Shortened Qualifying Provides Mixed Results for Mopar at Four-Wide Nationals
· Field is set for eliminations at fourth edition of the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Fueled by Full Throttle
· Mopar Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. qualifies No.2 in Pro Stock competition at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.
· Jack Beckman qualifies his Dodge Charger R/T in third spot as the top Mopar Funny Car
Concord, N.C. (Saturday, April 20) – Mopar drivers in both Pro Stock and Funny Car classes had just two runs to make their mark in qualifying for this weekend’s fourth annual Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, after rain washed out Friday’s sessions at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s zMAX Dragway. Those two passes left little room for error and had mixed results for Mopar entries in both classes as they prepared for Sunday’s contest.
The unique Four-Wide Nationals format for Sunday’s eliminations will see the field of 16 qualifiers in each class split into four waves of drag racing (instead of the usual eight) for the opening round. With competitors facing-off simultaneously in four lanes, the top two finishers of each round will advance. As a result, only three eliminations rounds will be necessary, with the final run determining the winner, runner-up and two semi-finalists.
In Pro Stock qualifying, Mopar’s Jeg Coughlin Jr. run of 6.496 seconds (212.93 mph) came closest to stealing top spot from Mike Edwards (6.471sec / 213.64 mph), who posted a National elapsed time record and his fifth consecutive No.1 qualifier position of the season.
“We’ve had some great runs this year and we’ve been qualifying extremely well as evidenced by today’s No. 2 effort, but it’s game day where we want to perform to help mark this fantastic turn-around season for us in grand style,” said Coughlin who has two runner-up performance and a semi-final finish thus far in the first four events of the year. “There are some extra challenges when going four-wide but this race is Bruton (Smith’s) baby and it’s a lot of fun for us and the fans, as you can see by the packed grandstands. We have a fast racecar and I like our chances, but really the top eight cars here are separated by only a few hundredths of a second, give or take, so I know it’s going be a dog fight.”
Winner of the last two National title events, Allen Johnson qualified the Mopar Express Lane Dodge in fourth spot with his best pass of 6.500 sec /213.30 mph despite the limited track time.
“We didn’t have great qualifying runs but we’re still in the top half of the field and we’ll take that,” said Johnson. “Having a new car here and losing two sessions kind of hurt us. That might be true at any track but on this track especially since the start line’s uphill qualities make it a bit more of a challenge. But we have a confident and experienced Mopar Express Lane Crew and we’ll bounce back when it counts.”
Fellow HEMI® powered teammate Vincent Nobile didn’t improve on his first run of 6.534 sec (211.83) and ended up eighth, while the Dodge of V. Gaines claimed ninth place with a 6.545 sec (212.13 mph) effort. Both will be part of the first foursome running against Edwards and Frank Gugliotta. Meanwhile, Johnson and Coughlin will be the sole Mopars to battle in their respective first round quads with the hopes of advancing through two more in order to battle for the coveted Four-Wide National title.
The top qualified Mopar Funny Car was that of Don Schumacher Racing’s Jack Beckman who recorded an elapsed time of 4.071 seconds (311.09 mph) in his Dodge Charger R/T which was good enough to earn the third spot on the qualifying charts. Teammate Matt Hagan qualified his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” entry sixth overall on the strength of a 4.137-second (303.09 mph) run in the final session. Fellow DSR driver Ron Capps had a best run of 4.137 seconds (303.09 mph) after smoking the tires of his Mopar in the final qualifying pass to put him in the 11th spot.
Funny Car qualifying came to a conclusion with a few surprises as rookie driver Chad Head drove to his first career No. 1 qualifying position, while Mopar’s Johnny Gray, second in the Championship point standings, will not be part of Sunday’s elimination rounds. After smoking the tires on his first run (7.56 second) putting him provisionally 12th, he had more trouble on his second pass, resulting in an e.t. of 5.363 seconds, which was not enough to make the field.
It will be quite the battle in the opening round of Funny Car eliminations as the DSR Mopar teammates Hagan, Capps and Beckman will battle each other and Dale Creasy for the two spots that will advance out of each foursome.