Mopar-Powered Beckman and Gaines Grab Runner-Up Spots at Prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals
· Mopar Dodge Funny Car racer Jack Beckman comes up just short in his bid to back up his $100,000 Traxxas Shootout win with a U.S. Nationals Funny Car victory
· Defending NHRA Funny Car champ Beckman runs to his second final round of the season and 33rd of his career
· Despite a first-round exit, ‘Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar’ Dodge Charger R/T driver Matt Hagan will lead the Funny Car field into the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs
· Mopar-powered Don Schumacher Racing drivers Beckman, Ron Capps and Johnny Gray follow close behind teammate Hagan in the playoff standings
· V. Gaines advances to his second consecutive Pro Stock final round of the season and second career final at Lucas Oil Raceway
· Mopar–powered NHRA Pro Stock drivers have advanced to the final round in eight consecutive events
· Mopar Express Lane driver Allen Johnson exits in the quarterfinals but will start the Pro Stock playoffs in second, just 30 points behind leader Mike Edwards
· Dodge Avenger pilots Jeg Coughlin Jr., Vincent Nobile and Gaines will join Johnson in the Pro Stock playoffs
Brownsburg, Ind. (Monday, September 2, 2013) – Mopar HEMI-power once again helped put two Dodge race machines into the final rounds, as Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver Jack Beckman and Dodge Avenger Pro Stock pilot V. Gaines scored runner-up finishes in their respective classes on Monday in the elimination rounds of the 59th annual NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
The final-round showing was the second of the season for Beckman and his second career runner-up spot at Indy, while Gaines also recorded his second final round at Lucas Oil Raceway as well as his third finals appearance in the last five events of the 2013 season.
It was a long Sunday night for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) NHRA Funny Car driver Jack Beckman and his team following their $100,000 win in the non-points Traxxas Shootout special event, but the bleary eyes weren’t caused by a victory celebration — instead, the team worked late to repair Beckman’s Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T, which shredded its body in a finish-line explosion during Beckman’s winning Shootout run. The team shrugged off its lack of sleep on Monday, as Beckman threw down a 4.019/316.45 run, the quickest in the first round of eliminations, to defeat Chad Head.
After overcast skies and 86 degrees track temps to open the day, the sun peeked out and sent the track index soaring to 110 degrees before round two of Funny Car eliminations. Beckman easily advanced to the semis, going 4.219/285.71 in his Mopar after fellow Dodge driver Jeff Arend struck the tires in his own Dodge near the 330-ft mark. The defending Funny Car champ next took out Tim Wilkerson in the semifinals with a 4.110/309.42 to gain lane choice over Robert Hight in the final. In his attempt to double up on his Traxxas Shootout triumph, Beckman left first with a 0.048 second reaction time to Hight’s 0.059, but his chances ended shortly thereafter when he spun the tires. Beckman slowed to the finish line with a 6.072/111.46.
“It’s hard to complain but in drag racing there’s one winner and there’s one loser and we had a chance to leave here as a double winner and we’re a loser in the final round,” said Beckman, who advanced to the 33rd money-round overall of his career. “We won a race but we still have not won a Wally. We want it bad. We have six more chances and I think we have a good chance at getting a couple or three of them.”
“I like our progress lately and I think we’ve positioned ourselves pretty well for a strong run in the Countdown. Let’s face it when they reset the points we are all bunched up pretty good at the top so I’m confident.
It’s hard to ever leave a race being happy that you lost the race. I think to reflect on this it was a really solid weekend for us.”
Two of Beckman’s Mopar-fueled compatriots in the DSR camp scored first-round wins but were unable to make deeper runs in the Indy field. No. 2 Funny Car qualifier Johnny Gray used a 4.060/313.66 to send home Tony Pedregon, while Ron Capps edged out Alexis DeJoria on a holeshot win, leaving first with a .062 reaction time to DeJoria’s .089 (Capps recorded a 4.062/315.05 to DeJoria’s 4.036/312.35). The win was a major milestone for Capps, marking his 500th career round win. In the quarterfinals Gray and opponent Hight both shook the tires, but Gray was unable to get back in gear, posting a 4.676/210.21 in defeat. Capps had the early lead against Wilkerson in the second round but spun the tires at about half track, seeing his day end with a losing 4.405/235.10.
DSR racer and No. 1 qualifier Matt Hagan will look to rebound after what looked like a promising weekend ended early in eliminations. Hagan set track records in both elapsed time and speed to claim the Funny Car Indy pole and was leading early in his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Charger R/T with a .053 mark off the line against first-round foe Arend’s slower .112, but Hagan experienced tire shake and was forced to pedal his machine to get it back in the groove. His 4.248/307.79 wasn’t enough to catch the Mopar HEMI-powered Arend. Part-time Dodge Funny Car racer Paul Lee also fell in the opening stanza, losing to John Force.
In the NHRA Pro Stock ranks, No. 2 qualifier Gaines had the second quickest elapsed time of the first round in his Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger, a 6.617/208.65, to beat Warren Johnson. Gaines was quickest of the round in the quarterfinals, trailering Jason Line with a 6.625/208.65 to arrange an all-Mopar semifinals showdown with No. 3 qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr., who defeated Rodger Brogdon in round one with a 6.638/206.86 and easily took down Shane Gray on the strength of a 6.657/206.80 quarterfinals run.
Gaines rose to the occasion in the semifinal battle of Mopars, scorching the starting tree with a perfect .000 reaction time paired with a 6.637/208.36 to defeat the four-time Pro Stock champ Coughlin and advance to the final round, with lane choice, against Edwards. In a repeat of the most recent Pro Stock final at Brainerd, Gaines unfortunately came out on the wrong side once again. His 6.620/208.78 run bettered Edwards’ 6.637/208.39, but the edge off the starting line (Edwards was first with a .032 to Gaines .067) was enough to deny Gaines his first Indianapolis U.S. Nationals victory.
“I’m disappointed, but we went to the finals at Indy and there’s nothing wrong with that,” said Lakewood, Colo., native Gaines, who advanced to his 13th career Pro Stock final round. “After cutting a perfect light (against Jeg Coughlin Jr.), I slowed it up a bit too much against Mike (Edwards). We were pulling it hard but ran out of racetrack.
“We definitely have the best hot rod we’ve ever had, and it looks like it’s the class of the field right now. Anytime you can out run Mike Edwards, have lane choice over Mike Edwards and everybody else, you can’t be disappointed with that. We have a good thing going with a great crew and great support cast.”
Allen Johnson posted a 6.646/207.66 pass in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger to defeat Mark Martino in the opening round. In a monster quarterfinals matchup with points leader Edwards, Johnson came up short in his bid for a first U.S. Nationals win, suffering a holeshot loss. Despite a quicker
and faster 6.631/208.62 effort to his opponent’s 6.640/208.17 mark, Edwards’ .023 reaction time off the line to AJ’s .050 proved the difference. Johnson’s J&J Racing teammate Vincent Nobile was too quick on the trigger, suffering a first-round red-light loss after leaving too early against Shane Gray, while Chris McGaha fell to event winner Edwards in the opening round.
“On the bright side, we might have hit on something on that last run that we’ve been fighting for a few races now, that will hopefully give us some momentum going into the Countdown,” commented Johnson on his weekend. “It’s a whole new season now. We’re thirty points behind instead of 150, so it will help me this year.”
Mopar Dodge drivers are at, or very near, the top of the Funny Car and Pro Stock standings entering the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs, which begin at the 6th Annual Carolina Nationals, scheduled to take place Sept. 13–15 at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. In Funny Car Hagan, Capps and Gray will begin the playoffs in the 1-3 spots, respectively, with defending world champ Beckman fifth, putting all four DSR Mopar-powered drivers in the top five. In Pro Stock, defending world champ Johnson is No. 2, followed by No. 3 Coughlin and No. 4 Nobile, with the red-hot Gaines at No. 8.