Mopar Driver Hagan Unleashes 3.99-Second Run, Captures No. 1 Spot at NHRA U.S. Nationals
Runner-Up Finish for Coughlin in Rescheduled Brainerd Pro Stock Final
· Matt Hagan drives Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T to record setting 3-second run at Indy to take Funny Car No. 1 qualifier position
· Hagan claims second-straight Indy pole and third of his career at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis
· Hagan and Jack Beckman qualify 1-2 in their HEMI-powered Dodge machines
Jeg Coughlin Jr. finishes runner-up in rescheduled Brainerd final elimination at NHRA U.S. Nationals
Allen Johnson posts second-quickest run in Q5, moves to No. 6 in qualifying
Brownsburg, Indiana (Aug 31, 2014) – On the final day of qualifying for the historic 60th Annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) U.S. Nationals on Sunday, Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver Matt Hagan made a little history of his own. Hagan raced his HEMI-powered Mopar Express Lane machine to the No. 1 qualifier spot with a 3.998-second elapsed time (e.t.), setting the track record and becoming the first driver to run in the three-second range at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
The top spot is Hagan’s first of the season, 16th of his career and second consecutive at the U.S. Nationals, and third overall at Indy. The Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver will line up his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T against Bob Bode in the first round of U.S. Nationals eliminations on Monday.
Hagan was ranked second after the first two qualifying sessions, but was bumped down to third in Q3 on Saturday after a bang under the hood resulted in a fiery end to his special 50th anniversary 426 HEMI engine tribute Dodge Charger body. Undaunted, Hagan and his team unleashed their record-setting 3.998 pass in their first attempt in the squad’s regular Mopar Express Lane body, recording just the 30th three-second run in NHRA Funny Car history and the 11th by a Mopar Dodge, putting the brand in a tie for the most three-second passes by a single manufacturer. Hagan finished with a 4.103/311.63 mark in Q5.
“She was trucking,” said Hagan of his Mopar Dodge. “Just a great, solid run. Everything was so smooth. Those fast runs are smooth like that. For (crew chief) Dickie Venables and my whole group of guys, they were up late last night working on this car. We had a little boom at the other end last night. They put it back together right, and put a great race car underneath me. My hat is off to them.”
Hagan was joined in the top-five by Mopar Dodge teammate Jack Beckman, who captured the provisional pole on Saturday with a 4.004/312.13 run and will start No. 2 after his DSR stablemate took the No. 1 position. Beckman smoked the tires in both Q4 and Q5 on Sunday and will open eliminations by battling No. 15 qualifier and fellow Dodge driver Blake Alexander (4.144/299.46). Monday brings Beckman’s final shot at overtaking Tim Wilkerson and cracking the top-10 in points in order to clinch a playoff berth in the NHRA “Countdown to the Championship.”
Ron Capps, winner of the rain-delayed Brainerd event final, which occurred during Q3 of the U.S. Nationals on Saturday, will start fifth at Indy thanks to the 4.026/320.36 he used to defeat final-round foe John Force. Gunning for a possible “hat trick” at Indy (the Brainerd victory, the Traxxas Funny Car Shootout win and the U.S. Nationals championship title), Capps was denied in the first round of the Traxxas Shootout on Sunday, losing to Courtney Force despite a strong 4.043/319.37 effort. The DSR Dodge driver will attempt to go two out of three at Indy, with a round one match against Chad Head in the U.S. Nationals eliminations on tap.
DSR teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. also suffered defeat in the opening round of the Traxxas Funny Car Shootout on Sunday, as his 4.313/265.17 was not enough to take out Alexis DeJoria. Johnson rebounded with a 4.059 e.t. in Q5 to earn three bonus points and will start Monday from the No. 11 spot on the strength of his 4.053/316.67 in Q3. Johnson can greatly assist teammate Beckman by taking out Wilkerson, his first-round foe in eliminations. No. 13 qualifier Jeff Arend (4.082/314.02) will post his GrimeBoss Charger against Del Worsham.
In Pro Stock action, some unfinished business was wrapped up as Jeg Coughlin Jr. drove his HEMI-powered Dodge Dart to a runner-up finish against Pro Stock points leader Jason Line in what doubled as the final elimination of the rescheduled Brainerd national event and the fourth qualifying session for the NHRA U.S. Nationals. It is the JEGS.com Mopar driver’s third runner-up result of the season and the 40th of his career. Coughlin’s e.t. of 6.635 seconds at 207.72 miles per hour was good enough to put him seventh in the qualifying session but not enough to beat Line’s session-best 6.596/207.40 pass. Line remained No.1 qualifier with the low e.t. run of the event with his 6.589 /209.98 pass.
“I’m not upset with it a bit because it’s a tough field out here and there are a lot of teams that have worked so hard this year,” Coughlin said. “We’ve had a great year between now and the first 17 races of the season, with a handful of wins and another handful of runner-ups. I think we’re positioning ourselves well, not only for game day here at the 60th annual U.S. Nationals, but also for the Countdown.”
Coughlin posted his best effort in the final qualifying session with a 6.623/208.07 to put him ninth overall and pair him with Aaron Stanfield for the first round of eliminations on Monday at the U.S. Nationals.
“This weekend has been, as Allen (Johnson) would say as well, a non-stop thrash,” said Coughlin of the hard work put in by the Mopar team to improve the competitiveness of the cars through each session. “I can’t thank both teams enough for the effort they have put in to try and get our cars up in the top four like we had set out as our goal. We didn’t quite get there with our qualifying efforts, but the show is not over yet. Fortunately here at Indy, both lanes are very, very competitive. I feel confident going into race day tomorrow that we’ve got a Dodge Dart that can shoot right through the field.”
After a challenging start to the weekend, HEMI-powered teammate Allen Johnson made his best run of the meet in the “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart on his final attempt by posting the second-best pass of the session at 6.610/208.81 to put him sixth on the Pro Stock eliminations ladder. He’ll have lane choice over Chris McGaha for the opening round.
“We’ve struggled since we got here, but these guys just beat on it and beat on it, and with that last run of the weekend we’re right there and very competitive,” said Johnson, who was much more upbeat about the setup of his Dodge Dart for eliminations. “I feel sure that we can take what we did just then and maybe improve even a little bit more tomorrow. Even if we’re not qualified as well as we’d want, we’ll go into Monday with one of the best cars for race day, so we’re looking forward to going out there and seeing if we can’t bring home that first trophy from Indy.”
“It’s been a long, hard route, but damn we sure needed all five runs to get where we’re at now from where we started the weekend,” added Johnson, who is hoping to make his way to his first career final elimination at Indianapolis. “It’s an exciting, long weekend, but everyone has worked their butts off and really wants this.”
V. Gaines, who finished runner-up at this event last year, will start from the 13th spot on the ladder with his best effort of 6.629/208.71 in his HEMI-powered Dodge Dart. Gaines will see Dave Connolly as his first round opponent. Part-time Pro Stock entrant Matt Hartford qualified his Dodge Avenger 15th with a 6.661/207.85 run and will line up against Vincent Nobile for the first round.