Beckman Tops Team Mopar Effort with Runner-Up Finish at St. Louis
Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger driver and defending Pro Stock champion Allen Johnson falls in the quarterfinals but remains within striking distance of a repeat title
Madison, Ill. (Sunday, September 29, 2013) – Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver “Fast” Jack Beckman muscled his Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T NHRA Funny Car to a runner-up showing on Sunday at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals in suburban St. Louis, advancing to his third final of the year. The defending Funny Car king took a giant step towards recapturing his crown, moving to third in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship Funny Car standings, and also brightened up an otherwise tough outing for the Team Mopar contingent at Gateway Motorsports Park.
The No. 8 seed heading into Sunday, Beckman bested Alexis DeJoria to start eliminations, posting a 4.079-second elapsed time at 312.78 mph to DeJoria’s 4.110/310.70. Next up for Beckman was an all-Mopar second-round showdown with his DSR teammate, pole-sitter and Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Charger R/T driver, Matt Hagan, who knocked out No. 16 Daniel Wilkerson in the first round. Beckman triumphed in the HEMI vs. HEMI grudge match, notching a 4.088/308.64 to Hagan’s slower 4.187/304.53.
In a wild semifinals battle against Del Worsham, in which both racers struck the tires, Beckman was able to get back in the gas of his Dodge Charger R/T first, taking out his foe thanks to a 4.546/253.47 run. Beckman lined up against John Force in the final in search of his first win of the season and was first off the line, but Force had a little more at the top end. Beckman’s 4.127/309.84 was solid but short of Force’s winning 4.097/310.13 pass.
“The problem is we keep opening the door wide open for ourselves and then we fail to take full advantage of it,” said Beckman after the final. “We have to win a race if we are going to win the championship. We are probably going to have to win two of the last three races. I guess the upside is we have a car that can do it.”
“Fast” Jack’s Mopar-powered DSR teammate Ron Capps exited in the second round against Force, his 4.108/308.99 mark not enough to overcome Force’s quicker 4.095/312.21 pass. No. 12 qualifier and DSR Dodge Charger R/T racer Johnny Gray came out on the losing end of a first-round match with Worsham, and Jeff Arend, who was unable to drive his Dodge past Robert Hight, also was unable to advance past the opening round.
JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger pilot and No. 3 qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr. was dealt a hard-luck second-round defeat at St. Louis. After posting a 6.541/211.39 run to advance in round one against Greg Stanfield, who drew a red-light foul after leaving too early, Coughlin squared off against Greg Anderson in a fight of past Pro Stock champs. Coughlin recorded a solid .039 reaction time paired with a 6.539/210.57 pass, but Anderson’s near-perfect .005 reaction off the starting line and 6.571/210.47 run provided him the margin for the upset holeshot win. Despite the quicker-than-desired exit, Coughlin is second in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship Pro Stock playoffs standings, just 10 points behind leader Mike Edwards.
The top qualifier for the third time this year in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger, Allen Johnson knocked off Larry Morgan to open the day on the strength of a 6.527/212.03 pass to Morgan’s 6.566/209.98, recording the second-quickest pass of the session. In a quarterfinals race with Rickie Jones, Johnson came out on the wrong end of an excruciatingly tight contest, coming up short by a one-inch margin, or three ten-thousandths of a second on the timing lights. Johnson reacted first off the line with a .037 time to Jones’ slower .043, but A.J.’s 6.543/211.86 effort wasn’t enough to best the 6.537/211.83 laid down by Jones.
Johnson fell one spot to sixth in the Countdown standings, but in the wide open chase for the Pro Stock title he will leave St. Louis closer to the leader than when he entered. Coming into the event Johnson was 74 points behind first, but is now just 69 points behind new leader Edwards.
“We’re going to leave here in not much worse condition than how we came in, but the races are dwindling down,” said Johnson, the defending Pro Stock series champion. “The biggest thing is that we have a really good car, a really good engine package. Losing close races is part of racing, but we’ll leave here with a strong the car. The engine program’s really good – we were the quickest car in about 75 percent of the runs here this weekend. We head to Reading very upbeat.”
No. 2 qualifier V. Gaines was also the victim of a holeshot loss, falling in the first-round to fellow Mopar-powered Pro Stocker Matt Hartford, who was unable to get by Edwards in the quarterfinals. Vincent Nobile, a member of the J&J Racing trio that includes Johnson and Coughlin, lost to Anderson in the opening round, and Dodge Avenger driver Deric Kramer met his match in round one versus event winner Erica Enders-Stevens.