Gaines and Beckman Pace Mopars in Final Qualifying at Las Vegas
· Mixed qualifying results for Mopar at 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, the second to last event of the season
· Mopar’s Gaines and points leader Coughlin are second and third behind No.1 Pro Stock qualifier Edwards
· Reigning champ Johnson still focused on winning after frustrating results in final two sessions put him sixth in qualifying
· Beckman is top DSR Mopar with third place qualifying effort in Funny Car qualifying; Hagan is fourth
Las Vegas (October 26, 2013) – Final qualifying at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway held mixed results and a few surprises as Mopar drivers and teams prepared for Sunday’s elimination rounds at the 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, the second to last event of the season.
It wouldn’t be Las Vegas without a seeing a hot streak suddenly go cold and that’s exactly what happen to Allen Johnson for the final two Pro Stock qualifying sessions. The driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge ceded the provisional No.1 position he earned on Friday to his rival Mike Edwards after shaking the tires on the first run of the day and being down on power in the final two qualifying sessions. While disappointed to miss out on earning more bonus points, Johnson is still focused on vying for his fourth straight trip to the winner’s circle at this track in order to keep hopes of defending his championship alive.
“We’ve got a lot of data but we had a lot of things happened that were unfortunate,” said Johnson who ended up seventh based on his best time from Friday of 6.651seconds (206.99 mph) and will match up against Ricky Jones for the first elimination round. “We’ll dig in tomorrow and it’s still the same game plan. We’ll roll with it. We have to win this race. We’ve got a good team. We’re still going for broke.”
V. Gaines on the other hand had a hot hand on Saturday as he carried the banner for Mopar by earning the top spot in the final qualifying session with his run of 6.649 seconds (208.26 mph) after running second in the earlier session, essentially taking a total of five bonus points away from the championship contenders. While Gaines had two outstanding runs, it wasn’t quite enough to dislodge Edwards from the No.1 qualifier position earned by his 6.632 sec (208.23 mph) pass that had him quickest of the third session. Gaines will face Larry Morgan as his first round opponent in eliminations on Sunday.
Current Pro Stock points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr. had four consistent runs and earned a bonus point in the third qualifying session with an elapsed time run of 6.645 seconds (207.43 mph). While he is playing it cool, his efforts put him third overall and has him 45 points ahead of Edwards and 73 points from his Mopar teammate Johnson. The JEGS.com Mopar driver, who has five Pro Stock victories in Vegas, will line up against Greg Stanfield in the first round.
“We’ve got a really good car,” said Coughlin whose four passes were all within 0.013 seconds. “We’ve been a top-four car all four runs, and we’re qualified third. That’s a great effort. Tomorrow is going to be much like the last two days; it’s going to be warm. We’re going to be following the [top] fuelers, and it’s going to be a little testier for the crew chiefs, but I feel like we’ve got a great setup for it, and we’re ready for action.”
Vincent Nobile ended up ninth and will see Greg Anderson as his first round match-up.
In Funny Car qualifying, all four Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger R/Ts had strong outings to find themselves within the top six spots on the eliminations ladder. Reigning world champion Jack Beckman paced his Mopar teammates with a best e.t. of 4.052 seconds (315.56 mph) for the third place spot with Ron Capps right on his heals with a 4.057 (315.05 mph) in fourth. Beckman will see Bob Tasca in the first round while Capps is paired up with Tim Wilkerson.
Matt Hagan, whose Mopar is currently second in the championship hunt, had his best run in the final session posting a 4.057 sec (312.50 mph) e.t. to put him fifth overall, but lost a little more ground in the standings to the points leader and No. 1 qualifier, John Force. The 15-time world champion, who has been on a roll as title winner or the last two national events, earned the pole position with a track record 4.011-second pass and gained six extra bonus points for being top qualifier in two of the four sessions. Hagan now has 72 point deficit that he is hoping to overcome with a strong performance on Sunday. Hagan’s “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” machine will line up against Alexis DeJoria in the opening round.
Johnny Gray qualified right behind his Mopar teammates with a 4.060 sec (311.85 mph) pass on his final run to secure the sixth place spot on the eliminations ladder and will see Jeff Arend as his first opponent.