JOLIET, Illinois – For the second straight race, Don Schumacher Racing dominated the NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car classes in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in suburban Chicago.
DSR driver Antron Brown earned his fourth Top Fuel win of the season, while teammate Matt Hagan won in Funny Car, defeating yet another fellow DSR teammate, Tommy Johnson Jr.
“Winner, winner, chicken dinner, can I get some gravy,” Brown laughed in his post-race press conference after defeating Brittany Force in the final round of Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in suburban Chicago.
“It just feels good to bring it home for Don Schumacher, with (Chicago being) his hometown,” Brown said. “(Schumacher) doubled up in Funny Car and Top Fuel again two races back-to-back now, so DSR is definitely on the climb and all the hard work that we did in the off-season is starting to finally pay off for sure.”
It was Brown’s fourth career win at Route 66, doing so twice in Top Fuel and two other times in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
“It’s been a great race weekend,” Brown said. “We’re back.”
It was also the 29th Top Fuel triumph and 45th overall victory of Brown’s NHRA racing career.
Celebrating in victory lane was a completely different feeling for Brown than after his dragster was destroyed three weeks ago in a wreck at Atlanta.
“(Atlanta) set us back but we’re back on the march,” Brown said. “We’ve got to keep it going and keep on pushing.
“When we get in the car, we (feel) happy again.”
Brown faced Brittany Force, daughter of legendary Funny Car driver John Force, in the final round.
Ironically, it was the second time Brown and Force have faced each other in their careers, both times being in final rounds (the only final rounds Force has been in so far in her career), and Brown remains unbeaten at 2-0 now.
“When you face someone like Brittany Force in the final, you know you have to go with your A-plus game,” Brown said.
Brown did indeed bring his best stuff, with a winning run of 3.814 seconds at 317.34 mph, to Force’s 3.850 seconds run at 320.89 mph. He didn’t feel any sympathy that Force is still hunting for her first career Top Fuel win.
“It doesn’t make a difference if she wanted it to be the first win for Brittany,” Brown said. “I don’t care who it is. It could be Babaloo come out here and they could win with a tutu with their head turned backwards. We want to win every race we’re in and give it all we’ve got, and that’s what it’s all about.”
With its 12th race of 2014 in the books, the NHRA is now at the halfway point of its 24-race schedule.
Doug Kalitta is first in the Top Fuel points standings, holding a 102-point edge over Brown. Shawn Langdon is third, followed by Spencer Massey and Chicago native Tony Schumacher in fifth-place.
Hagan, meanwhile, covered the 1,000-foot dragstrip in 4.098 seconds at 310.48 mph, defeating No. 1 Funny Car qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr. (4.147 seconds at 308.50 mph).
“We went up there and raced our race car, not the guy beside of us,” said Hagan, who earned his third career NHRA event win at Route 66. “We just got to turn four win lights (for each of Sunday’s four rounds of eliminations) on this weekend.”
It was Hagan’s second final round appearance of the season (was runner-up at Bristol, Tennessee two weeks back), but his first win since the 2013 season finale at Pomona, California.
It also was his second straight win at Route 66.
“It’s been a very, very humbling year for us, for our team,” Hagan said. “Last year, we went out and won five races and you think you’re going to set the world on fire the following year.
“We’re getting there, but we still have a long ways to go. The competition is just so, so tough here in Funny Car. When you get to turn four win lights on, you don’t want this day to end. It’s just phenomenal and it makes you realize how special these things are when they come together.
“If you’re not running for a championship, Don’s (team owner Don Schumacher) not happy. We want to keep him happy and help keep going through this deal here. … We’re just glad to be defending champions and to come back and win again.”
Hagan beat fellow Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.
“It makes it so much sweeter (to defeat his teammate) because you know they have the same stuff, the same R&D, the same cars, the same chassis, same everything and same parts – it’s just how they put it all together,” Hagan said.
“At the end of the day, you put a little feather in your cap because one of two things happened, either one crew chief did a little better job than the other crew chief, or the driver did a little better job than the other driver. It’s a neat feeling to put your teammate on the trailer probably more so than anybody else.”
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Final finishing order (1-16) at the 17th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway:
1. Antron Brown; 2. Brittany Force; 3. J.R. Todd; 4. Clay Millican; 5. Shawn Langdon; 6. Richie Crampton; 7. Doug Kalitta; 8. Bob Vandergriff; 9. Steve Torrence; 10. Tony Schumacher; 11. Pat Dakin; 12. Khalid alBalooshi; 13. Billy Torrence; 14. Spencer Massey; 15. Terry McMillen; 16. T.J. Zizzo.
1. Matt Hagan; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 3. Ron Capps; 4. Courtney Force; 5. Cruz Pedregon; 6. John Force; 7. Robert Hight; 8. Bob Bode; 9. Alexis DeJoria; 10. Bob Tasca III; 11. Tony Pedregon; 12. Jack Beckman; 13. Jeff Arend; 14. Del Worsham; 15. Chad Head; 16. Tim Wilkerson.
Round-by-round results from the 17th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway:
ROUND ONE — Richie Crampton, 7.147, 68.90 def. T.J. Zizzo, 16.268, 27.97; Shawn Langdon, 3.795, 322.58 def. Steve Torrence, 3.789, 324.05; Clay Millican, 3.842, 312.21 def. Tony Schumacher, 3.868, 323.97; Doug Kalitta, 3.805, 325.22 def. Pat Dakin, 3.917, 302.69; Antron Brown, 3.803, 319.07 def. Billy Torrence, 5.487, 125.40; Brittany Force, 3.828, 319.75 def. Terry McMillen, 9.608, 88.32; Bob Vandergriff, 4.349, 236.17 def. Spencer Massey, 6.133, 102.28; J.R. Todd, 4.377, 232.15 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 4.378, 233.36;
QUARTERFINALS — Millican, 4.675, 152.93 def. Vandergriff, 9.928, 73.59; Todd, 3.861, 316.45 def. Kalitta, 8.540, 94.01; Brown, 4.813, 221.85 def. Crampton, 5.899, 175.16; Force, 3.940, 308.57 def. Langdon, 5.344, 140.55;
SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.961, 308.64 def. Millican, 4.470, 196.30; Force, 3.889, 316.60 def. Todd, 3.906, 313.80;
FINAL — Brown, 3.814, 317.34 def. Force, 3.850, 320.89.
ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.571, 285.41 def. Jeff Arend, Dodge Charger, 4.734, 209.20; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.087, 311.41 def. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.229, 287.90; Bob Bode, Camry, 4.633, 236.01 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 5.010, 196.70; John Force, Mustang, 4.079, 318.99 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.089, 308.71; Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.138, 312.93 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.215, 295.85; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.215, 256.70 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, foul; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.086, 313.07 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.397, 220.48; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.157, 267.59 def. Chad Head, Camry, 6.137, 112.87;
QUARTERFINALS — Capps, 4.179, 297.55 def. Hight, 6.361, 105.84; Hagan, 4.144, 308.07 def. Bode, 17.135, 28.35; C. Force, 4.151, 307.30 def. J. Force, 5.543, 134.52; Johnson Jr., 4.113, 304.60 def. C. Pedregon, 4.166, 296.63;
SEMIFINALS — Hagan, 4.136, 305.36 def. Capps, 4.135, 305.08; Johnson Jr., 4.186, 298.73 def. C. Force, 6.725, 100.99;
FINAL — Hagan, 4.098, 310.48 def. Johnson Jr., 4.147, 308.50.
Point standings (top 10) following Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway:
1. Doug Kalitta, 1,065; 2. Antron Brown, 963; 3. Shawn Langdon, 835; 4. Spencer Massey, 747; 5. Tony Schumacher, 711; 6. Steve Torrence, 688; 7. Brittany Force, 638; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 620; 9. Richie Crampton, 600; 10. J.R. Todd, 557.
1. Robert Hight, 1,032; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., 786; 3. John Force, 769; 4. Ron Capps, 748; 5. Alexis DeJoria, 747; 6. Courtney Force, 732; 7. Del Worsham, 684; 8. Matt Hagan, 681; 9. Cruz Pedregon, 651; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 603.