Hagan No. 1 Qualifier; Beckman Wins Explosive Traxxas Shootout in Final Qualifying at NHRA U.S. Nationals
· Final day of qualifying for Pro Stock and Funny Car classes at prestigious 59th annual NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis
· Beckman wins Traxxas Shootout and $100,000 prize in an explosive finish
· Hagan remains No.1 qualifier and tops the final session in the DSR ‘Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar’ Dodge Charger
· V. Gaines leads the HEMI-powered contingent in Pro Stock qualifying and is seeded second for final eliminations
· Mopar’s Coughlin third, Johnson eighth and Nobile eleventh in final qualifying results for the U.S. Nationals
Brownsburg, Ind. (Sunday, September 1, 2013) – There was plenty of action in the final day of qualifying for the 59th annual NHRA U.S. Nationals, with Don Schumacher Racing’s Matt Hagan backing up his No. 1 qualifier designation aboard his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar,” preliminarily earned on Friday, with the quickest run in the final Sunday qualifying session. But it was Hagan’s teammate “Fast” Jack Beckman that stole the attention with the explosive manner in which he won the Traxxas Shootout and $100,000 payout.
The first round of Sunday’s Funny Car qualifying at Lucas Oil Raceway doubled as the opening battles of the $100,000-to-win Traxxas Funny Car Shootout. Beckman was triumphant in his Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T in a duel with his Don Schumacher Racing Mopar Dodge teammate Ron Capps, tripping the timing lights first with a 4.062/310.20 pass to Capps’ 4.118/304.46. Although “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” driver Hagan fell in the first round of the Traxxas Shootout to Tim Wilkerson after recording a 4.109/311.20, Hagan still maintained the No. 1 qualifier position based on his track-record 4.007/319.22 pass on Saturday night. Another DSR Mopar Dodge driver, Johnny Gray, also held his spot (No. 2) from the previous night despite losing to Courtney Force in the Shootout.
In the final qualifying session, Beckman bested Courtney Force in the Traxxas Shootout semifinals with a 4.082 to Force’s 4.099, setting up a fight with Cruz Pedregon in the Shootout final (a non-qualifying round). Hagan’s track-record mark held to give him his fourth pole of the season, and the 2011 Funny Car champion added an exclamation point, recording the quickest run of the last session with a 4.048/313.58 mark. Hagan will square off against another Dodge driver, No. 16 Jeff Arend, in the opening round tomorrow.
Johnny Gray smoked the tires in his last qualifying shot but will start No. 2 based on his 4.012 pass from Friday, with a match against Tony Pedregon to begin his Sunday. Capps also overpowered the track but maintained his previous No. 5 position (4.049), putting three Mopar HEMI-powered Funny Car racers in the top five of tomorrow’s field. Capps will draw Alexis DeJoria in the first stanza, while Beckman, though $100,000 richer, will start in the back of the DSR pack at No. 8 (4.062) and get a date with Chad Head in round one. Part-time HEMI-powered Charger R/T driver Paul Lee claimed the eleventh spot and will meet John Force in the first round.
For the Traxxas Shootout final, Beckman (4.086 sec) was first out of the gate with a quicker reaction time (0.052 to 0.075 seconds) than Pedregon (4.066 sec) to beat his competitor on a hole shot at the finish line, where his Funny Car celebrated the win by blowing the body right off in a spectacular explosion that thankfully left the Mopar driver unscathed and retaining his sense of humor.
“I don’t remember what happened. What day is this and where are we right now?” Beckman quipped. “Our car was hauling, and then all of a sudden the body’s gone, but I knew we were at the finish line. Todd Smith (Beckman’s crew chief) gets on the radio, and this is what a great guy he is: He didn’t care about anything but me. He said, ‘Are you okay, are you okay?’ I said, ‘I’m fine. Did we win?’ Once he gave me the ‘yes’ I felt even better.”
“It was an expensive explosion,” Beckman added. “We used up every bit of that hundred grand, and then some. We will fix the car, we will come back tomorrow and we are going to do our darndest to double up at Indy.”
Sunday’s first Pro Stock qualifying session saw cooler temperatures than the previous two rounds, and as a result elapsed times and speeds improved. Points leader Mike Edwards (6.621 seconds) topped the session, followed by the HEMI-powered Dodge Avenger of V. Gaines, (6.637 sec) and Mopar’s Jeg Coughlin (6.637) rounding out the top three and scoring bonus points. Allen Johnson, who’s Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger previously held the provisional pole, unfortunately did not improve his time and found himself seventh with an elapsed time run of 6.646 seconds (207.50 mph).
Conditions didn’t improve for the final Pro Stock qualifying session and as a result, neither did qualifying positions for the Mopar entries. Edwards led the session with Jason Line and Greg Anderson all scoring bonus points; Johnson was quickest of the Mopars in fourth spot ahead of Gaines and Coughlin, fifth and sixth respectively, and then Vincent Nobile in tenth place.
The final results gave Edwards his 13th No.1 qualifier position of the year, with Gaines as the highest qualified Dodge in second place, and Coughlin and his JEGS.com Mopar in third place. Johnson ends up eighth overall and Vincent Nobile will be seeded eleventh.
Gaines’ second place showing matches his best qualifying effort at Pomona, Phoenix and Denver this season, and makes it six straight events in which he has qualified within the top five spots. Following two runner-up performances at Denver and Brainerd this year, Gaines is hoping to add a third and do what he wasn’t able to in 1997, when he had his very first career final-round appearance at Indianapolis — earn a prestigious U.S. Nationals title.
“Oh man, that would be fantastic,” Gaines said. “To go to the finals at Indy — it’s every driver’s dream. But we’ll just take it one round at a time and do the best we can. Right now we have a great car, great crew and great support staff.”
Gaines is feeling pretty good about the work and improvements they’ve made.
“I think a big thing was that the weather was a lot better,” said Gaines. “The run we had on Friday night was probably just as good of a run, but we got a little loose in the beginning. We should have been No. 1 on that one. Going to No. 2 in that right lane was a big, big deal, because that right lane isn’t quite as a forgiving as the left lane. I was hoping to improve a bit [on the last pass of the day]. Going into the left lane, which is a little better, I thought we could pick up a little bit.”
For Johnson, who has never made it to a final round at Indianapolis, his final run has him feeling a bit better about his eighth-place spot on the eliminations ladder
“We made a good run that last run,” Johnson said. “It’s a very, very tight field, but I think we have a good race day setup. That last run, it’s always good to make a really good run, and we did it, so we have confidence going into tomorrow. The track should also be better tomorrow, because it’s supposed to be a little cooler. We put ourselves in a position where we’re really going to have to work for it now. If we can win first round, we might have Mike (Edwards, the current points leader) in the second round. But the field is so tight, you just have to get it done as a driver. A
big win here would certainly give us a shot of momentum heading into the playoffs, for the team, for the driver — for everybody.”