- Hometown favorite and Team Mopar driver Johnson aims for first win at Bristol, 12th victory of his career
- Jeg Coughlin Jr. posts his Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Avenger No. 10 in Pro Stock
- Defending NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan will start No. 6 in his Mopar Dodge Charger R/T
Bristol, Tenn. — Mopar® Dodge Avenger NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson summed it up best: “We feel like we’ve already won the battle. Now we need to go win the war.”
Johnson motored to his third consecutive NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals No. 1 Qualifier spot at Thunder Valley Dragway in Bristol, Tenn., today, capturing his fourth pole of the season and 22nd of his career. The Tennessee native and his J&J Racing team are determined to translate another dominating qualifying performance at Bristol into a first career Pro Stock win for Johnson at his home track.
Johnson nailed down the pole with a track-record 6.623-second elapsed time at 207.75 mph in yesterday evening’s qualifying session. He began Friday qualifying with a 6.659/207.24 run, which was also the quickest and fastest of the opening round.
The Greeneville, Tenn., native recorded a 6.667/207.78 in his first effort today and was quickest in the final session with a 6.636/207.37 mark, giving the Team Mopar veteran the quickest pass in three of the four qualifying stanzas. Johnson will face off with Shane Gray in the first round of eliminations tomorrow as he attempts to grab the 12th overall win of his career in front of a home crowd packed with family, friends and local fans.
“The Mopar Dodge Avenger has just been so solid,” said Johnson, in his 17th year of driving a Mopar-powered Dodge Pro Stock car. “We had four great runs, and we were low (the quickest pass) every round except this morning. Hats off to my crew, my dad (team engine builder Roy Johnson) and to everybody at the Mopar organization, who are feeding us great stuff.
“I’ve got family, friends and employees here, people that allow me to go do what I do all year long. It’s so special to do good in front of them and give them the opportunity to enjoy it like I enjoy it. Tomorrow, if we can make runs like we made that last run, and the driver does his job, we’ve got this thing whipped.”
Three fellow Mopar HEMI-powered Dodge Avenger drivers will join Johnson in battle on Sunday. In a strong rebound from a DNQ at the previous NHRA race in Englishtown, N.J., Jeg Coughlin Jr. posted a 6.693/206.16 in his Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Avenger to earn the No. 10 spot and a first-round fight with Greg Anderson. Vincent Nobile was No. 3 with a 6.659/207.43 and will battle Kurt Johnson, with No. 5 V. Gaines (6.673/206.01) drawing Ron Krisher as his first Sunday match.
“We’ve definitely made some momentum coming into Bristol, and going into Sunday,” said Coughlin, a four-time Pro Stock champion. “The car made it down the track three of the four runs. Both runs today we were chasing the tune-up a little bit, both on the chassis and clutch side of things, and also on the engine side. We’ve got some homework to do tonight.
“We definitely have a couple of hundredths left in this car, but it’s easy to say it, and harder to do it. We need to get out and do it. We’ll have a tough first round opponent in Greg Anderson. Hopefully, we’ll start the day out right and send him home, and move on accordingly.”
Defending NHRA Funny Car champion Matt Hagan, his Mopar Dodge Charger R/T wrapped in special Mopar graphics, will grid No. 6 (4.096/307.79) and go head-to-head with Cruz Pedregon as he shoots for his first win of the season. Including Hagan, the full four-car squad of Mopar HEMI-powered Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car drivers will vie for the victory on Sunday. Jack Beckman (No. 3, 4.077/310.13) will lineup against Tim Wilkerson in the opening round tomorrow, with Ron Capps (No. 4, 4.091/303.43) squaring off against Courtney Force and Johnny Gray (No. 8, 4.120/309.56) looking to take down Robert Hight.