Johnson Back on Top of Thunder Mountain with Provisional Pole at Mopar Mile High NHRA Nationals
· Defending Pro Stock title winner Allen Johnson earns provisional pole position at Mopar Mile High Nationals
· Johnson looking to earn a fifth consecutive No.1 qualifier position at the event he has won five times in seven years
· Colorado native V. Gaines has two runner-up finishes the last two years at his home track and is fourth quickest in Pro Stock qualifying
· Ron Capps led the Mopar HEMI-powered Funny Car contingent with the provisional fifth quickest pass after two qualifying sessions
· Matt Hagan drives the HEMI 50th Anniversary tribute Mopar to eighth spot in Funny Car qualifying
Morrison, Colorado (July 18, 2014) – Defending title winner of the Mopar Mile High National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals, Allen Johnson, picked things up right where he left off last year by earning the provisional No.1 qualifier position after two sessions at Bandimere Speedway near Denver, Colorado, on Friday evening.
Johnson not only has won five Pro Stock titles in seven years (2013, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2007) at Mopar’s signature event, but also has seven consecutive final round appearances and four straight No.1 qualifier positions at the scenic Rocky Mountain drag strip. This weekend, he is working to keep those streaks of success going with the new “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart which made its debut at the Gatornationals and that Johnson has already taken to the winner’s circle for two of his three wins this season. The HEMI-powered driver went to the top of the score sheets on his second qualifying pass with an elapsed time run of 6.928 seconds at 198.90 miles per hour to set the track speed record.
“We were hoping to run a 6.91-second pass,” said Johnson who is looking to remain the top seed for eliminations after two more qualifying sessions on Saturday. “We left that much on the table but we’ll go out there tomorrow and keep tuning on it and see if we can do better.”
“It’s your sponsor’s race and it’s the 50th anniversary of the HEMI and everything about this event makes us step up and do it,” added Johnson when asked what it was about this track that breeds success for his Mopar team. “We’ve really worked our tails off at this track testing over the years, trying to come up with a package that is superior, so that we can impress all the Mopar and Chrysler executives that come to out to see us this race.”
Johnson, however, was quick to point out that it has become much more difficult to stay on top as the competition in Pro Stock is stronger than ever and his competitors have made obvious improvements at this track.
“The gap has shrunk tremendously as I think in years past we were maybe two-hundreds of a second ahead of the pack and now we are just one thousandths ahead. The other guys are figuring out how to run the track too. But you know we’ve got a great Dodge Dart, we’ve got great engineers behind us, and we’ve got all the people in the stands. This place is tremendous and the Bandimere family does a great job so all the stars are aligned for us to do well and we’re going to do our best to put that 50th anniversary HEMI in the winner’s circle.”
Colorado native and driver of the HEMI-powered Western Motorsports Dodge Dart, V. Gaines is going to try to give Johnson a run for his money after finishing runner-up at his home event the last two years. Gaines took the provisional fourth spot in qualifying with his elapsed time pass of 6.944 seconds at 198.15 mph.
Driver of the JEGS.com Dodge Dart, Jeg Coughlin Jr., has back-to-back wins (1998-99) and four final round appearances at Bandimere Speedway, but had a more difficult time on his qualifying runs in Friday’s sessions than he expected and sits 13th in the provisional order after posting a 7.024-second e.t. at 197.02 mph as his best pass of the day.
A total of five Mopars are competing in the Pro Stock class at this event with the addition of Matt Hartford aboard his Dodge Avenger in the ninth spot (6.984 / 197.31) and Deric Kramer in his Dodge Avenger with the 11th quickest run (6.993/ 196.87) of the day.
Ron Capps led the Mopar HEMI-powered NHRA Funny Car contingent on their first qualifying attempts at Thunder Mountain, running to the provisional No. 5 spot on the strength of a 4.087/311.92 pass and earning one bonus point.
Capps’ Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) compatriot, Tommy Johnson Jr., powered his own Dodge Charger R/T to a 4.102/308.21 mark, good for sixth after Friday’s two sessions.
Debuting the special Mopar 426 HEMI engine 50th Anniversary graphics on his Dodge Charger R/T, Matt Hagan lost traction in his first shot at the Bandimere Speedway strip, but recovered nicely in his second Friday pass. The 2011 Funny Car champ improved to a 4.111/300.73 effort in his tribute car to Mopar’s famed “elephant” engine, stampeding up the charts to earn the preliminary eighth position.
Jack Beckman rounded out the four-man DSR Dodge contingent with a 4.153/304.32 run, and will look to move up from the 11th position tomorrow in the final two qualifying attempts for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.