Mopar Also Announces Three-Year Extension of Mile-High Nationals Sponsorship
· Allen Johnson defeats teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the third-consecutive all-Mopar Pro Stock final at Bandimere Speedway
· “Magneti Marelli Quality Auto Parts Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart driver Johnson earns his fourth Wally trophy of the season
· Johnson and Coughlin meet in the final for the second time this season, a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the 426 HEMI and 100 years of the Dodge brand
· Coughlin drives to his fourth final-round appearance of the season
· Johnson’s victory is the sixth win of the season for Mopar in Pro Stock competition
· Ron Capps runs to the semifinals to pace the four-driver Mopar HEMI-powered Dodge Funny Car squad at Thunder Mountain
· Hagan takes his 426 Race HEMI 50th Anniversary Tribute Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to the quarterfinals
Morrison, Colorado (July 20, 2014) – In the game of thrones to decide the king of Thunder Mountain, Team Mopar driver Allen Johnson once again proved that he is the undisputed ruler at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. The “Magneti Marelli Quality Auto Parts Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart NHRA Pro Stock driver claimed his sixth event crown in eight years at Bandimere Speedway, located in the picturesque Rocky Mountains, and his third straight win at sponsor Mopar’s headline event, defeating J&J Racing teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. in an all-Mopar final fight. The triumph is the 24th of Johnson’s career and fourth of the season, and comes during Mopar’s marking of the 50th anniversary of the 426 HEMI engine, as well as the celebration of 100 years of the Dodge brand.
Johnson also continued another amazing streak, advancing to the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals final round for the eighth-consecutive year. Johnson’s win is the sixth of the season for Mopar HEMI-powered Pro Stock competitors, and at least one Mopar-powered Pro Stock or Funny Car driver has advanced to the final round at nine consecutive events, dating back to the NHRA Houston race in April.
“Congratulations to Allen (Johnson) and the team for driving the Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Dart to an incredible sixth career win at Bandimere Speedway,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “What a great way to add to our celebration of the 426 Race HEMI at our signature event. Four wins and five final elimination appearances this season to date show how much work and determination Allen and his Mopar team have put in to battle a tough Pro Stock class in defense of the Championship.”
With track temps over 100 degrees, Johnson started hot out of the No. 2 spot, unleashing a 6.933-second elapsed time and the track-record fastest speed ever at Bandimere Speedway, 199.23 mph, to send home Tommy Lee in the first round. Johnson took down Chris McGaha to move on to the semifinals, clocking a 6.959/198.50 winning pass in his Magneti Marelli Mopar Dodge Dart. The Greeneville, Tennessee native then ran down Dave Connolly with a 6.952/198.64 to advance to his eighth-consecutive final round appearance at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, and the 50th final of his career.
Defending 2013 NHRA Pro Stock Series world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr.’s road to the final began from the No. 4 spot with a 6.940/198.44 pass and a victory over Mopar HEMI Pro Stock driver Deric Kramer. In a heavyweight quarterfinals showdown of prior Pro Stock champs, Coughlin earned the win light over Greg Anderson, recording a 6.944/198.44 run. In the semis, with teammate Johnson cheering him on at the top end, Coughlin used a lightning-quick .002 reaction time off the starting line in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart and a 6.931/198.76 pass to down another Pro Stock champ, Jason Line, and advance to his fifth final-round at Bandimere, fourth of 2014 and 97th of his career.
In a matchup of Mopar Dodge Darts carrying Roy Johnson-supplied HEMI engines under the hood, Coughlin was a bit too early on the tree, fouling out on a red-light as Johnson drove to his quickest run of eliminations, a 6.930/198.61, to seize his sixth Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals crown. The showdown also marked the third straight all-Mopar Pro Stock final at Bandimere (Johnson defeated Colorado native V. Gaines in the money round in 2012 and 2013). Hometown favorite Gaines exited in round one, as did Mopar-powered pilot Matt Hartford.
“This team just continues to find a way to do it,” said Johnson, who with the victory is now second-time all-time in Pro Stock wins at the venue, located near Denver, behind only Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden. “We want to win here for Mopar and Magneti Marelli, and my guys step up and I step up. It’s a confidence thing. It’s just deep in our gut and we keep doing it.”
Johnson was also in line for his fifth straight No. 1 spot at Bandimere before losing it on the final pass of qualifying on Saturday, a challenge to his domination he didn’t take lightly.
“It’s extra motivation,” said Johnson. “It puts fire in my belly when we get hit with like something like that. He (Jason Line) took my number one spot away from me, and you’re dang tootin’ it fired me up. It fired up Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) up. When Jeg took him out in the semifinals, I was ready to jump on the hood of his car when he came around the corner. Both of us in the finals — it was a great day at that point.
“This was the first race I ever qualified at in 1996, and that is the only race that I qualified for that year. I have qualified for every single one (here) since then. It’s very important to us. It’s almost like a championship to us to excite all the Mopar executives and everyone that comes out to watch us, but it gets tougher every year.”
Also announced today was a three-year extension of Mopar’s title rights sponsorship of the Mile-High Nationals, which began in 1989. The brand’s current 26-year relationship with the Bandimere’s family Thunder Mountain track and continuous support of the national event is the longest running title sponsorship in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, and among the longest in all of motorsports.
“Mopar and the mountain and me, we’re married,” said Johnson. “We’re going to take that deal and run with it the next three years and break Bob Glidden’s record and be the king of the mountain for a long time.”
“The Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals is the flagship event for our brand, our fans and our customers, and this agreement reinforces our commitment to our ‘home track,’ Bandimere Speedway, and to NHRA drag racing,” said Gorlier. “Together, we have made the annual visit to ‘Thunder Mountain’ an iconic stop on the NHRA schedule.”
Ron Capps paced the Mopar camp during qualifying in his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, so it was appropriate the Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) veteran’s semifinals appearance led the four-driver Mopar Dodge DSR squad. No. 5 qualifier Capps defeated Bob Tasca III with a 4.224/301.07 in round one and Cruz Pedregon in the quarterfinals thanks to a 4.239/299.13, but was unable to best John Force in the semis. With his strong performance, Capps moved to third in the Funny Car point standings.
Matt Hagan’s day, and his bid for a win in the 426 Race HEMI 50th Anniversary Tribute Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, which was named the Best Appearing Car at the event, was also ended by Force. The 2011 Funny Car champ and recent winner at the NHRA Joliet event started strong, reaching the stripe first with a 4.200/281.60 against Alexis DeJoria in the opening round. In the quarterfinals Hagan was neck-and-neck with Force early but smoked the tires at 330-ft. mark, slowing to a 4.832/190.46 mark. Like Capps, Hagan also moved up in the standings, to the seventh position. In a HEMI vs. HEMI first-round duel, Jack Beckman took the win over fellow DSR driver Tommy Johnson Jr., posting a 4.238/298.47 to his teammate’s 4.348/258.67, but was dealt a loss in the quarterfinals by Tim Wilkerson.
For the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the 426 Race HEMI engine to motorsports competition, the Grand Marshal for the Mopar Mile-High Nationals, Tom Hoover, regarded as the father of the HEMI, was presented with the Mopar President’s award prior to eliminations in recognition for his contributions, loyalty and service to the Mopar brand. Hoover began as a Chrysler Corporation engineer and progressed to leading a performance revolution, which included the 426 HEMI, whose architecture is still used in NHRA competition. The Mopar President’s award was previously presented one other time, to Allen and Roy Johnson, for their dedication and perseverance during a 17-year quest for their first NHRA Pro Stock World Championship, a dream that was finally rewarded in 2012.
Next up is the second stop of the three-race Western Swing, the 27th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway in California, scheduled for July 25–27.