Pair of Semifinal Appearances for Mopar at NHRA Northwest Nationals
· No.1 qualifier Allen Johnson takes Dodge Dart to semifinal appearance at 27th National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Northwest Nationals
· No. 3 Funny Car qualifier Matt Hagan races his HEMI 50th anniversary tribute Mopar to a semifinal finish at Pacific Raceways
Kent, Washington (Aug 3, 2014) – No. 1 Pro Stock qualifier Allen Johnson and last year’s Funny Car national event winner Matt Hagan took their respective HEMI-powered Mopars to semifinal finishes at the scenic tree-lined Pacific Raceways track near Seattle, Washington, for the 27th annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Northwest Nationals.
From his top seeded position on the eliminations ladder, Johnson had hoped not only to take his Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Dart to the winner’s circle for a fifth time this season but also from second place to the points lead with the absence of his rival and category leader Erica Enders-Stevens from the last two national events. After posting the lowest elapsed times in each of four qualifying session, the odds were certainly in Johnson’s favor. Following a bye in the first round, Johnson posted a 6.569-second run at 201.87 mile per hour to beat Dave Connolly’s 6.589 sec / 210.28 mph pass in the second round to advance to a semifinal match against Greg Anderson.
But Johnson’s hopes to close out the three event NHRA western swing on a winning note and ahead in points were dashed when his factory hot road lost power due to a mechanical glitch after the 60 foot mark in his showdown with Anderson.
“One little mistake got us but you know we had a great car all weekend, a great team, great runs, great power and something to really work with,” said Johnson who remains second in the Pro Stock standings and just 32 points behind the leader with two national events left before the NHRA “Countdown to the Championship” playoffs begins. “The competition is close and you can’t make a single error but that’s what we did and we’ll learn from it. We’re in “countdown” mode now and won’t let little things like that happen again. We’re looking forward to the next event in Brainerd (Minnesota) which is an altitude track and we normally shine at those.”
HEMI-powered teammate and reigning NHRA Pro Stock World Champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. disposed of Larry Morgan in the opening round, only to have his day cut short on the start line against Anderson as well when his JEGS.com Mopar Dodge Dart made a sudden move to the left and launched his parachutes to halt any forward motion.
“That was odd and the first time I think I’ve shook one hard enough to have the parachutes come out of it,” said Coughlin who remains fourth in points. “We’re giving it 110 percent and we have a lot of faith in our teams to put our heads together and sort through some things. Allen’s (Johnson) car looked happy all weekend on every run except that last one. We’ll look to make both cars better for Brainerd and more importantly as we approach the countdown.”
Last week’s runner-up finisher at Sonoma Raceway, V. Gaines, drove his HEMI-powered Dodge Dart to victory over Matt Hartford, but then fell in the second round to eventual national title winner Jason Line who beat out his teammate Anderson in the final Pro Stock elimination.
The defending Funny Car title winner at the NHRA Northwest Nationals, Matt Hagan, had his No. 3 seeded 50th anniversary HEMI tribute Mopar Dodge Charger R/T take the win lights in the opening round with a 4.109-second pass at 306.26 mph over Terry Haddock’s 4.583/209.88 to advance to a second round battle against Robert Hight. Hagan defeated the Funny Car points leader with a 4.241/278.98 to 4.287/263.20 run to move on to his second consecutive semifinal appearance. It was an incredibly close finish that saw Hagan (.099 reaction, 4.285/283.67) edged at the finish line by Gary Densham (.148 reaction, 4.236 2.88.89) by just .0004-seconds to give the Mopar Express Lane driver a fourth semifinal result this season.
“Another semifinals finish, that’s two in a row so the car is starting to run well,” said Hagan who sit seventh in points and has high hopes of starting a good streak of results to head into the playoffs. “It just may take a race or two to really get in the groove of things and start going to the final and winning races.”
There was also a great Mopar versus Mopar first round drag race between Don Schumacher Racing teammates as Jack Beckman (.071 reaction time) used a holeshot and a 4.176-second elapsed time run at 295 mph to beat Tommy Johnson Jr.’s (.084 reaction time) quicker 4.164 at 302 mph pass with a .0011-second margin of victory. The second round match-up against Alexis DeJoria didn’t quite go as planned when Beckman saw his Dodge Charger R/T inconveniently turned into a convertible half way down the track. Beckman emerged unhurt from the incident but suffered a setback in his quest to make the playoffs by falling 30 points behind tenth place Tim Wilkerson, who he is battling for the final playoff spot with just two events left until the “Countdown to the Championship”.
Seeded ninth for eliminations was DSR driver Ron Capps for his first round pairing with Cruz Pedregon. Capps, who maintains a third place position in the standings, had a solid drive his Dodge Charger R/T posting a 4.171/ 297.02 that matched the second quickest elapsed time of the opening round of eliminations, but was not quite enough to catch his opponent’s 4.109 /304.05 pass and ended his day prematurely.
The conclusion of the 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries, which was the 16th of 24 national events on the Mello Yellow Drag Racing series schedule, brings to a conclusion the annual “Western Swing” that included races in Denver and Sonoma, Calif. The next stop on the circuit will be the 33rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals held at Brainerd Int’l Raceway, in Brainerd, Minnesota on Aug. 14-17.