- Johnson sets sights on seventh straight No. 1 Qualifier award, fifth win of season
- Jeg Coughlin Jr. looks to secure a spot in the NHRA Countdown playoffs
- Matt Hagan gunning for Top-10 in points as playoffs approach
Auburn Hills, Mich. — Team Mopar® NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson has one goal over the next two events heading into the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs — gain as many points as possible. The native of Greeneville, Tenn., who currently leads the NHRA Pro Stock standings, returns to the track this weekend in the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minn., Aug. 16–19.
“I’m definitely ready to get up to Brainerd and back on the track,” said Johnson. “I was ready last Thursday to head up for qualifying, and didn’t want to take a week off. We have some good momentum right now and our Mopar Dodge Avenger is very fast.”
Johnson enters this weekend’s event with four wins on the season, including in two of his last three starts. The J&J Racing driver/owner opened the NHRA’s Western Swing with a victory in the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, and backed that up with another win at Sonoma the following week. In his career at Brainerd, the Team Mopar veteran has reached the semifinals twice, and has qualified among the top half of the field six times, as he chases his first win at the venue.
“There are a lot of adjustments we make to the car when we head to Brainerd, after being out west,” said Johnson. “Brainerd is similar to Bristol, with the way the altitude and the air is. We should have a really good setup for this weekend. We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing and make good, consistent runs. We go in with the mindset that unless we mess up, we should make it to the finals.”
The second-generation driver has earned a career-best nine No. 1 Qualifier awards this season, including six consecutive. Johnson has been among the three-fastest drivers in qualifying at 13 of the 15 races this year, and has advanced to at least the semifinals in 11 of 15 NHRA events this season.
“Good preparation and good notes have really helped us in qualifying this year,” said Johnson. “The Mopar HEMI engines are making some amazing power right now. Dad (Roy Johnson) and all the guys in the engine shop are doing a great job.”
Johnson currently has an 84-point lead in the Pro Stock standings, which would put him in the No. 1 slot if the Countdown began today. The driver in the lead when points are reapportioned for the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs will receive a 20-point bonus, in addition to the 10 points that separate each spot, meaning Johnson will have a 30-marker cushion on the field if he can maintain the top spot.
“We want to maintain that No. 1 position going into the playoffs,” said Johnson. “If we do that, we’ll get those bonus points to start the Countdown, and that will be huge. Every point out here is important with how tight the field is in Pro Stock.”
Jeg Coughlin Jr., driver of the Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Avenger, is well aware of how tight the competition is in the Pro Stock field. Coughlin is locked in battle with six drivers for the final four spots in the NHRA Countdown playoffs in Pro Stock. The native of Delaware, Ohio, is currently tied for the 10th position, and is just 20 points behind fellow Mopar-powered driver V. Gaines, who sits eighth. Coughlin has four career Pro Stock wins at Brainerd in five final-round appearances.
“There are four spots left and six of us with realistic chances of making the cut, so it’s going to be a dogfight,” said Coughlin. “The six of us are only separated by 43 points so every round, every qualifying run, every bonus point is going to be huge.”
Matt Hagan, the defending Funny Car champion, also finds himself in a torrid battle for a spot in the Countdown in his Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR). The native of Christiansburg, Va., is 62 points out of the 10th spot entering this weekend. Hagan was the No. 1 Qualifier at Brainerd last season and advanced to the semifinals. He has reached the finals in each of the last two events, as he chases his first win of the season.