Tommy Johnson, Make-A-Wish team put 2015 Dodge Charger R/T on the pole

POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 6, 2015) -Don Schumacher Racing started the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series on Friday at Pomona, Calif., where it left off last November when Tony Schumacher and Matt Hagan won world championships.

After opening day of the NHRA Circle K Winternationals, Tommy Johnson Jr. is on the provisional pole in Funny Car while Schumacher is No. 2 in Top Fuel.

The final two qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday leading to Sunday's championship eliminations.

Johnson and the Make-A-Wish team led by crew chief John Collins produced the first provisional pole in the first race for DSR's all new 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car body designed and developed by Mopar with assistance from DSR. The carbon-fiber bodies took nearly a year to develop and is the only all-new Funny Car body style competing in the Mello Yello series.

Johnson, who finished a career-best third in last year's standings, uncorked a time of 4.018 seconds at the day's top Funny Car speed of 314.46 mph in the opening day's second qualifying session at Auto Club Raceway.

"The new body is a welcome addition," Johnson said. "The vision is so much better. That actually paid off on that run. This is a hard place to see. When the sun is going down and with all the clutch dust in the car it can be a very difficult track to see. Having the extra vision really, really helped.

"The first run was on a really good one but it came loose out in the middle of the track," he said of the run in 4.227 (236.71).

"It was an easy adjustment for John and the guys to make. John just made some subtle changes in the middle of the race course to soften it up a little through there. It was just a nice, easy, clean 4.01, not even really getting after it. It leaves a lot of hope for two more runs tomorrow. There's a legitimate shot at going into the (3-second range)."

In Top Fuel, DSR's reigning world champion Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team is qualified No. 2 with a time of 3.757 (320.20) while teammate Spencer Massey and the Red Fuel Powered by Schumacher/Sandvik Coromant team is third with a time of 3.761 at the day's top speed of 328.30. Antron Brown and the Matco Tools/U.S. Army team is qualified 10th at 3.803.

When Schumacher competed in the season finale at Pomona he left with his eighth world championship.

"When you've got the Countdown (to the Championship) format, you've got to go out and you've got to win," he said. "But, really, it starts with the first run of the season. You want to show your strength and you want that No. 1 on the side of the car to portray to the rest of the guys and the fans that you are the champ for a reason. (Crew chief) Mike Green and (and assistant) Neal Strausbaugh and the rest of the guys really have this Army car thumping."

Johnson almost was upstaged by DSR teammate and reigning world champion Matt Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge who jumped to No. 8 in qualifying with a second-session run of 4.090 (310.70) but a few feet past the finish line an engine explosion led to a fireball.

"I made it to the finish line and just as soon as I lifted off the pedal it went kaboom," said Hagan, the reigning Funny Car world champ who will switch Saturday to the 2015 Rocky Boots/Mopar body. "Talk about not seeing anything, with fire and fuel and everything else in your face. It lit up pretty good and I was just trying to hold my breath in there, I took in a little bit of smoke.

"It was a wild ride, a hot one too. This new body is in one piece and that was a big boomer. Honestly, that was one of the bigger ones that I've had. To lift the rear end and tires up that big for that long it was obviously a pretty big boomer.

"We'll be back strong tomorrow to have some more fun."

DSR's NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge with driver Ron Capps is qualified 10th win a time of 4.102 and the Infinite Hero team with Jack Beckman is 17th.

Beckman to fly colors of Infinite Hero in 2015

The Infinite Hero Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing critical funding to programs that combat mental and physical injuries facing returning military heroes and their families, announced Friday the expansion of a unique partnership with Terry Chandler and Don Schumacher Racing for the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season with driver Jack Beckman.

Through funding from Chandler, who also again will fund DSR's Make-A-Wish Funny Car team at DSR for driver Tommy Johnson Jr., Infinite Hero ( will expand from six events last year to the entire 24-race 2015 season with DSR.

Through Chandler's support of the Infinite Hero and Make-A-Wish teams, there is no cost to either foundation to run the cars, enabling all of the funds raised at the track to be used toward their charitable purposes.

Last year, fans had the opportunity to support the Infinite Hero cause and receive a military challenge coin that had gone down the track with Jack. This year, a new edition of the coin will be available for purchase with a donation of $100 or more to Infinite Hero Foundation at the Oakley store on event midways during NHRA races and online at

Provisional No. 1 qualifier: Doug Kalitta (Kalitta Motorsports) 3.733 sec., 327.59 mph

TONY SCHUMACHER, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
Provisional qualifying position: No. 2
FRIDAY: 3.828 sec., 323.35 mph, (Session 1); 3.757, 320.20, (Session 2)

SPENCER MASSEY, Red Fuel Powered By Schumacher/Sandvik Coromant Top Fuel Dragster
Provisional qualifying position: No. 3
FRIDAY: 3.818 sec., 326.87 mph, (Session 1); 3.761, 328.30, (Session 2)

ANTRON BROWN, Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
Provisional qualifying position: No. 10
FRIDAY: 4.351 sec., 188.52 mph, (Session 1); 3.803, 313.73, (Session 2)

Provisional No. 1 qualifier: Tommy Johnson Jr. (Don Schumacher Racing) 4.018 sec., 314.46 mph

TOMMY JOHNSON JR., Make-A-Wish 2015 Dodge Charger R/T
Provisional qualifying position: No. 1
FRIDAY: 4.227 sec., 236.71 mph, (Session 1); 4.018, 314.46, (Session 2)

MATT HAGAN, Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots 2015 Dodge Charger R/T
Provisional qualifying position: No. 8
FRIDAY: 4.191 sec., 296.24 mph, (Session 1); 4.090, 310.70, (Session 2)

Provisional qualifying position: No. 10
FRIDAY: 4.102 sec., 311.34 mph, (Session 1); 4.214, 252.61, (Session 2)

JACK BECKMAN, Infinite Hero 2015 Dodge Charger R/T
Provisional qualifying position: No. 17
FRIDAY: 4.485 sec., 204.35 mph, (Session 1); 7.038, 90.07, (Session 2)

Dusty Brandel

President of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, Inc. Worked with Mike Hollander since Tapsis, Compuserve, etc. and has posted to the website since the beginning. First Female photo-journalist to be given a garage and pit pass for the NASCAR garage, 1972 at Ontario Motor Speedway. One of first seven female writers, photographers given access to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage and pits in 1971. Past President of Greater Los Angeles Press Club, 1992-96, and first female editor of the 8-Ball publication for the Press Club

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Volume 2015, Issue 2, Posted 2:06 AM, 02.08.2015