Coughlin and Johnson Right on Target
Qualify Strong in Dodge Dart Pro Stock Competition Debut at Gainesville
· New Mopar Dodge Dart impresses in its debut during qualifying at the NHRA Gatornationals
· Coughlin qualifies his Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Dart in the provisional No. 3 spot and runs his career fastest pass
· Johnson drives to preliminary No. 4 position in the debut of his new ‘Magneti Marelli Quality Auto Parts Offered by Mopar’ Dodge Dart
· Beckman ends Friday No. 2 to lead the Mopar Dodge NHRA Funny Car contingent at Gainesville
Gainesville, Fla. (Friday, March 14) —Team Mopar drivers Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Allen Johnson launched a historic new chapter in Mopar’s motorsports legacy, racing to the provisional No. 3 and No. 4 qualifying spots, respectively, in the Dodge Dart vehicle’s official competition debut at the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.
Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand, was present for a special on-track reveal for fans and to witness the Dodge Dart Pro Stock car live up to the hype of its much-anticipated debut.
Coughlin, the defending Pro Stock series champion, was out of the gate first with his Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Dart, claiming the provisional No. 3 spot in the car’s maiden run with a 6.484-second pass at 214.01 mph. He remained third after a second-round 6.486/214.62 mark, but made the quickest pass of the session and earned three bonus points. The 214.62 speed marked Coughlin’s career fastest run, and was just short of the 214.69 national MPH record set by Erica Enders-Stevens earlier in qualifying.
“We had a fantastic unveiling before a great crowd, 99 percent of which hadn’t yet seen the new Dodge Dart,” said Coughlin, a five-time Pro Stock champion and two-time Gatornationals winner. “I was excited sitting in the car with the black car cover over top of it and to feel the emotion and the cheers coming from the stands as they pulled those covers off was really cool. It fired me up, and then after the run when I heard that I went 6.48 at over 214 mph I had a grin the width of Florida on my face.
“I was really happy for the team because they’ve had a really long couple of weeks. A lot of effort has gone into getting these cars ready and to follow up that first run with Allen and I topping the second session was a really strong statement. I think we’ve got two really good cars right now. All we need to do is fine tune them for tomorrow.”
Johnson, the 2012 Pro Stock champ, was also on target with his new Magneti Marelli Quality Auto Parts Offered by Mopar Dodge Dart, ending the day just behind his teammate, in the No. 4 spot. Title winner at the recent NHRA Phoenix race, and also the defending Gatornationals event champ, Johnson posted a 6.505/213.98 to take the fifth position.
In his first race with “Magneti Marelli Quality Auto Parts Offered by Mopar” as his primary sponsor, Johnson moved up a spot in his second attempt with a 6.487/213.94, earning two bonus points with the second-quickest pass of the round. Current Pro Stock points leader V. Gaines placed his Mopar-powered Dodge seventh after two rounds with a best effort of 6.518/213.30. Matt Hartford was listed 15th in his Pro Stock Dodge heading into Saturday.
“If we had made the first run like we did the second run, we would have both definitely had a chance at setting the (speed) record,” said Johnson, owner of J&J Racing, which provides the Mopar HEMI engines for both he and teammate Coughlin. “We can only hope that the conditions for Saturday are just as good or better to be able to get another shot at it. I’m very happy with the runs so far. They’re very consistent; we just have to make the right calls.”
The race premiere followed a media unveiling of the Dart at Two Tails Ranch near Gainesville on Thursday, with Gorlier, Johnson, Coughlin, Team Mopar NHRA Funny Car driver Matt Hagan and Luke, an Asian elephant and resident of the ranch, participating. As part of the year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the GEN II 426 race HEMI, Mopar also revealed at the media event a special paint scheme on Hagan’s Dodge Charger R/T that includes a tribute to the HEMI “Elephant”, a nickname given to the legendary power plant. Hagan w
ill run the scheme later this year at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.
In the Funny Car class, Jack Beckman topped the four-car Don Schumacher Racing Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T attack, clocking a 4.108/275.96 to earn the preliminary No. 2 spot, with teammate Ron Capps fourth in his Dodge Charger R/T with a 4.121/302.14. Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T pilot and 2011 NHRA Funny Car champ Hagan was listed tenth after Friday’s two qualifying rounds with a best run of 4.189/288.95, followed by fellow DSR Dodge driver and No. 13 provisional qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr. Blake Alexander and Jeff Arend were listed 14th and 16th, respectively, in their Dodge Charger R/Ts.