Mopar Harvests Both Positives and Negatives in Qualifying at NHRA New England Nationals
· Mopar teammates Coughlin and Johnson will face each other in first round match up at 2nd Annual NHRA New England Nationals
· Coughlin is top Mopar with fifth place spot on eliminations ladder after setting New England Dragway speed record in both Friday Pro Stock qualifying sessions
· Tommy Johnson Jr leads DSR Funny Car Mopar entries as No.4 qualifier
Epping, New Hampshire (Saturday, June 20) – It was a good news and bad news kind of day for the Mopar entries at New England Dragway after four qualifying sessions were completed to set the eliminations ladder for Sunday’s 2nd Annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) New England Nationals.
The good news for Mopar driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. was that he left his mark at New England Dragway by setting the track record for speed in both Friday Pro Stock sessions in the JEGS.com Dodge Dart and added two bonus points to his tally for running second quickest in the first qualifying session. His best 6.497 elapsed time under the lights on Friday at a track record 214.25 mph also put him fifth on the eliminations ladder. Another positive is that Coughlin has been riding a hot streak with two wins, a runner-up and a semifinal in the four events leading up to this weekend for a 13-2 round-win record in that span.
It was a tougher qualifying effort for defending Pro Stock title winner, Allen Johnson, who after posting an elapsed time run of 6.538 sec (212.79 mph) for his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart’s first lap on Friday for a provisional fifth place spot had a spark plug issue and lost traction on his next two attempts. The good news is that Johnson recovered in the final session to run his quickest and fastest lap with a 6.528-second (213.40 mph) e.t. but it was only good enough to give him the 12th spot in qualifying. The bad news is that means he’ll face his HEMI-powered teammate Coughlin as his first round opponent in Pro Stock eliminations.
It has been either feast or famine for Johnson this season. The good news is he has had four final round appearances this season and three of them were wins. The bad news is he has also had five first-round losses, one of which was to his teammate in Atlanta where Coughlin’s hot streak started last month.
“The only time you really want to face your teammate is in the final round and that happened in Topeka with my last win not too long ago,” Johnson said. “Jeggie (Coughlin Jr.)’s been on a roll here lately but I’m not ready to give up so easy and lose a third first round in a row. Those really hurt our points and we need to go rounds and play a bit of catch up on Erica (Enders-Stevens) who has a good lead on Jeg and me right now. I’m defending winner here and I’m not ready to give that title up just yet.”
Fellow HEMI-powered Dodge Dart driver V. Gaines made some good gains through qualifying, posting the third quickest time of the third session to improve his e.t. to 6.525 second (213.23 mph) which seeded him 11th behind pole winner Shane Gray. Gaines will face Vincent Nobile in the first round of Pro Stock eliminations.
Riding the positive momentum from last week’s Funny Car title win at the Thunder Valley Nationals title winner, Don Schumacher Racing’s Tommy Johnson Jr. put his Dodge Charger R/T fourth on the final qualifying results sheets with his 4.033-second e.t. at 318 mph and will have Bob Tasca III for his first round match-up.
In contrast, DSR teammate Jack Beckman’s ride has been more like a roller coaster of good and bad results. While he didn’t advance past a second round until the sixth national event this season and has five first round losses, he has more recently had a runner-up finish at Houston and semifinal at Englishtown and is looking to go rounds on Sunday.
“There is a lot of light at the end of the tunnel,” said Beckman who was third quickest in final qualifying session to earn a bonus point and sits in the No.6 spot and will meet Del Worsham as his first round opponent. “We’ve run well. We’ve already been to a final round. But, until you close the deal and win a race, you can’t call the season successful. Tommy Johnson was the first of the four DSR Funny Cars to do that this year and I’m hoping that opens up the flood gates for the rest of us.”
Also making some positive gains after a rough stretch, Matt Hagan added four valuable bonus points with his efforts in posting the second quickest laps in both the first and third qualifying sessions. The DSR Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T had a best elapsed time pass of 4.073 seconds to give Hagan an eighth place position on the eliminations ladder. He’ll face ninth seeded driver and 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force in the first round.
“It’s a big first round, that’s for sure,” said Hagan who finished runner-up to Force in the 2014 NHRA championship battle and has one round-win and two losses to him this season. “But I won’t lie, I love it. It’s two good race teams battling it out in the first round. That should be a final round match-up, for sure, but we’re ready to get after it.”