AUBURN HILLS, Mich., June 6, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --
- No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps earns second victory of season with NHRA New England Nationals title in Mopar Dodge Charger R/T
- Capps celebrates 47th career Funny Car win following triumph in his 93rd final round
- Capps and Mopar Dodge Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. square off in third consecutive all-Mopar Dodge Funny Car final round
- New England Nationals title moves Capps up to No. 3 in series standings
- Mopar-powered Dodge Dart driver Allen Johnson reaches first NHRA Pro Stock final of season, 57th of career
- Strong starts but early exits for Jeg Coughlin Jr. in "Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar" JEGS.com Dodge Dart and Mopar Performance Dodge Dart driver Erica Enders
The ninth race of 24 in the 2016 season of NHRA Drag Racing saw a trio of Mopar-powered Dodge entries in final-round competition. In Funny Car, Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver Ron Capps squared off with teammate and fellow Mopar Dodge Charger R/T pilot Tommy Johnson Jr., with Capps hoisting the trophy at the end of the racetrack. In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson became the first factory hot rod campaigner of the season to command a Mopar Dodge Dart to the final round of eliminations in a rain-delayed Monday finish to the Fourth Annual NHRA New England Nationals.
Qualifying went off without a hitch for Capps, who was situated neatly on the pole for the second time this season and 19th time overall in his steadily charging Dodge following four 3-second passes – including the second-quickest run in the history of the category (3.865).
Capps was on a roll, but Mother Nature threw the NHRA teams a curveball as rain descended upon New England Dragway on Sunday and put a day-long hold on the action. Teams rallied and regrouped on Monday under sunny skies and with quite different air and track conditions.
Maintaining his stranglehold on the power of his Mopar beast, Capps drove to four consecutive 3.9-second passes en route to the 47th Funny Car win of a career which spans two decades. It was the second win of the year for Capps, who kicked off the season with a Winternationals victory, and a repeat performance of his 2014 triumph at New England Dragway. With the win, he pulled to within 22 marks of the Funny Car points lead.
In round one, Capps went head-to-head with Funny Car newcomer Dave Richards, and he handily disposed of his opponent with a strong 3.921-second pass at 322.19 mph in his Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T to overpower a 4.135/306.12. On the other side of the ladder, Johnson Jr. sent part-time competitor Jeff Diehl away empty handed with a 3.960/322.81 to 4.092/306.40, while Mopar-power gave the upper hand to DSR teammates Matt Hagan (4.081/311.13 over John Hale's 4.046/309.06) and Jack Beckman (3.935/325.14 over Cruz Pedregon's 4.007/312.06).
Beckman's Dodge Charger made the quickest pass in the second round with a cool 3.937/325.30, but the impressive run simply wasn't enough after Johnson Jr. took the lead in his Make-A-Wish branded Mopar at the starting line. Johnson Jr. got the win light by a mere .002-second as he tripped the final timer on the drag strip with a 3.956/320.51. Capps matched his eventual final-round opponent's elapsed time precisely as he clocked a 3.956/323.12 to send Courtney Force home on a 3.999/323.04. A third consecutive trophy was not meant to be for back-to-back victor Hagan, who ran into trouble on the strip and fell to Del Worsham in round two, 3.969/324.75 to 4.930/158.69.
Capps and Johnson Jr. again matched one another in terms of elapsed time in their respective semifinal rounds, but his opponent earned lane choice for the final lap of the day with a faster speed – Capps advanced with a 3.926/318.69 over John Force's 3.966/319.14 and Johnson Jr. got ahead of Worsham, 3.926/323.89 to 3.965/324.44. Epping marked the second event in which the two would compete against one another for the title; they last met in the final round at the 1999 NHRA event at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading.
Although Johnson Jr., in his 34th final, left the starting line first in a meeting of powerful Mopar Dodge Funny Cars there at New England Dragway, Capps edged ahead at half-track and held on to take the win, 3.923/325.61 to 3.947/322.11.
"We were nearly perfect this weekend, and that's the key," said Capps, who is the second-most winning driver in NHRA Funny Car history and became the first driver in the category to make eight passes in the 3-second zone in a single race weekend. "We gathered a lot of [bonus] qualifying points, and if we had been able to gather them all, it would have been the perfect weekend.
"But to win here at New England Dragway twice is cool. All of the fans who showed up today saw some great racing. There were so many side-by-side nail biters, including our last run there with Tommy. It was a fun day, and we got to knock out some big names in our sport."
For Johnson Jr., it was the second consecutive New England Nationals final, where he was runner-up last season.
"The thing I like most is that this was the turning point for our team last year," said Johnson Jr., who moved up to No. 9 in the Funny Car points with the performance. "We went to the final round, and that set the tone for a pretty good season from there. I hope that's what happens to us now. This race starts four in a row, and that can be a tough grind – but to be able to start with a final round gives you some momentum going into the next three weeks."
In Pro Stock, Mopar-powered Allen Johnson took another big chunk out of the performance gap between his Marathon Petroleum/J&J Racing Dodge Dart and the teams who have led the field all season. Johnson, the No. 6 seed and 2013 New England Nationals winner, rocketed into eliminations with a 6.639/208.20 victory over Chris McGaha's 6.653/208.71, and the hits kept coming as he put together a strong package against Vincent Nobile in round two that included a near-psychic .014-second reaction time and a 6.662/208.65 to his challenger's 6.683/209.49.
The semifinals saw Johnson overcome tire shake to knock out Shane Gray, 6.726/207.72 to 6.737/208.88 and advance to the 57th final round of his career. The 2012 Pro Stock champion and Greg Anderson had previously met in the final round on seven occasions, and this time Johnson made a very quick move to take an early advantage, slapping a .018-second reaction time on his opponent, who was .041 at the tree. At the top end, though, the win light flashed in Anderson's lane, 6.598/210.44 to 6.673/208.71.
"We had a lot of luck today, and I feel like that's because I had an angel riding on my shoulder as a good friend of ours is fighting for his life," said Johnson, speaking of fellow Pro Stock competitor Justin Humphreys' father, Walter. "I had hoped to win this one for him. Even though we didn't win today, we showed that we're learning a lot every week – and that's paying off by going rounds. I'm tickled that we made it to the finals today."
Monday was an early day for defending and two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders and the Mopar Performance Dodge Dart team. The father/son crew chief duo of Rick and Rickie Jones made monumental changes to their racecar in pursuit of success; however, a first-round meeting with Alex Laughlin did not end in their favor. Enders left the starting line first but it was Laughlin who would move on, 6.622/209.14 to 6.684/207.15.
The Elite Motorsports group, including Enders and Jeg Coughlin Jr., continue to work on finding the right combination with the newly mandated electronic fuel injection (EFI) and 10,500 rpm rev limiter.
"It's tough when you work so incredibly hard. It's the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about when you go to sleep," said Enders, now No. 9 in the Pro Stock standings. "It's hard on all of us, but I have zero doubt that we'll get there. I don't know when, but we will keep trying. That's what we do."
Five-time Pro Stock champion Coughlin Jr. also exited in the first round in Epping, but the performance of his "Magneti Marelli offered by Mopar" JEGS.com Dodge Dart showed the team that they are on the right path, particularly during qualifying when the bright yellow and red Mopar machine dipped into the 6.5-second zone for the first time this season.
"We do leave here with some positives," said Coughlin Jr., who was defeated by Shane Gray in round one, 6.623/209.36 to 6.659/206.76. "We know that we've got some work left to do. Today we underestimated the track, but we clearly started out better than we have in the past six races. We're capable of being a top-six car, and I think we'll get there again by Englishtown next weekend."
The Mopar teams will next compete at the NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., June 9-12. It will be the 10th of 24 races on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
2016 NHRA Championship Points Standings
(Following the NHRA Epping Event)
PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1. Jason Line – 1,026 (5)
2. Greg Anderson – 937 (4)
3. Bo Butner – 680
4. Allen Johnson – (Dodge Dart) – 559
5. Drew Skillman – 497
6. Chris McGaha – 459
7. Vincent Nobile – 405
8. Alex Laughlin – 381
9. Erica Enders – (Dodge Dart) – 373
10. Jeg Coughlin Jr. – (Dodge Dart) – 372
12. V. Gaines – (Dodge Dart) – 280
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Courtney Force 654 (1)
2. Jack Beckman – (Dodge Charger R/T) – 639
3. Ron Capps – (Dodge Charger R/T) – 632 (2)
4. Tim Wilkerson – 608 (2)
5. Del Worsham – 558
6. Matt Hagan – (Dodge Charger R/T) (2) – 556
7. Robert Hight – 545 (1)
8. John Force – 527
9. Tommy Johnson Jr. – (Dodge Charger R/T) – 503
10. Alexis DeJoria – 483 (1)
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 the service, parts and customer-care brand of FCA US LLC and distributes more than 500,000 parts and accessories in over 150 markets around the world. With more than 50 parts distribution centers and 25 customer contact centers 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.
For more information, please visit the FCA US LLC media site at http://media.fcanorthamerica.com.
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