Team Mopar in Hot Pursuit of NHRA Championship
· NHRA’s 2016 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship set to begin in Charlotte
· Nine Mopar-powered drag racers set to contend for season title across three professional categories
· Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Mopar Dodge Charger R/T driver Ron Capps enters Countdown as Funny Car points leader
· Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger pilot Matt Hagan, DSR teammates Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr. looking to win for Mopar
· DSR Mopar-powered Tony Schumacher, Leah Pritchett to race for Top Fuel trophy
· Team Mopar’s Erica Enders, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and Mopar-powered Allen Johnson in Pro Stock championship hunt
· Countdown to the Championship points reset
· Six-race 2016 Countdown to the Championship playoffs schedule
Auburn Hills, Mich. (September 13, 2016) – The powerful presence of Team Mopar in NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series has been recognized throughout the 2016 season as a slew of trophies have been earned across the first 18 races and HEMI® horsepower scored a fine collection of No. 1 qualifier awards. Now, on the eve of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, Mopar competitors are primed and ready to race for the big trophy, the NHRA world championship, in each of three professional categories.
The playoffs are made up of the final six races in the 24-race schedule, beginning with the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte and culminating at the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona. The top 10 drivers in each category compete for points in the final leg of the season, with point leaders crowned champion following the final race of the year.
All four of the Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car drivers will race for the championship: Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman, and Tommy Johnson Jr.
DSR Funny Car pilot Capps will be starting the Countdown to the Championship from the coveted No. 1 position. Capps, who was low qualifier four times, wheeled his Dodge Charger to a phenomenal five victories in eight final rounds during the regular season, securing the points lead early and holding on as he achieved a milestone – his 50th NHRA nitro victory – at the Norwest Nationals in Seattle this summer. One of the most popular drivers on the tour, Capps has finished second in the nation four times, most recently in 2012, and is gunning from a prime position for his first NHRA championship.
No. 3 seed Hagan, driving the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T, had his fair share of ups and downs early in the season but launches into the Countdown following an exceptional performance at the U.S. Nationals. At the biggest, most prestigious event on the NHRA tour, Hagan was No. 1 qualifier with the track record and won the event, knocking down his opponents methodically and with great power to claim the 21st Funny Car trophy of his career and third of the season in five final rounds. In 2016, Hagan reset both ends of the Funny Car national record with HEMI® power, putting a 3.822-second pass in the records books at the NHRA Nationals in Brainerd after securing the national record for speed at 335.57 mph in Topeka. Hagan, the 2011 and 2014 Funny Car world champion, has been the No. 1 qualifier five times this season.
The 2012 Funny Car champion, Jack Beckman, enters the Countdown to the Championship in the No. 5 spot with his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger, a car backed by philanthropist and businesswoman Terry Chandler. Chicago winner Beckman has a total of four final rounds on his scorecard for 2016, accompanied by four starts from the No. 1 position. Notably, the 23-time Funny Car national event victor won his 2012 championship title while competing under the Mopar banner as the No. 3 seed entering the Countdown. That same year, Capps was the top dog of the regular season.
Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car pilot Tommy Johnson Jr.’s campaign is also funded by Chandler, who tapped the driver to take over for her retiring brother, Johnny Gray, at the beginning of the 2014 season. Johnson has finished third in the points in each of the last two years (career best points finishes) and enters the Countdown to the Championship as the No. 7 seed. Now a 13-time NHRA nitro winner, Ottumwa, Iowa-native Johnson raced to victory in Bristol this season on Father’s Day following a runner-up at the New England Nationals in Epping. Of note, Hagan won the 2014 championship as the No. 7 seed.
Entering the Countdown to the Championship, Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Mopar-powered Top Fuel drivers Tony Schumacher and Leah Pritchett are qualified for the chase.
Schumacher, driver of the Mopar-powered U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster and the winningest driver in the history of the category, is starting the Countdown from the No. 4 position. In 2014, Schumacher won a record eighth Top Fuel world championship. His championship seasons were 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2014. So far this season, Schumacher has won twice in four final rounds and was No. 1 qualifier once. Austin, Texas-based Schumacher, a second-generation drag racer whose father, Don Schumacher is the team owner, has an astounding 82 national event wins in Top Fuel.
Pritchett, who missed one race this year, kept it exciting and did not secure her first top 10 finish and a chance to race for the championship until the very last event of the regular season the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis over Labor Day Weekend. The Mopar Top Fuel dragster driver won the second race of the year, the NHRA Nationals in Phoenix, and starts the Countdown as the No. 10 seed. Southern California-born Pritchett began her career in NHRA drag racing in the Jr. Drag Racing League at the age of 8 and worked her way up to the top.
Three HEMI®-fueled Pro Stock drivers will be competing for the 2016 Pro Stock championship: Allen Johnson, Erica Enders, and Jeg Coughlin Jr. – the same three competitors who have won each of the last four Pro Stock world titles.
The highest-ranked Mopar Pro Stock entry in the 2016 championship chase is Greeneville, Tennessee’s Johnson and his J&J Racing Dodge Dart. 2012 champion Johnson, starting from the No. 4 position, has claimed one win in three final rounds so far this year. The Mopar Mile-High Nationals winner finished the regular season with a runner-up at the venerable U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis to begin his charge for a second Pro Stock title. Johnson has a long and storied career as a Mopar campaigner with 474 national events under his belt and 27 trophies earned in 59 final rounds.
Reigning and back-to-back Pro Stock season titlist Erica Enders, driving the Mopar Performance Dodge Dart, enters the final stretch as the No. 9 seed. On the heels of two remarkable seasons that culminated in the highest honors and positioned Enders as the first female Pro Stock champion in the history of NHRA drag racing, the Houston native will be starting in her sixth playoffs field. Enders currently holds the Pro Stock national record for speed and is second on the all-time win list of professional female competitors.
Enders’ Elite Performance teammate, Jeg Coughlin Jr., will be racing for his sixth Pro Stock championship. Most recently, Coughlin brought in the big victory in 2013, and he also won the title in 2000, 2002, 2007, and 2008. Driving the Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Dart, Delaware, Ohio-based Coughlin will challenge from the No. 10 spot in his eighth playoffs appearance. Heading into the Countdown to the Championship, Coughlin has 58 Pro Stock wins in a massive 100 final rounds.