Mopar Racing–Capps Surges to Pole, Potential NHRA National Record at 51st annual Auto Club NHRA Finals

Capps Surges to Pole, Potential NHRA National Record at 51st annual Auto Club NHRA Finals
Kevin Helms Drives Mopar Challenger Drag Pak to NHRA Stock Eliminator World Championship

Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) and 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T ready for championship runs in the final national race elimination rounds of the 2015 NHRA season at Auto Club Raceway
Ron Capps and his DSR 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car earn No.1 Qualifier honors with a track record 3.886-second pass
Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T driver Matt Hagan qualifies fourth and resets the track speed record at 330.15 mph
No. 2 qualifier Jack Beckman enters Sunday 36 points out of lead, also with chance to set NHRA National record
Race day will feature three-way battle by top-three qualifiers to set or back up record runs and earn 20 extra points for national record and championship hopes
Sportsman racer Kevin Helms wins NHRA Stock Eliminator World Championship with 2010 Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak owned by Jeff Teuton
Mopar Drag Pak becomes the first modern-day package car to win the Stock Eliminator World Championship
Allen Johnson will start the final race day of the season aboard the “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart from the 11th place on the eliminations ladder

Pomona, California (Nov. 14, 2015) – The final qualifying session of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello Series season is complete and Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver Ron Capps ended it in dramatic fashion, racing his Mopar-powered 2015 Dodge Charger R/T to the No.1 qualifier position at the NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona and a potential NHRA National record with a 3.886-second elapsed time at 326.87 miles per hour. Capps will need to back up the run tomorrow to earn the 20 additional bonus points.

The pole is the first of the season for Capps, 17th of his career and the 13th No. 1 qualifier spot pole of the season for the 2015 Dodge Charger R/T body.

Capps was ranked third heading into the final session with a best run of 3.937 seconds at 325.69 miles per hour. Running in the last pair of Q4, Capps lit up the night and fired up the crowd with his track record 3.886 ET, which would best the current NHRA National record elapsed time of 3.897, held by his DSR Dodge teammate Jack Beckman, if Capps can back up the run with another pass within one percent of his Saturday night mark. But the most pressing challenge for Capps, the longest-serving member of the Mopar Dodge DSR camp, will be to get past first round foe Jeff Arend.

“What an end to qualifying for the season, and to be at Pomona at night and finish with a run like that,” said Capps, who earned seven bonus points in qualifying. Mathematically eliminated from the championship chase, Capps is aiming to end his season with record-setting win. “I was in the car behind the wall in the staging lanes and couldn’t see the run, but when I heard Jack and Del (Worsham) ran 3.89s, I knew (Crew Chief Rahn) Tobler was going to go after it. He told me to do whatever I could to get it to the finish line because it was going to be a handful and it was. It was probably the wildest ride I’ve ever had.”

Battling for the NHRA Funny Car championship from his second place position in the standings, and just 36 points from the lead, is Jack Beckman, who laid down a final qualifying lap just prior to Capps to first reset the track record elapsed time to 3.890 seconds at 327.90 miles per hour. Beckman earned four bonus points in qualifying and also has a chance to better the national record he set at the NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in October if he can back up his mark, and Capps is unable to back up his own potential record-setting pass (in addition, points leader Del Worsham also can earn the record if he can back up his 3.896 run).

Beckman will start No. 2 and line up his Infinite Hero Mopar Dodge Charger R/T against Chad Head to begin Sunday eliminations — with leader Worsham on Beckman’s side of the ladder.

“I have never been so happy to be bumped from No. 1 to No. 2,” said Beckman, who is seeking his second career NHRA Funny Car World Championship on Sunday. “What happened there is it changed the entire ladder scenario for tomorrow. By being bumped down to second with Ron Capps’ run, and knocking Del down to third, Del and I are no longer on opposite sides of the ladder. Which would at best give us a chance to make up one round on him if we ran in the final. Now, we are on the same side of the ladder; if we meet them, beat them and win the race we pick up two rounds.

“However, the national record is out there and Del, us and Capps have all run quicker than it and just need a backup to set it. It will only go to the team who maintains it at the end of the day tomorrow and it could go back and forth few times with the weather forecast. It’s an unbelievable time to be a fan of nitro Funny Car. I really like the position that we are in. It’s nerve racking because we aren’t leading the points, we have to be two rounds better than another car to capture the championship. And this is the scenario where it’s fourth down, the clock has almost run out and you’re going to get the ball again and you have to be perfect. And I think we can be perfect.”

The Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T of Matt Hagan ended up fourth on the eliminations ladder with his final qualifying lap at 3.910 seconds and also reset the track record speed to 330.15 mph from Friday’s run at 329.50 mph.

“We went down the racetrack every lap in the 3’s, we ran 330 mph and we hold the fastest four runs in history and that’s pretty cool,” said Hagan, who set the national speed record earlier in the Countdown at the St. Louis event with a 330.47 mph pass. “That says a lot for the power we’re making. Now we just have to get the ET’s on our side. The changes (crew Chief) Dickie (Venables) made in testing have definitely been for the better. The car is definitely more controllable. It’s responding to the changes he’s making and however this race turns out I’m looking forward to next year.”

Hagan is among the four drivers (along with Beckman, Capps and Worsham) who could set or back up a national elapsed time record on race day with a lap run in the 3.8 second range. Whoever might hold that mark at the end of the day could earn an extra 20 bonus points.

“It’s going to be cold tomorrow so I think they’ll be national records set, and I’d like to be the one setting it,” said Hagan who will see Dodge Charger pilot Paul Lee as his first round opponent. “You still have to make the run and it is race day. When you’re talking championships, round wins, you’re not always thinking national records. For us there’s not as much pressure, so maybe we will get after it and get a record this weekend.”

Tommy Johnson Jr. entered Q4 sitting on the pole with a chance to claim his second consecutive No. 1 spot, but was unable to better his 3.917 mark in the face of the potential record-setting onslaught unleashed by his fellow drivers. Johnson, who at 96 points back is one of only three drivers still alive in the Funny Car championship battle, will fight out of the fifth spot tomorrow in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T against another Mopar-powered driver, Gary Densham.

“Everything is possible until it isn’t,” said Johnson Jr., who finished third in the championship in 2014. “We have to win tomorrow no matter what, and we are going to do our best and see what happens. We have to do our part, but it isn’t completely up to our team. The other teams ahead of us have to falter. If they don’t, our focus doesn’t change. We still want to win the race.”

Allen Johnson kicked off the final day of 2015 NHRA Pro Stock qualifying by recording a 6.535-second elapsed time run paired with a 211.86 mph speed, and headed into the last session in the 10th position, based on his 6.528/212.06 qualifying effort on Friday afternoon. The “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart driver was unable to improve in Q4 with a 6.553/210.97. The 20-year Team Mopar veteran will begin the final race day of the season from the 11th spot against Jonathan Gray.

“We made that same run last night and it was a good run and close to the top five cars before went left and close to the wall but thought it was quick enough that we could build on that,” said Johnson, who will aim for his second win of the season and second career at the NHRA Finals tomorrow. “Last night’s run was quick enough that we could build on it and be within a hundredth of the fastest car for final qualifying but it didn’t quite work out that way for us on the final lap. We’re looking at what we did today and will go back a couple of steps and try to get back to last night’s run, because that racked up pretty good. We’ll change engines and tires and search for the perfect combination. That’s our plan going into race day.”

Richie Stevens Jr. (No. 13, 6.560), filling in nicely in Deric Kramer’s Dodge Dart, will take on Drew Skillman in the opening round of eliminations. V. Gaines (No. 15, 6.570) came through in the clutch, punching his ticket for Sunday eliminations on his final qualifying attempt. The Mopar-powered veteran will matchup with 2015 NHRA Pro Stock champ Erica Enders in round one on Sunday.

Mopar Drag Pak Driver Helms Seizes Historic NHRA Stock Eliminator Crown

Kevin Helms, driving a 426 Gen III HEMI-powered 2010 Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak for owner Jeff Teuton, raced himself and Mopar into the record books at the NHRA Finals on Saturday, earning the 2015 NHRA Stock Eliminator World Championship. With the title, the Mopar Drag Pak becomes the first modern-era package car — of any manufacturer — to win the overall Stock Eliminator World Championship.

A Stock Eliminator class win at the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, in March was key to Helms’ championship march. He locked up the world title when the only driver remaining that could challenge for the crown, Jimmy DeFrank, exited in round three of Stock eliminations at the NHRA Finals, while Helms advanced to the fourth round.

The Schriever, Louisiana, native also earned the Tom Hoover Mopar Sportsman Award, which recognizes the outstanding sportsman racer who accumulated the most points over a full season while competing in Stock or Super Stock. The award is named in honor of legendary racer and engineer Tom Hoover, acknowledged as the father of the 426 Gen II HEMI engine, who passed away earlier this year. The annual winner receives a check for $4,260, a custom trophy and a custom jacket.

The Stock Eliminator World Championship also marks the second straight for Mopar, following the 2014 crown Austin Williams claimed in his Mopar-fueled 1972 Plymouth Duster.

“I’m really happy,” said Helms, now a four-time NHRA Stock Eliminator World Champ. “Gainesville was a huge win for us, and it really set the tone for the whole year. We wound up going 20-1 in the first four races. I knew people would keep coming up the ladder, and they did, but we got hot again at the end of the year.”

On taking the Mopar Drag Pak to the first Stock Eliminator World Championship by a modern-era package car, Teuton said, “We are very proud — Jeff Teuton, Southland Dodge, John Morris, the whole team. We knew that chip was on the table and we couldn’t have been prouder to pull off that deal.”

The crown adds to a growing list of accolades for the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak. Mopar’s modern day package car, introduced in 2009, was the first naturally aspirated package car to crack the eight-second barrier. Teuton himself, Helms’ team owner, made history in a Drag Pak in 2011, claiming the first modern-era package car win in the Stock Eliminator class at the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.