INDIANAPOLIS — If you thought the NASCAR or INDYCAR silly season moves were far out there, the Camping World NHRA Drag Racing Series has posted up next to them saying, “hold my drink.” The top two finishers in the final standings of last season’s the Funny Car category have each moved onto different teams. So did two of the top seven drivers in the Top Fuel division as well.
What’s wild about this is, entering 2021, Don Schumacher Racing had Ron Capps and Matt Hagan in Funny Car’s to go along with Top Fuel drivers Antron Brown and Leah Pruett driving for them. Capps and Hagan went 1-2 in the final standings with Hagan winning the title in 2020 too. Now, all four have left.
Hagan and Pruett will join the newly founded Tony Stewart Racing with Hagan anchoring the Funny Car side and Pruett holding down the fort in Top Fuel.
Brown and Capps leave stability for their own respective teams with Capps starting Ron Capps Motorsports and taking a lot of his team members and sponsor (NAPA) with him. Brown though, well he will have AB Motorsports but still operate out of the DSR shop on the west side of Indy. He formed an alliance with Davis Racing and Justin Ashley.
In wake of these moves, one of the best to ever do it in Tony Schumacher will make a full-time return in replacing Pruett in her Top Fuel car.
That’s a win-win. You’re essentially keeping the same drivers from this year to next but adding the likes of a Schumacher back. He’s as good as there is in NHRA.
It’s also not like these are just run of the mill drivers changing teams either. These are all ones that are vying for titles each and every single year. Due to that, these moves have put NHRA in the forefront during a wild offseason thus far. You can literally feel the excitement that is building as we head to Pomona in a few short months to kick start what should be one of the best seasons the NHRA has ever seen. It’s the jolt in the arm that this very underrated form of motorsports has needed.
Speaking of underrated, the most under the radar fact of all of this is that we’re getting new teams forming too. NHRA has honestly been stagnant for a while with the top pro nitro classes being consisted of the same few teams every season. Now, as those owners, like on the NASCAR side, grow older, fresh owners are coming in to join them.
What I mean by that is, on the NASCAR side, we were questioning who’s next? Who’s going to come in and take over the ownership roles? Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs, Roger Penske, Jack Roush and the likes of others weren’t getting any younger. Eventually they’ll be out. What was the succession plan for them and who is left to come into the sport and take over once those guys hand the teams off?
Those questions have recently been answered by a flux of drivers wanting to become owners. Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Justin Marks, Matt Tifft, BJ McLeod and a few others led that charge. They attracted the likes of Michael Jordan and Pitbull to partner.
On the NHRA side of things, you get the likes of Tony Stewart, Capps and Brown following in the same footsteps of Kalitta, Schumacher and Force. They’re ready to venture out and give his driver/owner role a shot.
I mean, Don Schumacher, John Force and the Kalitta’s aren’t getting any younger either. But these new names of Stewart, Capps and Brown to team up with the Torrence’s is going to make the future even brighter for NHRA because like in NASCAR, those existing teams will form successions plans and stick around for a while too.
That only helps the bottom line and the fields for each class. It grows bigger and deeper.
That’s why this all is a mega storyline heading into the 2022 season for which NHRA is on the verge of a breakout. Moves like what we’ve seen so far only helps.