Mopar Drivers Focus on Challenge of Four-Wide NHRA Nationals
· Mopar contingent set to take on unique Four-Wide racing this weekend at zMax Dragway in Charlotte
· Mopar Pro-Stockers looking to stay focused in Four-Wide competition
· Capps earns provisional pole with his DSR Dodge Charger R/T in Funny Car qualifying
· Hagan hoping to repeat trip to winner’s circle at Four-Wide Nationals to put Mopar back on track to contend for another Funny Car championship
Concord, N.C. (Friday, April 11) –The unique Four-Wide Nationals present a different kind of test for the Mopar contingent competing at this weekend’s National Hot Rod Association Drag Racing series event near Charlotte, N.C., at the specially built zMAX Dragway. While the unique event provides double the excitement for spectators, competitors have to contend with the uncommon challenges that the four-car showdown format presents. However, it isn’t just bragging rights on the line, as each Mopar pilot has a different reason for wanting to come away with a title win this weekend.
For teammates, Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin Jr., putting the new Dodge Dart back in the winner’s circle after its debut win at the Gatornationals isn’t just a matter of pride but a necessity to stay as close to the top of the hotly contested Pro Stock points standings as possible this season. The quad-style battle in both qualifying and elimination rounds, rather than the usual head-to-head competition, adds another unique element to help mix things up in the very competitive hot rod category this season.
“This event is all about focus,” said Johnson who is third in the championship points with two wins already this season. “It’s a challenge to not get distracted or get caught looking at the wrong tree, and it’s just a lot different from any other race for both drivers and fans. There is a lot going on at the same time. We also need to keep focus on getting those points. They are going to be so important this year with such a competitive field where anyone can win each and every time out there. It’s just that close.”
“I’m not satisfied at all with how our Friday went to be honest,” added Johnson, whose best run of 6.546 seconds (212.46 mph) put him seventh on the ladder after two qualifying runs. “We tested this week at Rockingham and thought we’d really set the place on fire with the “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” machine, and couldn’t have been more stoked to come here this weekend. But our first two runs here today sure were humbling.”
Coughlin, for his part, found himself fifth in qualifying with an elapsed time run of 6.538 seconds (212.13 mph) and looking to improve on Saturday to try to repeat the No.1 qualifier position he earned at the inaugural NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in 2010.
V. Gaines was ninth with his best qualifying e.t. of 6.560 seconds (212.63 mph) and is also looking for a shot at retiring his HEMI-powered Dodge Avenger with a win at Charlotte before premiering his own Dodge Dart in the coming weeks.
Don Schumacher Racing driver Ron Capps threw down the gauntlet in Funny Car qualifying by taking his Dodge Charger R/T to the provisional pole with a commanding 4.059-second (314.24 mph) elapsed time pass and is looking to remain on top in order to earn his first No.1 qualifier spot since 2012 for a shot a first Four-Wide title. Capps also leads his DSR teammate in the points standings in fourth place and hoping to make gains. Mopar teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. wasn’t too far behind with a third place qualifying pass by posting a 4.079 sec (308.57 mph) run.
If there is one driver that looks forward to coming to zMAX Dragway, it is likely Mopar Express Lane pilot Matt Hagan, not just because he considers this his home race as he hails from just down the road in Christiansburg, Va., but because he has had some memorable runs here as well. Hagan has won twice at this dragstrip, finished runner-up once, earned a No. 1 qualifier position and posted a 3.995-second pass to set the first run in NHRA history under four seconds.
Last year he drove his Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger R/T to the Four-Wide Nationals title win; a victory that put him on track for a run at the 2013 NHRA Championship crown for which he finished runner-up with a class-best five victories. That victory also brought to an end a winless streak that had followed his national title and NHRA World Championship at the 2011 season finale.
This season, Hagan is hoping an exciting Four-Wide battle will kick start things once more, after starting off with a runner-up finish, but not having seen any action past the first round in the last three events. After two qualifying runs, he sits seventh with a 4.088-second (310.91 mph) run.
Another past Mopar winner at the world’s only four-lane drag strip is DSR’s Jack Beckman, who’s best run in Friday qualifying with an e.t. of 4.119 (303.84 mph) put him tenth, but loves the challenge the Four-Wide Nationals present and the opportunity to snap his 31-race winless streak.
“I like it. I liked it before I won it,” said Beckman who earned the Wally trophy in 2011. “It’s something completely different for the fans. You get the same cars but racing in a different format. When friends and fans tell me they want to go to a different race I always tell them go to the Four-Wide because it’s at a world-class track and an event you’ll never see anywhere else.”