Coughlin Gives Dodge Dart Top Billing in Qualifying for NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas
Coughlin earns new Dodge Dart its first Pro Stock No.1 qualifier position at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Coughlin was highest finishing Mopar in the Pro Stock edition of the K&N Horsepower Challenge bonus race-within-a-race
New Dodge Dart now has a win and a pole position in its first two events
DSR Funny Car driver Johnson paces the Dodge Charger R/T entries with a third place spot on eliminations ladder
Hagan Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T was fastest in first three sessions but drops to fifth in final qualifying
Las Vegas (Saturday, March 29) – Mopar driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. put the brand new Dodge Dart atop the Pro Stock elimination ladder at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for Sunday’s SummitRacing.com National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals event. It is his 20th career No.1 qualifier position but the first of the 2014 season and a very first for the Dodge Dart which marked its debut at the previous event—the Gatornationals— with a title victory by Mopar teammate Allen Johnson. The new Dodge Dart now has both a win and a No.1 qualifier in its first two events.
The JEGS.com HEMI-powered machine earned the pole position with a low elapsed time pass of 6.625 seconds (208.78 mph) in the Friday’s second qualifying run, a time that held up in the final two sessions.
“We’re really proud to hold on to the No. 1 position because it really shows quite a bit about our team,” said Coughlin who has five wins at the Las Vegas track and is looking for post his first win of the season on Sunday. “We’ve been hustling a lot the last month and a half, getting the new cars ready and starting the new season. We’ve had a great start to the new year with Allen (Johnson) winning two of the first three races and we had a great ride today.
“We were really happy with the results and the performance of the car so we’ll tuck that in our hat and get ready for tomorrow,” added Coughlin who will have Mark Wolf as his opponent in the first round of eliminations. “We’re really happy with the cars. Both Allen’s and mine have run really well, and to be No. 1 is great.”
While Mopar teams used the two Saturday qualifying sessions to prepare their rides for eliminations, much of the focus was initially centered on the yearly race-within-a race bonus event called the K&N Horsepower Challenge. All three Mopar Pro Stock drivers were part of the eight-racer field eight battling for a lucrative payday in the challenge with the winner taking home $50,000, and the runner-up earning $10,000.
Coughlin, a three-time winner of the bonus event, was the sole Mopar to make it out the first round with a win over Vincent Nobile who defaulted on his start. The JEGS.com Mopar driver went on to face Erica Enders-Stevens, but while he had the lower elapsed time of 6.642 seconds (208.88 mph) he fell short by nine thousands of a second—beaten on a holeshot by the eventual winner of the K&N Horsepower Challenge.
Allen Johnson, No.1 seed for the challenge, saw his hope for a repeat of last year’s win come to an end with a first round holeshot loss to Dave Connolly, who was voted into the competition by a fan vote. Connolly (6.648 sec / 208.07 mph) got a better start with 0.010-second reaction time to Johnson’s 0.029 (6.643 /208.23) to eliminate the “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart from earning the lucrative jackpot for a third time. For Sunday’s eliminations, the defending winner of the national event qualified sixth (6.632/208.94) and will have Steve Kent in the lane next to him for the opening round.
Also eliminated from the challenge early was fellow Mopar driver V. Gaines (6.657 / 208.33) by Enders-Stevens (6.642 / 208.42). The HEMI-powered driver, who already has two runner-up performances this year in the Dodge Avenger to put him second in the Pro Stock standings, ended up 10th with his best qualifying run of 6.657 sec / 209.07mph and will see Shane Gray in the first round.
In Funny Car action, Matt Hagan and his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T led the charge in the first three qualifying sessions, setting both low e.t. and top speed in the each one, with a best pass of 4.046 sec. (318.17 mph) to keep him atop the score sheets until his final run. Dislodged from the provisional pole position by opponent Courtney Force, who did it by setting both ends of the track record with a 4.006-second, 325.37 mph on her final pass, Hagan never got a chance to better his effort after hazing the tires. He ended up fifth overall and will see Alexis DeJoria in Round 1 of eliminations.
It was Tommy Johnson Jr. who ended up pacing the Don Schumacher Racing quartet of Dodge Charger R/T entries with his final pass of 4.023 (317.87 mph) putting him third on the ladder to face his teammate Jack Beckman (4.115 / 310.13) who was 14th overall. Ron Capps put his HEMI-powered machine sixth with his best qualifying effort, posting an e.t. of 4.052 sec. (315.34 mph), to be matched up with Tim Wilkerson in the opening round.