Despite Difficult Day at Bristol Mopar Still on Top
· Mopar contingency falls short without representation past the second round of eliminations in both Pro Stock and Funny Car at Bristol Dragway
· Gorlier presents Johnsons with Mopar President’s Award for outstanding contributions as brand ambassadors in front of hometown fans on Father’s Day
· Hagan remains in the Funny Car championship points lead; all four DSR entries ranked in the top-five
· Mopar Pro Stock drivers Johnson and Coughlin tied for second in points
Bristol, Tenn. (Sunday, June 16, 2013) – Eliminations on Father’s Day at the 13th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals did not quite go as planned for the Mopar contingency, but while none of the Dodge entries in either class were able to advance past the second round at Bristol Dragway, a few positives remained. Despite the shortened race day, Matt Hagan and the “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Don Schumacher Racing machine remain atop the leaderboard in the Funny Car points race, while Allen Johnson and Mopar teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. are tied for the second spot in the Pro Stock standings.
Another top highlight took place prior to first round action, as driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger, Johnson along with his father and engine builder Roy Johnson, were presented with the “Mopar President’s Award” by Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. They were recognized in front of their hometown fans and family for their contributions as brand ambassadors, their five decades of loyalty, dedication and service to Mopar, and for bringing home a long sought after 2012 NHRA Pro Stock World Championship. Father and son are the first recipients of this special award.
On track the day started off well enough for the Greeneville, Tenn.-natives after qualifying the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger in second spot on the eliminations ladder. Johnson won his first match-up against Lewis Worden but was defeated on a holeshot by Greg Anderson in the next round. Teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. met the same fate with his own holeshot loss in round two against Erica-Enders Stevens.
The elder Johnson, who tunes the HEMI® engines for both Mopar team entries still felt that there are some positive to come away despite the losses.
“We had low e.t. of both rounds, so at least we didn’t get out run,” said Johnson. “We didn’t execute as well as we would have liked with the driving, but we still showed we have the power. You’ve got to remain positive in this class.”
The good news for the championship battle is that the points leader Mike Edwards also saw his day cut short after being upset in the second round by the eventual title winner Rodger Brogden, who in only his second NHRA final round appearance beat Erica Enders-Stevens by just 0.002 seconds to score his very first career Pro Stock victory.
The HEMI-powered entries of Vincent Nobile and V. Gaines both faltered in the first round and are now seventh and tenth in the rankings.
In Funny Car, after Don Schumacher Racing’s Jack Beckman qualified his Mopar second, setting a track-record speed in the interim, and teammate Hagan was seeded third in his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” entry, the elimination rounds held a few surprises. Beckman, along with Ron Capps and Johnny Gray all saw their Dodge Charger R/T eliminated in the first round of action with mechanical issues, while Hagan fell in the second. It was the first time in 31 events that a Mopar Funny Car entry did not reach the semifinals.
The good news is that despite the setbacks, the Funny Car points battle remains close and all four Mopars remain in the top-five.
Mopar teams now get set to take on the concrete challenge that awaits them at the inaugural Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals next weekend in Epping, New Hampshire, just north of Boston, on June 20-23.