Mopar Racing–Track Record Run and Provisional No.1 Spot for Tommy Johnson Jr. and 2015 Dodge Charger R/T at 51st annual Auto Club NHRA Finals

Track Record Run and Provisional No.1 Spot for Tommy Johnson Jr. and 2015 Dodge Charger R/T at 51st annual Auto Club NHRA Finals

Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) and 2015 Dodge Charger R/T vying for the Funny Car world title in the final national event weekend of the 2015 NHRA season at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona
DSR HEMI-powered 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars take top three provisional spots led by Tommy Johnson Jr. with a track record run
Matt Hagan drives his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to the provisional second place spot and sets the track speed record at 329.50 mph
Top-five qualifying spot for Jack Beckman, who sits second in the championship hunt
Allen Johnson provisionally ninth in “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart with special “Thank You” graphics to celebrate his 20th season of racing in Pro Stock class

Pomona, California (Nov. 13, 2015) – With a world championship title still within reach for two Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) drivers, putting one of their 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars in the pole position and all of the team’s four Mopars in the top-five for the final race weekend of the 2015 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello Series season at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona is a good start. DSR teammates Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. sit second and third, respectively, in the “Countdown to the Championship” playoff standings, and while both had good qualifying runs, it was Johnson who closed out Friday’s session with a track record pass and the provisional No.1 qualifier position.

With a 97 point deficit to the leader heading into the weekend, Johnson Jr. is working towards adding a third win to his season tally by advancing to his eighth final round appearance to even have a chance for his first Funny Car championship. At the very least, the Make-A-Wish Mopar driver is looking to equal or improve on last year’s career best third-place finish in points. While the first session didn’t go as he had hoped when he lost traction early, Johnson Jr. came back strong on his second attempt with a stout 3.917-second (324.67 miles per hour) pass to set the track elapsed time record and put him in the provisional top spot.

“That pumped me up,” said Johnson Jr., who collected three all-important bonus points for his efforts. “We were trying to run (like) that the first run, but the track wouldn’t hold it. I’m really happy for the guys. There is a slim chance we can pull this off, but first you have to go out and run well, then try to set a record and win a race, and then worry about what the other guys are doing. We’re going to do everything we can to put ourselves in a good position, and that’s a really good start.”

DSR teammate Matt Hagan took his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T to the fourth spot with his first run of 3.995 seconds at 323.50 mph and then improved on it with his second lap by posting an elapsed time of 3.923 seconds at a track record speed of 329.50 mph to take the provisional second place spot on the eliminations ladder.

Hagan came into the weekend fifth in points with four national title wins and two runner-up finishes this season along with four No. 1 qualifier positions. His new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T also recorded the quickest pass in Funny Car history with an elapsed time of 3.879 seconds in eliminations at the Nationals in Brainerd. While Hagan was mathematically eliminated from defending his 2014 Funny Car championship at the previous event in Las Vegas, he’s looking to take his Mopar to the winners circle at the NHRA finals for a fourth time after title wins in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

“We’ve had a lot of highlights this year,” said Hagan. “There’s absolutely no reason to be disappointed in our season. We’ve got a great group of guys and had a lot of success. We’ve made two runs in the 3.8-second range, and no one can take those runs away from us. For everyone at Mopar, Rocky Boots, Pennzoil, all of our great partners, we’d like to get one more trophy for them to close out this season.”

Rounding out the top-three after the first two sessions was Ron Capps, who has qualified his 2015 Dodge Charger R/T in the top-five for each of the five Countdown events so far and made his way into the semifinals at the last four. He is fourth in the championship standings with two wins on the year and technically remains in contention with a 140 point deficit. After taking his HEMI-powered ride for a track record elapsed time run of 3.951 seconds at 322.04 mph in the first session (before Johnson Jr. reset it in the second session) to earn three all-important points, he bested that run on his second lap with a 3.937/325.69 to end up third.

In the provisional fifth qualifying position is Beckman, who came into the final weekend second in the standings and just 38 markers behind points leader Del Worsham. The 2012 Funny Car champ helped his drive for a second world title by taking the Infinite Hero 2015 Dodge Charger R/T for the second quickest pass of the opening session with a 3.964-second pass at 319.29 mph to gain two valuable points. Beckman, who has a career and best-in-class seven wins this season, followed up that effort by putting up a 3.964/296.70 run on the board after shutting off early to put him fifth after two sessions.

Worsham, meanwhile, qualified seventh with a 3.974/324.05 pass.

A total of seven Mopar-powered Funny Cars are looking to qualify for the final event of the season. In addition to the four DSR entries, Gary Densham is in the tenth spot with his 2010 Dodge Charger R/T (4.052/308.57), while John Hale has his 2015 Dodge Charger R/T in 13th (4.431/2100.14) and Paul Lee in a 2012 Dodge Charger (4.503/268.44) is 14th.

In his first Pro Stock qualifying attempt on the final race weekend of 2015, Allen Johnson clicked off a 6.556/211.96 in his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart, putting him 11th on the charts. Johnson, carrying a special “Thank You” graphics wrap on his Dart in recognition of his 20 years behind the wheel of a Mopar-powered Pro Stock car, improved in the afternoon session on Friday, moving up two spots to the preliminary ninth position on the strength of a 6.528/212.06 pass.

“The first run, we just missed the set up entirely, but in the second run we really got after it,” said Johnson, who won this race in 2012, putting the cherry on top of the Pro Stock World Championship he also earned that year. “We were only two hundredth off the top car, and we about hit the wall, going to the left.

“We had at least a hundredth left. We’re in the ballpark. Tomorrow it’s supposed to get cooler, and maybe we can jump up in the top half and have lane choice in the first round (on Sunday). That’s our goal.”
Richie Stevens Jr. (or “Erica’s husband,” as the decal on his car window read, in reference to his wife and 2015 NHRA Pro Stock champ Erica Enders) filled in for Deric Kramer in his Dodge Dart. Stevens’ 6.561 in the second qualifying session placed him 13th and out of the top twelve, meaning he’ll head into the final two sessions needing to race his way into the Sunday field.

A pair of Dodge Dart pilots faces a similar situation as Stevens. V. Gaines recorded a 6.588 ET, ending the day No. 16. Alan Prusiensky was 17th after posting a quickest run of 6.631 in his Dodge Avenger.