While the NHRA Top Fuel class had everything from A to Z before Justin Ashley and T.J. Zizzo reached the final round, the Funny Car finals looked like business as usual Sunday at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
That is, until a rainstorm halted the race just before the final round Sunday. The victor – either Matt Hagan or Jack Beckman – will be decided during the Labor Day weekend, about six weeks from now, on this same dragstrip during the Denso U.S. Nationals.
This final round also guarantees that DSR will earn a victory for the seventh straight time since the October 2019 Dallas race. The last time the organization didn’t win in the Funny Car class was the fall event at Charlotte last Oct. 14.
For the third straight race, the class with have an all-Don Schumacher Racing final. Hagan, last weekend’s winner, will go against Beckman, the Winternationals winner, Phoenix runner-up, and points leader.
And that will push DSR to 349 victories, on the verge of becoming the first drag-racing team to hit the 350 plateau. When DSR does hit the 350-victory mark, it will rank among motorsports’ elite organizations. Team Penske Racing has 556, World of Outlaws legend Steve Kinser has recorded 690 feature victories, and Ferrari has 238 Formula 1 triumphs. Chip Ganassi Racing is zooming up on 230 victories on the strength of winning the first four IndyCar races of this year.
Hagan drove the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye to the final past Ron Capps, JR Todd, and Bob Tasca Sunday and Beckman and his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger advanced past Chad Green, Tim Wilkerson, and Tommy Johnson Jr. to continue the DSR streak.
For Hagan, it was yet another turn of events that has kept him from getting any sense of rhythm.
He had a semifinal finish at Pomona, Calif., to begin the season, then was unable to compete on race day at Phoenix because of a mechanical problem. Then coronavirus wreaked havoc on the world and stopped racing for more than four months. Hagan came back for the restart and won the first of four races at Indianapolis a week ago. However, he encountered some drama in qualifying this weekend – he had to make a last-ditch effort to make 16-car line-up. Then, when it appeared he was back in his groove, this postponement took away the momentum he was building.
“Well, obviously, that’s not what we want to do. I mean, we felt like we had momentum coming off the last weekend and this weekend in the final. But that’s racing. We can’t control the weather,” Hagan said.
“The problem with it is that you get in this rhythm and groove and then you step away from it. But we can’t control Mother Nature, and obviously the fans over here would have loved to see a final and somebody crowned, but we’ll get there,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be happy when the U.S. Nationals rolls around and we win two races in one weekend. It’s just losing some of that momentum is always tough. When your car is on a rail sometimes, it’s easy to fall off of that.
“At the end of the day, it’s two team cars, and we want to win,” he said. “It comes down to he’s leading the points right now and we’re chasing the points. So we need to put a ‘W’ on the board to at least even the score up right now. They got a great car.”
Hagan recorded low elapsed time in each of the first three rounds Sunday.
Hagan said, “It’ll be interesting, because Don [Schumacher] was talking about how with the next weekend coming up that we race here with only two qualifying sessions it would be hard to kind of push and trying to make the field. It’s hard enough to make the field. We almost didn’t make the field this weekend. Qualifying is getting tricky. It’ll be tricky for everybody with only those two runs. But I’m good with it.”
Beckman, on the other hand, didn’t overthink the situation.
“Who cares? We’re in the final,” he said. “Everybody else can complain about ‘boy wouldn’t want to be in their situation.’ I’m glad I’m in our situation. When we come back we get to run for the trophy.
“Times are different right? It’s limited crowds. It’s a whole lot of restrictions. The trophy hasn’t changed and I think it’s up to the teams to keep that feeling, whether it’s the final round of the U.S. Nationals or the final round of the second meet at Indy. Its going to be the same size trophy,” Beckman said. “So when we roll back around for that one, I think maybe this plays into our favor. We front-halved our car. We changed the clutch disc. It was speaking a different language than us but we’re finally getting a handle on it. We’ve gotten quicker every run. I think you give us a couple more runs, we’re going to be right back to where we were when we left Pomona [in February and with a trophy].”
Hagan was more intense about his performance, saying, “I really have a lot of confidence in Dickie Venables. He’s really got this car dialed in and he’s one of those guys where you just give him a few runs and he’s dangerous. No different than after qualifying, he got it all figured out and we were aggressive this morning when it was cool. And it was just off to the races from there. So I think it’ll be the same way with no matter where we go and what we’re doing and it looks like we’re going to end up at Indy quite a bit. I think we got a lot of good data to work off of, and I don’t know that it can get a whole lot hotter than 140-some-degree racetrack. We got a little bit of everything to work off of here. It’s going to be what’s going to be.”
Beckman said, “In a lot of ways, these [impromptu Indianapolis] races will have a little asterisk next to them. What’s not going to be different is the trophy. It’s the exact same size as every other Wally we’ve earned. It’s going to mean just as much. We’re going to work just as hard for it. Whether we run tonight, tomorrow, or in three weeks it really doesn’t matter to me. We have a car and a team that can adjust. We struggled in qualifying and the team worked hard and figured it out. The car came around and we’re in another final round and someone is getting a trophy. I don’t care when they run it – we’re going to run our tails off.”
Beckman said all he knows is that “I love the sport, and when I came back after four and a half months off and I walked into the pits, it seemed like we just left Phoenix two weeks ago. It was very surreal. I’ve been away so, so long I’d never been out of a car that long in my entire career and it reminded me how much I really love this. So it’s great to be back.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will visit Indianapolis one more time before the Denso U.S. Nationals Labor Day Classic here. The NHRA announced last Thursday it had to shelve two more events, one at Denver, one at Brainerd, Minn. In place of the Denver race, Aug. 6-9, the sanctioning body added a third Indianapolis event to the calendar.
For 20 years, https://t.co/Reh86n8GFm has kept you covered when it comes to drag racing news. Thanks to the team at https://t.co/RJQ6L0BTUR, we can keep you covered when face coverings are necessary. We are offering custom face masks for $10. TO PURCHASE – https://t.co/Us0V173xw0 pic.twitter.com/DGRo368LDw
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) July 16, 2020