Long Live the King: Johnson Seizes Fifth Victory in Seven Years at Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals
Allen Johnson drives his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger to a seventh consecutive final-round appearance at Bandimere Speedway
Johnson earns his second consecutive win and fifth of his career at Thunder Mountain, and 20th overall
Hometown favorite and Lakewood, Colo. native V. Gaines takes the runner-up spot for the second straight year at his home track
Team Mopar Pro Stock teammates Johnson and Jeg Coughlin Jr. clinch spots in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs
Mopar-powered NHRA Funny Car drivers exit early at Thunder Mountain
Morrison, Colo. (Sunday, July 21, 2013) – Allen Johnson further cemented his reputation as the “King of Thunder Mountain,” defeating Lakewood, Colo. native V. Gaines in an all-Mopar final round at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals on the 25th anniversary of the Mopar brand’s title sponsorship of the event. In a repeat of the 2012 Mopar Mile-High final round, Johnson, the defending Pro Stock Series champion, claimed his second consecutive win at Bandimere Speedway, fifth in seven years, his fourth win of the season and 20th of his career. Johnson is also now tied for second all-time in Pro Stock wins at Denver with Warren Johnson.
No. 1 qualifier at Bandimere Speedway for the fourth consecutive year, Johnson’s day started out easy — with a bye run — but it didn’t stay that way for long. After a 6.981-second elapsed time (ET) at 197.10 mph in his single run, Johnson faced current points leader Mike Edwards without lane choice in a quarterfinals matchup of the top two drivers in the point standings. Johnson handled the pressure skillfully, leaving the starting line first with a .010 reaction time to Edwards’ .031 and never trailing, clocking in with a victorious 6.982/196.90 in his Mopar Express Lane/J&J Racing Dodge to Edwards’ 6.989/196.67.
In the semifinals, the Greeneville, Tenn. native faced off with young gun Rickie Jones. Johnson, an 18-year veteran, was first off the line with a .020 reaction time and quickest on the track with a 6.993/196.96 at the timing lights to advance to his seventh-consecutive final round appearance at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, as well as his seventh final of the year and 43rd of his career. In the money round at Mopar’s main event, Johnson used a 6.989/196.87 run to defeat fellow Mopar-powered Dodge Avenger driver Gaines, who posted a 7.015/196.67 effort.
“You know, the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger crew is the reason for this,” said Johnson, who also clinched a berth this weekend in the NHRA Countdown to the Championships playoffs, scheduled for the last six events of the season. “All the guys at the engine shop, all the guys at the chassis shop, all the things that they put into this event. They’re determined to win every year, and I have to give all the glory to them.
“We’re really thrilled to come out here with a win for Mopar on their 25th anniversary. For them and the Bandimere family, having that marriage for 25 years, we really wanted to win it for that marriage. We pulled it off, and we’re very happy.”
“Congratulations to Allen (Johnson) and the Mopar Express Lane Team for an incredible fifth career win at Bandimere Speedway,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “What a great way to celebrate Mopar’s 25th anniversary as title sponsor of this wonderful event. Four wins and seven final elimination appearances this season to date show how much work and determination Allen and his team have put in to battle in a tough Pro Stock class in defense of the Championship.”
Johnson will now try to sweep the last two events of the NHRA’s famed Western Swing, an accomplishment he came one win short of achieving last season.
“It would be an elite honor, to be in that group of (drivers),” said Johnson. “We go to every race trying to win every round and the race, and that’s what we’ll do heading to Sonoma (the next event).”
Last year’s Pro Stock runner-up Gaines was the crowd favorite. Starting out of the No. 2 spot, Gaines had a solo run to open the day after Steve Kalkowski had problems in the pits and was unable to make the call. In the second round, Gaines knocked out Jason Line with a 7.001/196.26 mark, and in the semis stunned Shane Gray with a .002 reaction time coupled with a 7.011/196.53 to score the holeshot win.
Jeg Coughlin Jr., who competes with Mopar HEMI-powered engines supplied by Allen Johnson’s J&J Racing team, qualified No. 9 and went against Edwards in the opening round. His 7.012/196.47 in his Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Avenger couldn’t defeat Edwards, but the four-time Pro Stock champ did secure his berth in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Vincent Nobile, part of the J&J Racing squad, drove his Mountain View Dodge Avenger past former Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson and met Shane Gray in the quarterfinals. Always fast off the line, Nobile left first with a .014 reaction time to Gray’s .043, but was unable to hold the lead with a pass of 7.020/196.44 to Gray’s 6.981/196.96. Mopar-powered Colorado native and No. 5 qualifier Derik Kramer exited in the first round, as did Matt Hartford, who was able to walk away after crossing the center line and then hitting the left wall hard in a wild run in his Dodge.
Mopar-powered NHRA Funny Car teams experienced a more difficult outing during Sunday eliminations. Defending event winner Jack Beckman qualified No. 2 in his Mopar HEMI-powered Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car and bested Terry Haddock in the opening stanza with a 4.245/295.46 run. “Fast Jack’s” bid for back-to-back Mopar Mile-High wins ended in the quarterfinals, where his 4.276/295.40 effort wasn’t enough to defeat Robert Hight, who also defeated Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Dodge driver Johnny Gray in the opening round.
Two of Beckman’s DSR compatriots, Matt Hagan and Ron Capps, were forced to wage a round-one Mopar vs. Mopar duel. Capps was able to capture the win with a 3.922/299.60 pass to the slower 4.258/296.31 recorded by Hagan in his Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Charger R/T. Capps was unable to reach the semis, losing to Cruz Pedregon in quarterfinals. Jeff Arend fell to Tim Wilkerson in the opening round.