Mopar Ready for Eliminations Showdown at Norwalk NHRA Nationals
· Don Schumacher Racing qualifies three Mopars in Funny Car top-five at Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals
· Consistent Tommy Johnson Jr. is seeded third for eliminations as top Dodge Charger R/T with Hagan and Capps on his heals
· Allen Johnson qualifies No.3 as top Mopar in Pro Stock qualifying at Norwalk’s Motorsports Park
· Ohio Native Jeg Coughlin Jr. starts sixth in bid for hometown win in JEGS.com Dodge Dart
Norwalk, Ohio (Saturday, July 5) – After four qualifying evening sessions, the Mopar contingent is ready to take on the challenge presented by Sunday’s eighth annual Summit Racing Equipment National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals at Norwalk’s Motorsports Park.
Don Schumacher Racing qualified three of their Dodge Charger R/T machines in the top-five positions on the Funny Car eliminations ladder with Tommy Johnson Jr. leading the fray in the No.3 spot. For a sixth time this season, Johnson has been seeded third or better including his No.1 qualifier honour at last week’s NHRA national event near Chicago, which also featured his first career 3-second run.
Johnson put his Make-A-Wish Mopar in the provisional second spot on Friday night with an elapsed time run of 4.030 seconds (319.67 mile per hour), a time that was good enough to put him third overall when the qualifying results were finalized. He backed up that effort with another strong run on his final attempt, posting a 4.034 second pass at 319.60 mph. No.1 qualifier position went to Del Worsham who posted two 4.000-second passes to earn the top spot.
“We made a nice run in the first session, and then we leaned on it in the second qualifying round,” said Johnson, who will see Tony Pedregon as his first round opponent. “In the third session we experimented a little bit and it came loose way down track, but John (Collins, crew chief) was able to go back to last night for the last round of qualifying. To get another .03 was good, and we are pretty happy tonight.”
Right behind Johnson on the final qualifying score sheets in fourth place is DSR teammate Matt Hagan who is still riding the confidence earned with a title win last week at Route 66 Raceway near Chicago.
Hagan was the quickest Funny Car in the third qualifying session taking his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T for an elapsed time run of 4.068 seconds at 315.64 mph but it was his Friday night run of 4.044-seconds (318.69 mph) that secured his fourth place seeding in eliminations to match-up against Jeff Arend in the first round.
“Not only did we have a great qualifying effort, what makes me have confidence for tomorrow is the fact that we did so well in the heat in Chicago,” said Hagan of last weekend’s race. “This weekend during qualifying it’s just been about making stellar runs because the conditions are so good but we won’t see any of these conditions on Sunday. The car seems to be running well in these cool conditions but it’s also running really well in the heat. I’m excited about tomorrow, I’m pumped up.”
Ron Capps rounded out the top-five with his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car’s best run of 4.048 seconds (316.15 mph) captured on his final attempt, after posting the second quickest run of the third session behind Hagan with a 4.101 sec. (312.78 mph) pass. Capps will see Courtney Force as his first round opponent.
Mopar teammate Jack Beckman earned the eighth place qualifying spot with his Friday night elapsed time run of 4.064 second (317.94 mph) and will have lane choice over Bob Tasca III in the first round of Funny Car eliminations.
In the Pro Stock qualifying, Allen Johnson took his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart down the track in 6.564 seconds (211.63 mph) in the third session to post the third quickest pass of the round and earn an extra bonus point. For his final run, Johnson battled the left lane and turned his car off early as a result, but remained third overall based on his Friday night run of 6.532 second (211.89 mph) and will see Larry Morgan in the first round of eliminations. The No.1 qualifier position went to points leader Eric Enders-Stevens with her best run of 6.523 sec at 212.63 mph.
Mopar teammate and hometown favorite, Jeg Coughlin Jr. ran a 6.595 second e.t. at 211.49 mph in his third qualifying run for the sixth best time of the session and had the semblance of a strong final run but opted out of the throttle when he came a bit too close to the centerline. The Ohio native’s sixth place spot on the eliminations ladder was earned Friday night when the JEGS.com Dodge Dart posted a pass of 6.554 (212.03 mph).
“I’m confident going into tomorrow,” said Coughlin who will begin his day with lane choice over Rodger Brogden. “We ran a little different set of tires during Q3 in preparation for tomorrow, and I think we’re going to be one of those dark horses. We know we’ve got the power under the hood, we know we can make the right calls in the pits and on the track, and I know I can hop behind the wheel and do what I love to do. It should be a great day tomorrow.”
“The whole game tomorrow is going to be lane choice,” said Johnson about the chances of getting one of the team’s HEMI-powered cars to the winner’s circle. “The right lane during the day is better and probably worth a couple hundredths of a second at least, while the left lane is less than ideal. We both got lane choice but qualified opposite one another so we’ll have to meet second round if we both win. Jeggy (Coughlin) really made a good run on that last run he just got over towards the centerline and had to lift, but he was fixing to be quickest car of the round so that set up will come over to us tomorrow too. That’s the benefit of working as teammates. We’ve both got a good package for tomorrow.”
For the first time since 2012, V. Gaines was unable to qualify for eliminations after difficulties completing a pass on his four attempts. His best registered run was an e.t. of 7.639 seconds at 129.29 mph which left him on the sidelines for Sunday.