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Sunday Notebook: AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex

by Mike Haag | Posted on Sunday, October 18th, 2020

ENNIS – News, notes and quotes from Sunday’s AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex.

Finally does it:  After trying for many years, Jack Beckman finally scored a Funny Car win at the Texas Motorplex on Sunday.

Jack Beckman. NHRA photo

“I’ve won Indy, I’ve won Pomona and a lot of the major races, but Dallas, since I came here in 1986 to spectate at the very first national event here, was one I would have loved to win,” Beckman said.  “I had 14 shots at it before I finally closed the deal. To have your name listed as the first (to win a Camping World Wally), that can never be taken away from you and it’s just awesome.”

Beckman closed the gap in the point standings by defeating teammate Matt Hagan with a winning run of 3.908 at 328.46 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. It was his third this year and 33rd in his career.  He trails Hagan by four points in the standings with two races left on the season schedule.

Burn it down:  Alexis DeJoria defeated Gary Densham in the opening round of the Funny Car eliminations but shortly before crossing the finish line her car started drifting out of the groove and was headed towards the outside wall before she lifted. After the finish line the engine let go in a huge fireball. DeJoria was able stop the car and get out.  DeJoria was charged with an oildown, her third of the season and she was hit with a 15-point deduction.  DeJoria’s run was clocked at 4.089 at 273.22 mph.  Densham, who started racing in 1974, made his 489th start.  He crossed the line in 4.699 at 186.61 mph.  DeJoria used a backup car in the quarterfinals but she lost to Ron Capps after he outduel her 3.90 to 11.21.

“There was not much of a warning except (for) some sparks,” DeJoria said.  “I couldn’t see anything (once the body caught fire).  I popped my head up (through the roof hatch) and put my foot on the brake handle to try and get it stopped.  Then I saw a Safety Safari guy (a member of the NHRA’s safety team) and I did a Dirty Dancing move and just threw my arms out and jumped.  Unfortunately, we ruined another car,” she said of the day   “We’re just having some gremlins but we’ll work them out and no matter what happens, it’s always a better day when you’re at the drag races.”.

No go! Disaster struck for NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle rider and current points leader Matt Smith in the opening round.  The No. 1 qualifier was unable to get his bike started and his opponent Michael Phillips was able to make the pass and advanced to the first round.  It was the first time Smith and his wife Angie Smith qualified No.1 and 2. M. Smith entered the race with a 21-point lead over his teammate Scotty Pollacheck, who also was defeated in the opening round of eliminations. After winning the make-up race from St. Louis on Saturday, Smith carries a 50-point lead over Pollacheck heading into Houston next weekend.

What the are saying?

Top Fuel –

Leah Pruett: “The resurrection of the Dodge SRT Hellcat Redeye wasn’t quite at fierce as we hoped it would be on this Sunday. We had a very competitive, stout first round against an always tough competitor in (Scott) Palmer. In the second round we had some fuel mixture mix-ups with the cylinders. That should have been an attainable round win and those win lights are just so important right now. We’re not out of this fight by any means and we’re thankful that Dodge is able put on the race at Las Vegas in two weeks. We know exactly where we’re at going into Houston and we hope it’s our time to shine in the big Lone Star State and getting that Wally at Houston.”

Doug Kalitta: “We lost some ground today but we have two races left to make that up. The last race will be 30 points a round. We will be Houston and I am not sure how similar the conditions will be. This Mac Tools team was strong this weekend. We made some great runs today and we got aggressive in the semifinals. We will put this race behind us.  It was great to see so many fans in the stands. I know they had some restricts on attendance but there were a lot of people here. Toyota is based here in Dallas and it was great to show off for them as well as our other sponsors like Ferguson who just came on board this race. I am excited to get to Houston and get in front of some of our Mobil 1 supporters.”

Shawn Langdon: “We weren’t as successful as we wanted to be this weekend.  We were quick in qualifying and we made some good runs today. I would have liked to have gotten that win in the semifinals for our DHL team and also to help Doug (Kalitta). There are two more races we will be racing to win both of them.  This was the first of two races in Texas. It is good to get to some new tracks. There were a lot of fans here who were excited to see the DHL dragster. I just like getting out here and racing. I am looking forward to getting to Houston next weekend.”

Justin Ashley: “It was one of those weekends. On the one hand we ran really well.  We qualified No. 2 and made a career best run with a 3.68. (Crew chief) Aaron Brooks and the team did an awesome job. We just have something going on with the car that we have to fix and figure out. The bottom line is we will get it resolved and it will just take some time. These guys will do a deep dive this week and we will all improve.  Any time you have some carnage. I think it helps that we will be back at the track next week.  You really don’t want to stew on it too long. It is important to have a short memory. Part of what helps that is going to another race within five days. We will just put this race behind us. We are going to do everything we can to move forward in the right direction.  On any given weekend there are positives and negatives.  You have to focus on the positive. That is really important. For us the big positive was that 3.68 second run. It was a nice high when I heard what we ran. That put a big smile on my face for sure.  I am just proud of the guys because they work so hard to put us in a position to run like that. To see it pay off in real time was a lot of fun and exciting.”

Tony Schumacher:  “That was a disappointing second round exit, but not disappointed at all in this team. They’re all doing an excellent job. We’re struggling with putting cylinders out and it’s going to cost us some races until we get it figured out. We’re limited on the runs and data we have, but Mike Green and the guys are doing a great job. I’m so happy to be driving again. I love the Texas Motorplex. It’s great to be out here doing what we do. The fans were great here and we want to continue to progress in front of another great crowd in Houston next weekend.”

Antron Brown:  “We made two consistent runs, but certainly not the runs we were looking to make. We had a gremlin pop up and bite us. It was a clean weekend. We didn’t hurt even one part on the car. We just have to keep digging and keep building. We’re very close. I’m very proud of the boys. I know it’s been frustrating for all of us. We have to keep putting that work in. We’re looking forward to Houston. It was our first win in Top Fuel way back in ’08 with David Powers and we’re eager to get back on the track for Matco (Tools), Global (Electronic Technology), Toyota, Hangsterfer’s and all of the people who have been loyal and support us.”

Funny Car –

Jack Beckman:  “Maybe the best weekend ever.  I mean doubling up at Indy in 2015 is going to be awfully hard to exceed, but I so wanted to win at Dallas. My dad (Bob Beckman) lives close to here and he’s been supporting me my whole career and he’s 83-years-old. That might have been my last shot at Dallas and it’s going to be extra special to give him that cowboy hat from the (Texas) Motorplex. It’s perfect. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a better weekend at a drag strip than this.”


Matt Hagan: “All-in-all another really good day here at Dallas for this Pennzoil/Mopar team.  (Jack) Beckman just had a little better day. They have a great race car, but we have a great race car too. We’ve been keeping pace and we’re going to keep doing our thing for the next two races and see how this thing plays out. I’m super excited we get to do it again in a few days at Houston next weekend. We have a lot of momentum. The team is working great. The guys are doing a great job. We just have a little more work to do.


Tommy Johnson: “That was surprising and disappointing. We had such a great running car all weekend. I didn’t expect the tires to come loose. We needed to win that round to keep pace, but that didn’t happen. We aren’t out of this thing yet. There’s two races left and points-and-a-half at the last one. We need to do our job and go rounds and try to win the next two. Still, very happy with this team and happy to be able to race with such a great group here at DSR.”


Ron Capps: “It’s tough to gain points when these cars in front of us keep going rounds. We felt so good from qualifying to run 3.90 the first two rounds with back-to-back three point nine zero runs, we felt we had typical Rahn Tobler. Almost like a bracket racing car and we really only tried to improve a little bit against Dickie (Venables) and (Matt) Hagan and if we got beat, we got beat. For some reason the car slowed down a little bit and ran 3.95. It’s a major bummer. Those guys are running so good that you have to improve a little bit to outrun them. It’s nice to go again at Houston next week, but we’re kind of running out of rounds to make a run for the championship. We’ll head to South Texas and try to make some ground up.”

JR Todd: “We just got outrun in the second round.  We’ve got to figure out how to run hard against those DSR cars because they’re the ones stopping everyone right now. We’ll go on to Houston and figure it out.  It was kind of bittersweet to do that and then slow down in the second round. It’s always good to win rounds, but we’re out here to win races. We’ve got two races to try to get two wins for DHL, Toyota and all of our great sponsors,” summed up Todd at the end of the day.  We have Houston and Las Vegas over the next two weeks. I like our chances. Hopefully conditions will be consistent in Houston and we can build on our performance numbers from this race. I have had a lot of success in Las Vegas. We have the opportunity to finish strong and that is what I want to do.”

Alexis DeJoria:  “Our car is running consistently fast. In Q2, we ran a 3.89 with good speed and qualified in the fifth spot. I felt really confident coming into the day. Unfortunately, we have some gremlins that we’re trying to figure out right now. In the first round, I could tell it was running slower than it should have, but it’s race day and even if a cylinder drops you don’t lift. You keep your foot in it until the very end. That’s what I did until I saw sparks and I knew Densham wasn’t next to me, so I lifted right before the finish line and when I did the whole car filled with smoke and fire. It was so bad that I couldn’t see. I couldn’t breathe. I was just trying to stop the car, while taking little short breaths and trying to get out of the car as fast as I could. (Was there any hesitation in running round two?) My first reaction after getting out of the car was ‘did we win the round?’ and then I was like ‘ok, it’s on.’ My adrenaline was on level 11. After St. Louis, we learned our lesson and made sure that our back-up car was ready. Obviously, there was some little things we had to adjust. It’s a different chassis, the pedal is different, the seat’s different, so it was a little bit off to what I’m used to. We got ready and it just smoked the tires at the hit. We were hoping to go another round after everything that happened. These ROKiT Toyota guys hauled butt to get everything done in a timely manner. I really have to give them credit for that. They work so hard out here and they’ve had to work extra hard these last two races. We’ve got two races left. Really, this whole season – what season we’ve had so far – has been about building for next year. We have a good group. I love these guys. We’ll figure it out.”

Pro Stock – 

Greg Anderson: “Today all day, Texas was good to us. My Summit Racing Chevy was fantastic, it was the best car I had all year by a mile. But I can’t seem to get the two things together, the car and the driver, to win a race right now. You have to have both of those things just right.  My guys did a great job, and they saved my bacon all day long.  “They tried again in the final and I dropped the ball. I have to figure out what I’m doing wrong. I’m not a guy who cuts a .060 light. I’m doing something wrong, I just don’t know what yet. That’s what I’m going to be working on before we get to Houston next week, because if I can get that figured out, we’re going to win.”

Matt Hartford: “That semifinal run was the one that really set this day apart for us.  Obviously everybody is going to say that I strung her out, I was tardy getting in and ask what took me so long to stage, and that’s all the truth. But we have every right to do whatever we want. She pre-staged fairly quickly, and I just decided I was going to take my time, relax, take a couple of deep breaths, and not be in a hurry. There was a lot on the line.”


Jason Line: “It was a shorter day than we anticipated for the silver Summit Racing Chevy Camaro, but the good news is that my teammates were helpful in making sure we still have a reasonable shot at the championship.  Tomorrow is a new day, and we’ll see what Houston [the next event on the tour] holds for us. We’ve got two more races before the Finish Line Tour comes to an end for me, and I’d like to get another one of these trophies.”


Bo Butner: “I’m planning to go to Houston and win. We had two KB Racing cars in the final this week, and that’s good because I drive a KB Racing Chevy. You never know what can happen these next two races. It’s so tight right now that you really can’t pick who’s going to win.”



Alan Prusiensky: “I know we can get more out of this TopCoat™ Dodge Dart.  We made some progress in St. Louis testing and I was really expecting more performance. We are going to keep working.  This is a tough class and we are doing a lot of things ourselves on the development side. The good news is we are learning a lot every race. It does make for some tough races. I have to thank TopCoat™ and everyone on my team that helps us from race to race. We are a small operation but we have a good plan for success. I am looking forward to getting to Houston.”

Jeg Coughlin Jr.: “We chipped away a little bit but left some there as well,” Coughlin said. “It was great to get Jason out of the way in Round 2 and, although I would never, ever wish Erica to lose, I was sitting in the waterbox watching in Round 3 when she lost to Matt Hartford, so there was a big chance to go another round or two, but Greg (Anderson, Coughlin’s semifinal opponent) and his crew had other plans.  We’ve not helped our cause the last few races but we got back on track today to some extent and we have two and a half more races to go at two of my favorite tracks on tour so we’ll keep fighting. I say two and a half because the Vegas finale is awarding points and a half each round so there is extra on the table should anyone falter.  It’s been a fun year, without question.  We won a few races earlier this year and had the points lead for quite a while but being off just a touch in two races really cost us. But that’s behind us so we’ll focus on a great finish and see what happens.”

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 33 years. In addition to covering motorsports for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 16 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike taught high school English and Journalism for 30 years before retiring in May, 2020.