Funny car has an­other force

Schu­macher team on re­mark­able roll

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Cham­bers

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.”

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