Johnson, Beckman lead Mopar Contingent in Qualifying at Reading NHRA Nationals
· Johnson is top Mopar qualifier at 29th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals with second place Pro Stock qualifying effort
· Coughlin and Johnson, second and fourth in championship standings heading into elimination rounds on Sunday
· Defending Funny Car Champ Beckman qualifies his Mopar Dodge Charger R/T third at Maple Grove Raceway
· Hagan puts his Mopar fourth quickest in qualifying but cedes the championship lead to No.1 qualifier Force by just 5 points
· Coughlin fourth and V. Gaines rounds out Pro Stock top-five in Pro Stock qualifying
Reading, Pa (October 5, 2013) – Qualifying for the 29th annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals helped mix things up a bit in the championship standings for two Mopar drivers heading into Sunday’s elimination round at Maple Grove Raceway. Defending Pro Stock champion Allen Johnson was the best of the Mopars posting the second lowest elapsed time run in qualifying and earned enough bonus points to jump two spots into fourth place in the points battle. Looking to defend his own world title, Jack Beckman paced the Dodge Chargers with a third place seeding on the eliminations ladder while his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan ran consistently to qualify fourth but was nudged out of his top spot in the championship standings with just three playoff eliminations left in the “Countdown to the Championship”.
After earning the provisional pole on Friday, Johnson’s Mopar Express Lane Dodge earned more bonus points for running the second and third best times in both Saturday sessions and lowering his e.t. to 6.597 seconds (210.34 mph) to place second to Jason Line who took the No. 1 qualifier spot with a 6.573 sec (210.70 mph) pass in the final session.
“I feel like we had a really good car for all four sessions and gained a few little points on a few people,” said Johnson who moves to the fourth spot in the championship fight from sixth after the Midwest Nationals. “Our game plan is good. Our car is good. Team is confident. We just have to go out there tomorrow and get a break or two and try to win it. Some big match ups in the first round to make the second even more interesting. It’s going to be fun and a knock down drag out.”
He will face Greg Stanfield as his first round opponent.
Mopar teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr., who sits second in the points battle to Mike Edwards, had a great final qualifying run (6.581 / 209.95) with his quickest pass of the weekend straight down the lane for second place in that session to put him fourth overall.
“We’re real happy with it. We were sixth and then fourth and then sixth and then second for the (final) session and qualified No. 4,” said Coughlin who will stage his Jegs.com Mopar against Larry Morgan in the first round of eliminations. “That’s a solid effort. Looking at the top seven or eight cars, they’re all within a hundredth of a second. It’s really just a matter of being on the good end of all the efficiencies. Fortunately, we’re in a really good spot and I feel really good about the car. I feel good behind the wheel. It’s time for game day.
The HEMI-powered Dodge of V. Gaines also had a strong showing, qualifying fifth with his 6.586-second (210.60 mph) effort, while Vincent Nobile qualified his Mopar in the top half of the eliminations ladder with a 6.589 sec (209.95 mph) pass for the eighth spot.
There was also some movement atop the Funny Car championship standing as the No. 1 qualifier, John Force, bumped the “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” machine out of the lead that Hagan had held since his title win at Englishtown, N.J., in June. Force was quickest in three of four sessions and his Friday night qualifying run of 3.987 seconds and track record speed of 323.50 mph gave the 15-time NHRA champ the extra points needed to unseat Hagan. The Mopar driver did however take solace in having consistent runs and earning a point for the third quickest pass in the final qualifying session. He’ll face Tony Pedregon in the first round.
“We’ve been very solid all weekend,” said Hagan who hopes to add to the four wins and eight final round appearances he’s had this season to retake the lead in the points fight. “The car has been down the racetrack every lap. Obviously we earned up a few points in qualifying and that’s what we are here to do.”
DSR teammate Beckman, who is currently third in the championship battle without having posted a win yet this year, lead the team’s qualifying efforts with a third place showing based on his 4.034-second (318.99 mph) pass Friday evening at the Reading, Pa., drag track, but also was second quickest with a 4.099-second (312.42 mph) run in the final session. For a third consecutive event, Beckman’s first round rival will be Alexis DeJoria.
Johnny Gray had a solid qualifying effort that saw him improving his time aboard his Alex’s Lemonade Stand Dodge Charger R/T with each pass to set the second quickest run of the third session (4.081 / 313.88) The Mopar driver will start fifth and match up against his teammate Ron Capps, who had some disappointing qualifying runs that saw him seeded 12th for the opening round.