: Tommy Johnson Jr. (Don Schumacher Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Jack Beckman (Don Schumacher Racing) 3.835 sec., 334.98 mph

TOMMY JOHNSON JR., Terry and Doug Chandler’s Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T
Crew chief: John Collins; Assistant: Rip Reynolds
First round: JOHNSON (4.047 sec., 283.79 mph) def. Bob Bode (36.217, no speed)
Second round: JOHNSON (3.911, 329.34) def. Alexis DeJoria (3.944, 327.90)
Semifinals: JOHNSON (3.890, 329.10) def. Jack Beckman (3.914, 327.74)
Final: JOHNSON (3.920, 329.10) def. Robert Hight (6.827, 103.71)
Qualified: No. 4
FRIDAY: 3.887 sec., 314.31 mph, (Session 1); 8.146, 86.30, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 5.276, 132.06, (Session 3); 3.916, 324.67, (Session 4)

JACK BECKMAN, Terry and Doug Chandler’s Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T
Crew chiefs: Dean Antonelli, John Medlen, Neal Strausbaugh
First round: BECKMAN (3.837 sec., 333.74 mph) def. Jeff Arend (10.678, 85.73)
Second round: BECKMAN (3.851, 332.51) def. John Force (3.932, 310.98)
Semifinals: Tommy Johnson Jr. (3.890, 329.10) def. BECKMAN (3.914, 327.74)
Qualified: No. 1
FRIDAY: 6.825 sec., 95.35 mph, (Session 1); 3.835, 334.98, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 4.249, 320.40, (Session 3); 3.859, 332.34, (Session 4)

MATT HAGAN, Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T
Crew chief: Dickie Venables; Assistant: Michael Knudsen
First round: HAGAN (3.872 sec., 332.59 mph) def. Gary Densham (no time)
Second round: Robert Hight (3.851, 334.32) def. HAGAN (3.875, 332.18)
Qualified: No. 7
FRIDAY: 7.606 sec., 91.30 mph, (Session 1); 7.947, 79.68, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.933, 328.62, (Session 3); 3.898, 333.08, (Session 4)

Crew chief: Rahn Tobler; Assistant: Eric Lane
First round: Del Worsham (4.045 sec., 306.19 mph) def. CAPPS (4.177, 316.52)
Qualified: No. 6
FRIDAY: 6.107 sec., 113.64 mph, (Session 1); 3.956, 322.19, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.897, 328.22, (Session 3); 3.917, 323.66, (Session 4)

(Official standings after 24th of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)

1. Brittany Force-CHAMPION (5) 2690 —–
2. Steve Torrence (8) 2609 -81
3. Doug Kalitta (1) 2553 -137
4. ANTRON BROWN (4) 2508 -182
5. LEAH PRITCHETT (4) 2452 -238
6. Clay Millican (1) 2419 -271
7. Shawn Langdon 2406 -284
8. TONY SCHUMACHER (1) 2395 -295
9. Terry McMillen (1) 2310 -380
10. Scott Palmer 2218 -472

1. Robert Hight-CHAMPION (4) 2686 —–
2. RON CAPPS (8) 2588 -98
3. Courtney Force 2543 -143
4. JACK BECKMAN (2) 2519 -167
5. MATT HAGAN (4) 2470 -216
6. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (2) 2452 -234
7. John Force (1) 2388 -298
8. Tim Wilkerson 2296 -390
9. J.R. Todd (2) 2282 -404
10. Cruz Pedregon 2178 -508