Funny car has another force
Schumacher team on remarkable roll
Don Schumacher Racing, backed by Dodge and the manufacturer’s parts division, Mopar, is taking its four-car funny car program to heights not seen since John Force reigned supreme in the 1990s. And make no mistake, three DSR drivers Thursday weren’t shy about pointing out their combined 10 consecutive victories, and 12-in-13 races, heading into this weekend’s Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.
“You can’t do that,” said DSR funny car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. “And we’re doing it.”
The National Hot Rod Association’s 38th annual event at Bandimere is being sponsored by Mopar for the 29th consecutive season, the longest title sponsorship in the sport’s history. Only Dodge/Mopar drivers were invited to Thursday’s media luncheon at Elway’s in Cherry Creek, and as you can imagine, they had a lot to say about DSR’s season dominance over three-car John Force Racing, backed by Chevrolet, and everyone else.
“At some point you have to sift through all the luck and fate and intangibles, all those factors, and stand back and look at the numbers. And 12 out of 13 races is mind-blowing,” said DSR’s Jack Beckman.
At times, the DSR drivers and news conference moderator poked fun at those competitors continually losing to DSR teams. But everyone still has the utmost respect for John Force, the legendary 16-time world champion and defending winner at Bandimere who turned 68 in May.
“Look at that dude. He’s got nothing to prove to anybody,” DSR’s Matt Hagan said of Force, the NHRA’s all-time winningest driver. “He’s won 16 championships, 10 straight (from 1993 to 2002). He understands what domination is. Just a little taste back his way. When you give some punches, you have to take some punches. But he’s a great guy. I respect him. I look up to him. He’s a great individual. But at the end of the day, man, we’re out here to race, not to make friends.”
Hagan, who is driving the newly
unveiled Mopar car to commemorate the company’s 80th anniversary, has three event victories and is second in the point standings behind teammate Ron Capps, who has six wins. Beckman has two event victories and is third in the standings, while Johnson (one win) is fifth. The six wins for Capps, who didn’t attend Thursday’s news conference, tie his career high.
Capps defeated Johnson in the finals of the previous event, July 9 at Route 66 Raceway outside Chicago. The Force drivers each lost in the first round.
“It just shows the work and commitment from everybody at DSR, and Mopar, and Dodge,” Johnson said. “We’ve raised the bar so high right now.”
John Force, meanwhile, has the only nonDSR victory, April 2 in Las Vegas. He is sev- enth in the standings, behind son-in-law Robert Hight (fourth) and daughter Courtney Force (sixth). John Force Racing has struggled on Sundays despite qualifying No. 1 a series-high eight times. DSR has had just four funny car pole positions.
“We haven’t been dominant in qualifying, and it goes to show you: Sunday’s requirements can be different than Friday or Saturday. So I don’t care where I qualify (this weekend),” Beckman said.
Beckman didn’t envision the season that has unfolded, because JFR looked so strong in January.
“When I saw the numbers that the Force cars put up in preseason testing, I thought, ‘Man, they’ve found something and we’re going to have to play catchup,’ ” Beckman said. “And then I reminded myself: Preseason testing doesn’t give points, qualifying doesn’t get trophies. Really, the only thing that matters is how you perform on Sunday. And our group has just been stunning this year.”