Heart-pounding Winternationals Win by Capps and Dodge Charger R/T to Open 2016 NHRA Season on Valentine's Day

Feb 14, 2016, 22:41 ET from FCA US LLC

POMONA, Calif., Feb. 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --

  • Ron Capps drives Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Dodge Charger R/T to title win at 56th annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Winternationals
  • Capps builds on No. 2 qualifier position to take the Dodge Charger R/T to first victory of the 2016 NHRA season and an early points lead
  • Jeg Coughlin Jr. takes new era Pro Stock to quarterfinals after an all-Mopar first round win over teammate Erica Enders at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona

As excited as the HEMI®-power loving Mopar drivers and teams were to get the 2016 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello Drag Racing series season officially underway this weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, it was Ron Capps and his Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Dodge Charger R/T that came away with all the love and the Funny Car Winternationals Car title win this Valentine's Day with a holeshot win in a heart-pounding final elimination.

The California-native and his DSR crew built on a quartet of consistent 3-second qualifying passes that earned them the No. 2 spot on the eliminations ladder, and then further improved the performance of their Dodge Charger R/T through every round to dispose of competitors Jeff Diehl, Chad Head and Robert Hight in order to advance to a final round showdown against reigning Funny Car world champion Del Worsham.

Capps used a .052-second reaction time to a 0.071 to defeat a quicker and hard charging Worsham to the finish line for the season-opening title win by a margin of victory of just eight thousandths of a second and an early season lead in the Funny Car points standings.

"I have the best team in the business and they gave me a great racecar," said Capps who posted an elapsed time pass of 3.981 seconds at 324.28 miles per hour (mph) in the final to beat his opponent's 3.962 second /324.36 mph run for the holeshot victory. "The people we had to race was crazy. Robert Hight in the semis was like a final round. There's no holeshot win without the car that we had. That was big. We had a heck of a day."

No.1 Qualifier Jack Beckman, driver of the DSR Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T, earned his spot on the eliminations ladder with a stellar 3.888 second/ 326.16 mph qualifying run just four-thousandths of second off his NHRA national record pass, and then on race day advanced to the quarterfinals to face John Force before a dropped cylinder put an end to his efforts.

Matt Hagan wasn't exactly in love with the start to the season he and his crew have had so far as the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T qualified tenth with a 3-second run but then fell in the first round to Chad Head after hazing the tires.

"We're going to get back to work, figure out what's going on, make some changes and get our Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger back on the right track," said the two-time Funny Car champion. "It's not how you start but how you finish. That's drag racing. Sometimes it throws you a valentine and sometimes it rips your heart out."

Tommy Johnson Jr. suffered a similar fate after qualifying 14th and losing the opening round of the season against Hight.

The new era of electronic fuel injection (EFI) Pro Stock competition made its official race day debut with a tough first round Mopar versus Mopar pairing of Elite Motorsports teammates; eighth place qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr. in his "Magneti Marelli offered by Mopar" Dodge Dart GT and Erica Enders who was ninth on the ladder in the Mopar Performance Dodge Dart GT.

Both factory hot rod drivers are notorious for lightning quick reaction times and they while they posted evenly matched reaction times with Coughlin edging Enders on the start with a .015-second reaction time to a .020, it was Coughlin's Mopar that won the opening round with a 6.671 second pass at 207.88 mph while his teammate squared the tires on the start and made a hard move to the right to end her run.

"We've got to keep a positive attitude and keep the mindset that this is only a beginning for us," Enders said. "We just finished putting in our motors together on Wednesday [testing] in Phoenix. We can only go up from here and I know that with all my heart. It is a very tough pill to swallow. I hate losing, I hate losing first round. If there's any consolation to it, at least it was to my teammate."

"We've got to do some work with these racecars," added the two-time and defending Pro Stock world champion. "That run marks run No. 15 under our belts, and that's nothing, considering I had over 300 runs on my other car. We'll learn it, we'll get it, and we'll be back to the top – you bet your butt."

Coughlin moved on to face No. 1 Qualifier Greg Anderson and hoped a good light would give him a chance to advance,  but a red light -.002 reaction time put an quick end to the HEMI-powered drive.

"I think we did remarkably well all things considered," Coughlin said. "We just came up a little bit short there against Greg (Anderson). I was red by .002-second and that ended our day right there at the starting line. It would have been tough to get past Greg anyway as he's been quick pretty much all weekend. We're not exactly where we want to be with the entire program, but we are very pleased with how far we've come as a group since announcing this new deal with Dodge and Mopar in October."

Anderson went on to win the first electronic fuel injected Pro Stock Winternationals title in a final round match-up against his teammate Jason Line.

Tenth in qualifying, Allen Johnson and his Marathon Petroleum Dodge Dart were quickest off the start for a victory over Alex Laughlin who shook his ride early on, but the first round win did not come without an issue as the 2012 champ had his car turn off and coast across the finish line with a 8.381/115.66. The Johnson & Johnson Racing team made it back for the second round against Jason Line, but gremlins in the new car caused it to lose ignition before the burnout and wouldn't restart again thus ending their day prematurely.

The HEMI-powered Dodge Darts of Deric Kramer (14) and V. Gaines (15) both fell in the first round of eliminations.

Next on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season schedule is the NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix, Arizona, on February 26-28. The Phoenix event will be broadcast by new television partner FOX Sports via FS1 with a qualifying show on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. (ET) and then an eliminations broadcast including live finals is scheduled for Sunday, February 28 at 5 p.m. ET on FS1.

About Mopar Motorsports
The Mopar brand's commitment to professional motorsports competition was established in the 1950s when a partnership ignited with drag racing pioneer Don Garlits, resulting in the breaking of numerous speed and performance barriers in HEMI®-powered vehicles over the next several decades. In 2016, Mopar will look to once again vie for a NHRA World Championship title in both Pro Stock and Funny Car categories. While Mopar remains involved in a various professional motorsports series, it continues to honor its roots by being a proud supporter of Sportsman racing within the NHRA with its sponsorship of the HEMI Challenge and Mopar's Tom Hoover Sportsman Challenge.

About Mopar Brand
Mopar (a simple contraction of the words MOtor and PARts) was trademarked in 1937 with the launch of an antifreeze product, but it truly made its mark in the 1960s during the muscle-car era. From Mopar Performance Parts to enhance speed and handling for both road and racing use, the brand soon expanded to include technical service and customer support. 

Today, Mopar is FCA's service, parts and customer-care brand and distributes more than 500,000 parts and accessories in over 150 markets around the world. With more than 50 parts distribution centers and 27 customer-contact hubs globally, Mopar integrates service, parts and customer-care operations in order to enhance dealer and customer support worldwide. Mopar is the source for genuine parts and accessories for FCA brands. 

Mopar parts are engineered together with the same teams that create factory-authorized specifications for FCA vehicles. This offers a direct connection that no other aftermarket parts company can provide. A complete list of Mopar accessories and performance parts is available at www.mopar.com.

Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20160214/333062 

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