Solid Qualifying Performances for Mopar at Phoenix
Two Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars atop qualifying sheet with Gray claiming No.1 qualifier honors and Hagan second
Gaines is top HEMI®-powered Dodge as No. 2 qualifier and among four Mopars in top half of 16-car Pro Stock field
Mopar is 1-2-3 in Pro Stock point standings and 2-3 in Funny Car heading into eliminations on Sunday
Total of seven Dodge Avengers in Pro Stock field and six Dodge Charger R/Ts in Funny Car at Phoenix
Phoenix, Ariz. (Saturday, Feb 23) – Mopar drivers and teams rolled out solid qualifying performances for the Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway, the second event on the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. Don Schumacher Racing’s Johnny Gray drove his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to the top of the scoring sheets in a dominant manner with the two best runs of qualifying, posting a pass of 4.034 seconds at 313.80 mph to earn the top qualifier honors. It is the second consecutive year Gray has earned the pole position at Phoenix and the fourth time of his career.
DSR teammate Matt Hagan put his Mopar into the No. 2 spot with a best run in Friday qualifying of 4.062 sec / 311.20 mph. Fellow DSR driver Ron Capps, currently second in the Funny Car standings on the basis of his runner-up finish in the season opener last weekend, posted the fifth quickest pass, while another Mopar teammate, Jack Beckman, has qualified tenth. Jeff Arend (13th) and Todd Lesenko (14th) bring the total to six Dodge Charger R/T entries in the sixteen qualified positions for the elimination rounds.
In Pro Stock qualifying, all four full-time Mopar entries earned spots in top half of 16-car field for final eliminations with a total of seven Dodge Avengers moving on to compete on Sunday.
V. Gaines led the HEMI®-powered contingency in both Friday qualifying sessions by posting the second quickest elapsed time run of 6.529 sec / 212.63 mph which was good enough to keep him in the No. 2 qualifier position. The No.1 qualifier moniker went to Mike Edwards who set a track record low e.t and top speed of 6.498 sec /213.13 mph.
Mopar’s Allen Johnson posted the best run of the third qualifying session with a 6.542 second, 212.03 mph pass to earn a three point bonus and secure a fifth place spot. Jeg Coughlin Jr., runner-up in the season opener, qualified right behind his teammate in sixth spot.
“We’re steadily making ground with both Mopar cars and the things we tried on mine in the third round, we put on Jeggy’s (Coughlin) car in the fourth round so he picked up a little there,” says Johnson. “We have very raceable cars for tomorrow. We’re not quite as fast as we want to be but we’re close and still leaving a little on the table. Having lane choice is going to be really critical for tomorrow’s racing as the right lane is much better than the left, so we want to maintain lane choice at all costs.”
Last week’s winner at Pomona and Pro Stock points leader Vincent Nobile claimed the eighth quickest qualifying run of the weekend, which means all four Mopar drivers will be given the all-important lane choice for first round of final eliminations. Nobile, Coughlin and Gaines currently hold the top three positions in the points standing while Johnson is in sixth place.
Three additional Dodge Avengers have made the field with Chris McGaha, Matt Hartford and Deric Kramer securing the 12th, 13th and 14th spots respectively.