Mopar’s Coughlin and Johnson Hoping to Add a Few More Memorable Moments in Final Battle for 2013 NHRA Championship
· Mopar battling for a series championship and event wins at 49th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals this weekend
· Pro Stock points leader Coughlin keeps championship in his sights
· Johnson is defending title winner at NHRA Finals and not ready to give up on championship hopes
· Johnson and Coughlin recount their most memorable moments of 2013
Pomona, Calif. (Nov 8, 2013) – With the NHRA Pro Stock World Championship to be decided on Sunday at the 49th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, the JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. is still the points leader with two of four qualifying sessions complete, but he has some tough competitors right on his rear bumper, including teammate Allen Johnson, all fighting for that crown and the final title win of the year.
Following Pro Stock qualifying on Thursday, Coughlin was listed third with a 6.554/210.73 pass, behind his closest title contenders, provisional pole-sitter Mike Edwards and Jason Line, who along with Coughlin collected important qualifying bonus points. Coughlin earned two additional “little points” on Friday with a 6.552/210.77 run to move up to the No. 2 spot, behind Edwards. Johnson was No. 4 with a 6.558/210.70 effort on Thursday and remained fourth with a 6.556/211.53 mark on Friday. He did earn one bonus point for setting the third quickest time in the second session.
Johnson, the defending series champ, faces a significant deficit in his bid to catch teammate and points leader Coughlin, but isn’t about to quit in his bid for a repeat in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger.
“I’m the eternal optimist and I still haven’t quite given up hope on the title,” said Johnson, who trails by 95 points with two qualifying sessions left before the elimination rounds. “Going into Thursday, I was determined to try to get all four three-point bonuses in qualifying and try to out-qualify Jeggie [Coughlin] by two positions. He could always go out early and I could win the race and beat him by a point. Now, after two qualifying sessions, it would be a bit more difficult, but looking at Sunday the weather may turn cool and we may just set a record, so I’m not ready to give it up just yet.”
Coughlin for his part doesn’t want to do the math, but is keeping the championship in his sights. He simply has his focus on the task at hand.
“I think we’ve got a great car but it’s all about keeping everything together, continuing to make good calls in the pits and then getting out there and driving sensibly,” said Coughlin, who has the experience of four Pro Stock championships under his seat belt. “I like the way I feel behind the wheel. We have a lot of good momentum going and after two runs, moving up a spot certainly didn’t hurt us a bit. I’m looking forward to Q3 [the third qualifying session] as it will likely be our fastest session of the four. The air will be better, the track will be tighter, and we’ll be a little more aggressive with it, so elapsed times should fall. We’ll look to improve.”
As the finish line for the Mello Yello Drag Racing season approaches quickly, Johnson and Coughlin also took a moment to reflect on some of their memorable moments from the past year. For Johnson, among his favorite highlights was carrying the No. 1 on his Mopar throughout the season and his performance at Bandimere Speedway with a fourth consecutive pole position and fifth overall title at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals.
“Of course, winning in Denver again was probably the most memorable moment this season, and coming out to the first race of the year as a Champion here in Pomona was pretty awesome,” said Johnson. The Greeneville, Tenn., native was also very proud about joining forces with Coughlin and Vincent Nobile, with Roy Johnson tuning their HEMI engines and sweeping the NHRA Western Swing with all three drivers. The trio has, to date, scored a total of 11 wins and six No. 1 qualifier positions. “I think we won close to half the races between the three of us and that’s an awesome feeling for the entire team,” said Johnson. “We’ve got something special to keep working with and I think we can come right back out next season and be the same team again.”
For Coughlin, partnering with Johnson not only has paid dividends on the track but has added some memorable and fun moments as well. “Going into the final elimination against Allen [Johnson] at Gainesville,” remembers Coughlin with a smile. “I had to pick my heart up off the ground when, after I lost a motor in the semifinals, AJ looked at me seriously and said we were all out of engines. All I could say was [expletive deleted]. Obviously, he was just kidding, but he really got me. That moment really stands out and set a positive and fun tone for the rest of the year. Also, winning the first race of the Countdown in Charlotte felt fantastic and helped put us in the position we are today to fight for the championship, and capturing the pole at the inaugural event at New Hampshire was a fun highlight.”
In other Mopar Pro Stock qualifying, V. Gaines (6.562/211.36), runner-up at the recent Vegas race, had his Pro Stock Dodge ranked sixth after Friday qualifying. Johnson and Coughlin’s J&J Racing teammate, Vincent Nobile (6.583/210.37) clocked in at 10th, while Matt Hartford (6.589/210.64) was 12th in his Dodge. Deric Kramer (6.616/209.04), listed 17th, rounded out the Mopar Pro Stock contingent.
In NHRA Funny Car qualifying the Mopar HEMI-powered Dodge Charger R/T of Jack Beckman sat atop the ladder on Thursday, thanks to a 4.077/309.20 run. Unfortunately, Beckman was unable to hold the top position after smoking the tires in his Friday qualifying attempt, falling to eighth on the provisional starting grid. However, Beckman’s Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Magneti Marelli Quality Auto Parts Offered by Mopar Dodge Charger R/T driver Matt Hagan, was able to make a move from sixth to the No. 4 position with a 4.043-second elapsed time, paired with a 319.52 mph, the top speed of the day.
California native Jeff Arend was ninth in his Charger, posting a 4.080/308.43. The DSR duo of Johnny Gray and Ron Capps were unable to get their Mopar-fueled Dodge Chargers down the drag strip under full power and were listed 11th and 14th, respectively, heading into the final two qualifying sessions on Saturday. Gary Densham was No. 12 in his Charger, with Grant Downing 17th in his HEMI-powered Funny Car.